By Ray Porter Jr.
KALAMAZOO, Michigan–Last season, when the Pitt Panthers hosted the Western Michigan Broncos, they were upset 44-41 despite All-American QB Kenny Pickett’s 6 TD passes. They avenged that loss on Saturday as they beat the Broncos 34-14 at Waldo Stadium.
RB Israel Abanikanda lead a strong Pitt rushing attack that combined for 238 yards and 2 TDs. Anaconda rushed for 133 yards, his 2nd consecutive game of 130-plus yards. He also scored a 4th quarter TD. Senior Vincent Davis added 83 yards and Daniel Carter added a late TD for the Panthers, who improved to 2-1 on the season. WR Jared Wayne added 94 yards on 3 receptions.
Pitt’s other TD came on an interception return by DB Marquis Williams. K Ben Sauls added a 2nd quarter FG.
Of course, the main question heading into this game was who would be starting at QB for Pitt with injuries to Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti, especially with head coach Pat Narduzzi refusing to announce a starter stating that it would be a ‘game time’ decision. But as the game began, it was revealed that 3rd string QB Nate Yarnell would start for the Panthers and the True Freshman didn’t disappoint as went 9/12 with 170 yards and a 6-yard TD pass to WR Kumpta Mumfield.
“Does it surprise me? No. I’ve seen that guy for a year and a half on scout team. … He is cool as a cucumber,” Narduzzi said of Yarnell.
Yarnell and the Panthers had their struggles on offense in the first half as they were unable to get into the endzone despite several Red Zone opportunities, but they maintained a 13-6 halftime lead thanks to a superb performance by the defense, who (in addition to Williams’ Pick-6) also got two interceptions from S Erick Hallett II.
The Broncos were able to score their only TD of the game in the 3rd quarter when WR Anthony Sambucci took an option pass and found fellow WR A.J. Abbott for a 31-yard TD. It was Sambucci’s only pass of the game. He also caught a pass for 44 yards. Starting QB Jack Salopek finished passing for 99 yards (6/18).
With the win, the Panthers are expected to remain in the Top 25 this week as they will now return home to face their final non-Conference opponent in The Rhode Island Rams (2-1, 1-1 CAA), which is Narduzzi’s alma mater.
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