ATHENS, Ohio (AP) -- Dion Byrum returned two interceptions for
touchdowns, the second one in overtime Friday night that brought
thousands of jubilant fans onto the field and gave Ohio coach Frank
Solich a stunning victory in his home debut, 16-10 over Pitt.
Byrum ran one back 38 yards in the first quarter to get the
Bobcats revved. He stepped in front of Tyler Palko's pass in the
first overtime and returned it 85 yards untouched, gently placing
the ball down once he crossed the goal line.
Led by their defense, the Bobcats (1-1) pulled off one of their
biggest victories in a generation, providing Solich with a proud
moment in the national spotlight. The former Nebraska coach was
brought in to rebuild one of the nation's worst football programs.
The Panthers, opened the season ranked No. 23 under first-year
coach Dave Wannstedt, but have started to 0-2 for the first time
since 1984. Next week, they play at Nebraska.
Pitt's LaRod Stephens returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for
a touchdown, but the Panthers' offense self-destructed behind
Palko, a junior quarterback who was 13-of-26 for 120 yards with
Before the game, Ohio gave away 10,000 pairs of thunder sticks,
10,000 rally towels and 2,000 T-shirts, commemorating Solich's
debut. A Peden Stadium-record crowd of 24,535 slapped the sticks
and waved the towels while the Bobcats were introduced to pregame
Only 13 seconds into the game, the sticks and the crowd went
silent after Stephens returned the kickoff untouched.
New coach, same old Ohio.
There was reason for pessimism. The Bobcats hadn't been on
national television since 1969. In the last 35 years, they've had
29 losing seasons, spawning a local tradition. Students go to
games, watch the band at halftime, then leave en masse.
This time, the Bobcats gave them a reason to stay put.
Byrum's interception return tied it, and the Bobcats' only drive
of the first half set up Brooks Rossman's 21-yard field goal for a
10-7 halftime lead. The 110-member band played, and everyone
Compounding the Panthers' problems: Right tackle Mike McGlynn
and left guard Dominic Williams were hurt on the same play in the
first quarter, limping off the field together. McGlynn returned
three series later, but it didn't make much of a difference.
Palko also struggled against Ohio last year, completing only six
passes in a season-opening 24-3 win at Pitt that left the Panthers
7-0 all-time against the Bobcats.
He had a chance to tie it after Rossman missed a 32-yard field
goal attempt with 2:19 to go. Palko completed 7-of-8 passes on a
70-yard drive to Josh Cummings' 27-yard field goal with 7 seconds
His only pass in overtime ended it and brought thousands of fans
onto the field, waving those thunder sticks while fireworks went