PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Maybe a troubling week off the field made
Pittsburgh quarterback Rod Rutherford eager to show again what he
can do on it.
Rutherford, benched at the start for disciplinary reasons, threw
four touchdown passes in the second quarter and No. 10 Pittsburgh
breezed to a 43-3 victory over Kent State on Saturday night.
Larry Fitzgerald, far too quick and athletic to be contained by
Kent State's undersized secondary, caught scoring passes of 7, 11
and 54 yards in less than 10 minutes as Pitt turned a 3-0 deficit
into a 28-3 halftime lead.
Rutherford, charged Friday over a parking lot dispute with a
19-year-old woman last weekend, came on following a blocked punt
and immediately threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Princell
Brockenbrough, It was the first throw and play of the season for
Rutherford and the first career catch for Brockenbrough, a junior
college transfer who sat out last season with a knee injury.
Pittsburgh (1-0) looked like a totally different team once
Rutherford came on after punting on its first three possessions
with redshirt freshman Luke Getsy at quarterback.
Rutherford also looked like a totally different quarterback than
he did in Pitt's opener last season. Then, in his first career
start, he was intercepted three times in an unimpressive 27-14
victory over Ohio University.
Despite a disconcerting week filled with police interviews and
meeting with his attorney, Rutherford didn't look distracted or
unprepared when he came on with Pitt trailing 3-0.
Rutherford, nearly as big as some of Pitt's linebackers at
6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, hit Brockenbrough in the numbers with a
line drive of a pass on his first throw, and went on to complete 17
of 25 passes for 288 yards and no interceptions in only two
"He's got a lot of games to go, but he was on top of it,"
Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said. "He made it happen for us. I
couldn't be more proud of his ability to deal with this challenge
and get ready and not just play, but play as well as he did."
Despite praising Rutherford, Harris emphasized his senior star
faces additional internal disciplinary action, though the coach
doesn't plan to reveal what it is.
"We would like to put this behind us as soon as we can,"
Pittsburgh did not make Rutherford available for comment.
"He got them pumped up," Kent State safety Shannon Davis said.
"He's got a great arm he had all day to put it in there."
Fitzgerald took advantage of frequent one-on-one coverage to
make six catches for 123 yards. He also caught a touchdown pass for
a school-record seventh consecutive game.
"It definitely got frustrating after awhile going against
him," Davis said.
His first touchdown catch, a leaping 7-yarder in the end zone,
came just 2:12 after Brockenbrough's touchdown and finished off an
80-yard, six-play drive.
Fitzgerald's next two scores also ended quick drives, with
Rutherford's 23-yard throw to Brockenbrough setting up Fitzgerald's
11-yard touchdown on a two-play drive.
Pitt needed just three plays to travel 76 yards on its next
possession, with Rutherford again finding Fitzgerald in solo
coverage down the sideline. Cornerback Ray Coley of Kent State
(1-1) was in position to make the tackle at about the 30, but
Fitzgerald used an inside-out move to dodge him and ran untouched
into the end zone.
Brandon Miree added a 2-yard scoring run in the third quarter
during a 113-yard night, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game.
Pittsburgh, which opens with three consecutive games against
Mid-American Conference teams before playing at Texas A&M on Sept.
27, is 7-0 in season openers under Harris. The Panthers are
starting a season in the Top 10 for the first time since 1984.
Kent State, never getting anything going against a defense that
allowed a Big East-low 17.8 points per game last season, lost for
the 45th time in its last 58 games.
Joshua Cribbs threw for 86 yards and ran for 43 a week after
totaling 397 yards in a 41-38 victory at Akron.
"They've got a lot of speed on defense," Cribbs said. "It's
just the kind of defense you would expect them to have."