ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Pitt had 16 days off before this afternoon's game at Navy so Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt was naturally worried that his team would be rusty and thus get off to a slow start.
As it turns out, those worries were unfounded because the Panthers came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and pounded the Midshipmen, 42-21, before a crowd of 37,970 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Pitt led the game 35-14 at the half and then seemed content to coast to the victory.
Leading the way for the Panthers was Pitt tailback LeSean McCoy, who rushed 18 times for 156 yards and scored three touchdowns, but the defense, which was shredded by Navy last year, deserves a lot of credit as they bottled up the Midshipmen's triple-option offense for most of the game.
LaRod Stephens-Howling gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead on a 6-yard touchdown run to cap the game's opening drive but the Midshipmen came right back and tied the game with a 40-yard touchdown run by Shun White.
McCoy responded by scoring on a 2-yard run on the Panthers next possession and after a fumble by Navy's Jarod Bryant, Pitt took a 21-7 lead on a 9-yard run by Stephens-Howling.
Bryant redeemed himself by scoring on an 8-yard run to pull the Midshipmen to within 21-14, but the Panthers marched right back down the field and pushed their lead to 28-14 on an 11-yard touchdown run by McCoy.
Pitt then forced Navy to punt just before the half and McCoy ran for a 58-yard touchdown on the Panthers first play after the punt.
Any doubt about the outcome of the game was erased early in the fourth quarter when Pitt quarterback Bill Stull hit freshman Jonathan Baldwin with a 60-yard touchdown pass.
Paul Zeise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1720.