On Pitt's final drive of the first half Saturday against Rutgers at Heinz Field, Ed Tinker got his chance.
This redshirt junior receiver had stepped in for regular starter Devin Street, who went down injured earlier in the half.
On his first target of the game, Tinker hauled in a 4-yard catch over the middle. Three plays later, quarterback Tino Sunseri looked deep down the left sideline for Tinker, who had his man beat by a step. It would have been a tough catch, but Tinker just missed corralling a one-handed grab.
"I'm still sick about that. I've been watching my game film wondering how I dropped that," Tinker said. "Coach always says, you mess up one play, go on to the next play. On the next play, I got an opportunity."
It was actually four plays later, but with the clock ticking, Sunseri once again looked for Tinker. This time, the two connected for a 13-yard touchdown pass, the first score of Tinker's career.
"Before that first play, I was kind of nervous," Tinker said. "After [missing that first one], all my nerves went away, all my butterflies went away. A couple of plays later, I was very confident. Hopefully, Tino looked my way, I was wide open and able to score a touchdown."
Tinker, a Brashear graduate, said it was his first touchdown since the City League playoffs his senior year of high school.
After graduating from Brashear in 2008, Tinker attended North Carolina Tech for one season.
He joined Pitt in '09 and redshirted his first year. In '10 and '11, Tinker played in five games combined.
This season, Tinker has bounced between practicing with the scout team and the regular offense. He appeared in three games, but, despite the up-and-down playing time, never let his head drop.
"I always kept myself positive," he said. "Once my number was called, I just headed in to do what I was supposed to do."
Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said he hoped Tinker's attitude would transfer to other players fighting for playing time.
"I think it energizes everyone," Rudolph said. "Everyone kind of hopes to have an opportunity, and within that opportunity, you find success. It's pretty neat."
Tinker wasn't sure how much playing time to expect against Rutgers, but, once Street went down, Tinker knew it was his time to step in. He had his helmet strapped and ready to go and made the most of his moment.
"It happened so quick," Tinker said. "After the play when Street got hurt, I just stood there looking like, 'I guess its time for me to play.' [Wide receivers] coach [Bobby] Ingram just looked at me and said, 'All right, get in.' I was a little nervous, but at the same time, that's what practice is for. I was very confident I could contribute with what I've been doing."
After the touchdown, Tinker said he got helmet slaps and hugs from all of his teammates coming off the field.
"I told him I was really proud of him," fifth-year senior receiver Mike Shanahan said. "Some injuries came up, he had to step up and he did a great job. I just told him I was really proud of him."
After the game ended, Tinker had one more group waiting to congratulate him. His mother and younger brother were at Heinz Field.
"They gave me great big hugs," Tinker said. "I thought my mom was going to rip me apart. It was exciting. I guess that was my day to perform. I finally did it, and I'm very proud of myself."pittsports
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter: @SWernerPG.