This week in college football


(Photo Credit: Antonio Rossetti)

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

Sept. 4, 2021 marked the first week of college football. This season, every conference began the season on time. For a whole year, classic non-conference football was nonexistent. Nevertheless, college football returned with various non-conference matchups that made fans excited for the new season. Football is a Pittsburgh pastime, and many fans were anticipating an excited season opener. This article will recap the results of Pitt, Penn State, and West Virginia in their first games of the season.


The Pitt Panthers started their season at Heinz Field against the visiting UMass Minutemen. Pitt came into the game following a 6-5 season. During the offseason, football fans saw six Panthers drafted into the NFL, including Damar Hamlin, Patrick Jones, Jason Pinnock and Rashad Weaver. Although Pitt lost a few players, they are still considered to be a fringe Top 25 team this season. The most anticipated return is quarterback, Kenny Pickett, who is in his sixth and final season.

The visiting Minutemen are on a downward slope coming into the 2021 season. Last season, they only played four games due to not being in a conference. UMass would finish the season 0-4. In 2019, which was their last full season of football, they finished with an abysmal 1-11 record.

The Panthers were 38 point favorites, and they proved why they were favored by a landslide. Pitt led the entire game and won by a lopsided score of 51-7. Kenny Pickett led the charge, completing 27 of 37 passes, while throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns.

Kenny Pickett did not disappoint in the first game of his final season. However, the offensive success was a well-rounded effort. Lucas Krull, former Florida Gator, scored his first touchdown as a Pitt Panther. The Panthers also had five rushing touchdowns including a rushing touchdown by junior quarterback Nick Patti. Patti entered the game in the fourth quarter and completed 5 out of 5 passes. Overall, the team rushed for 223 yards and passed for 375. Other than a few blunders, the offense played a complete game, scoring 51 points.

The Panthers were dominant on offense the entirety of the game. Pitt outscored the visiting UMass 23-0 in the first half. The offensive line turned away any pressure from the Minutemen defense. Kenny Pickett was only sacked one time and the Panthers offense had limited struggles to move the ball. The team had over five yards per rush and over eight yards in the air throughout the game.

On the defensive side, Pitt showed why their defense is highly touted. The defense held the Minutemen to only 42 yards on the ground. The Panthers defense also accomplished five sacks. Two of those sacks were from Penn State graduate transfer, John Petrishen.

Pitt football started the season strong with a big win over a struggling UMass team. Next week, the Panthers travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers.

Penn State

Penn State began their season on the road against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten conference matchup. Penn State comes into this year following a disappointing 4-5 season, which was their first losing season since 2004. During the offseason, six Nittany Lion players were picked by an NFL squad. Two of those players include Pat Friermuth, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Micach Parsons, who was taken 12th overall by the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the departure of these players, Penn State is still ranked 19th in college football and is still deemed to make an impact.

Penn State’s opponent, the Wisconsin Badgers, entered into the game ranked 12th in the nation. Wisconsin finished 4-3 last season and has a majority of their team back. Meanwhile, the Badgers have dropped their last four matchups against the Nittany Lions. However, they were still favored by 5.5 points entering the game.

The first half was very defense oriented. Both teams struggled to move the ball, but Wisconsin entered the redzone poised to score. They attempted a 25-yard field goal, but the kick was blocked by Senior Temple Owl transfer, Arnold Ebiketie.

Later in the half, the Badgers had another chance to score. Chez Melluzi, who rushed for 121 yards in Saturday’s game, led them down the field. On the eight yard line, a botched handoff by Graham Wertz to Chez Melluzi led to a fumble that was recovered by Penn State’s Nick Tartburton. Both teams remained scoreless going into the second half.

In the third quarter, Penn State’s offensive struggles turned around when senior quarterback, Sean Clifford, threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to star wide receiver, Jahan Dotson. Nonetheless, Wisconsin responded on the next drive and capitalized in the red zone with a 3-yard touchdown run by Chez Melluzi.

After two matching field goals to begin the fourth, the game was tied, 10-10. Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson connected for another crucial reception for 42 yards that led them into Wisconsin territory. Noah Cain would score a 2-yard touchdown run with under ten minutes left. However, the extra point was missed, making the score 16-10.

In the late stages of the game, Wisconsin had a drive that took them to the Nittany Lions one yard line. Nevertheless, the Badgers fumbled the football but were pushed back seven yards to the eight yard line. The Nittany Lions would force an interception. On the next drive, Penn State was forced to punt but got another red zone stop late in the game, forcing another interception. The Nittany Lions won by the final of 16-10.

The team was led by Sean Clifford, who is in his third season as the starting quarterback. Clifford threw for 247 yards and one touchdown. Sean Clifford’s precise abilities were crucial in a highly contested matchup.

Although the offense took a while to produce, the defense was a key factor to the win. Penn State combined for two sacks and six tackles for a loss. Wisconsin dominated in time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 43 minutes. Despite the time on attack, Penn State came up with big plays to prevent the Badgers from scoring. They forced three turnovers and blocked a kick.

The defensive effort led to a week one upset win. Next week, the Nittany Lions return home to Happy Valley against the Ball State Cardinals.

West Virginia

West Virginia began their season on the road against the Maryland Terrapins. The Mountaineers come into this year following a 6-4 season, including a bowl game win over the Army Black Knights. This season, WVU has key offensive players, Jarret Doege, Leddie Brown, and Bryce Ford-Wheaton all returning. The Mountaineers are still building their program with fairly new coach Neal Brown and look to have a breakout year in 2021.

Both teams’ offenses came out firing in the first quarter. Following an opening field goal for the Terrapins, the Mountaineers scored their first points of the season with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jarret Doege to Leddie Brown.
Despite a successful first drive, Maryland responded with a long touchdown pass. Taulia Tagovailoa, brother of Miami Dolphin quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, connected with Dontay Demus Jr. for a 66-yard touchdown pass. After a few touchdowns by WVU and a touchdown and a field goal by Maryland, the Mountaineers led at half time, 21-20.

Both teams had a slow start to the second half, going scoreless in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Maryland would take the lead with a 21-yard field goal by Joseph Petrino.

Maryland would force WVU to punt and would hit another 60-yard touchdown pass. This gave the Terrapins a 30-21 lead.
West Virginia would score a late field goal to cut it to six, but there were under three minutes of play. Maryland would get one last defensive stop, defeating the Mountaineers 30-24.

The biggest impression of the game came from Taulia Tagovaloa for Maryland. The junior quarterback threw for 332 yards, along with 3 touchdowns. He also completed 26 out of 36 passes. Tagovaloa completed passes to Rakim Jarret and Dontay Demus Jr. 12 times for a combined total of 255 yards.

Despite losing the first game of the season, there are some positive takeaways for the Mountaineers. Other than a few defensive breakdowns that led to lengthy touchdowns, WVU’s defense held their own after a high-scoring first quarter.
On the offensive side of the ball, junior quarterback, Jarret Doege, completed 24 of 30 passes for 277 yards, and a touchdown pass. Sam James was a key target for the offense, having five receptions for 65 yards.

The game changer was The Mountaineers struggle to run the football. The team rushed for only 42 yards. Doege was also sacked a total of three times. The Maryland defense proved to be a problem in a disappointing 30-24 loss.

Although the Mountaineers lost in week one, they look to bounce back at home next week against the visiting Long Island Sharks.