Pitt’s Baldwin opens more eyes in victory
Jonathan Baldwin is so good, he’s even getting compared to Hall of Fame baseball players. The Pitt sophomore wide receiver had six receptions for a career-high 144 yards, including a 22-yard sideline basket catch that coach Dave Wannstedt said Roberto Clemente would make.
“That’s sick,” Wannstedt said. “He can make catches that most people can’t.”
One week after catching only one pass against Rutgers, Baldwin had receptions of 40, 35, 34 and 22 yards. He did it against a South Florida secondary that includes cornerback Jerome Murphy and safety Nate Allen, two of the Big East’s best defensive backs.
Baldwin’s 40-yard touchdown from Stull showed his improved recognition. The 6-foot-5 Baldwin improvised his route so he wouldn’t run himself into coverage.
“I was supposed to be running an in-and-up,” he said. “But I got the defensive back so good off the line, I really didn’t have to actually run a route. Last year, I was young. I really didn’t know too much. (On that play), I knew what was going to happen if I beat him off the line. I beat him off the line, and there it was.”
Baldwin gave the crowd of 50,019 a scare in the second quarter when he was shaken up while diving for a long pass from Stull. After a few moments, Baldwin bounced up and raced off the field to loud cheers.
“I knocked the wind out of myself,” he said.
• South Florida defensive ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, a pair of future first-day NFL draft picks, were quiet at Heinz Field. The two sack specialists combined for four tackles and no sacks. Tackles Lucas Nix and Jason Pinkston — with help from tight end Nate Byham and fullback Henry Hynoski — gave Stull time to find his receivers. Stull wasn’t sacked. The worst penetration was “a little push.”
“They deserve all the credit,” Stull said. “That’s the key. Our protection.”
Said Wannstedt, “Our offensive line was just unbelievable.”
• Pitt didn’t punt Saturday, marking the first time since a 52-7 victory over Central Florida on Oct. 13, 2006, that the Panthers achieved that feat. Their 10 possessions consisted of five touchdowns, two field goals, two turnovers on downs (late in the fourth quarter) and an interception.
• Pitt, the nation’s leader in sacks, recorded four more takedowns, including the first career sack for fifth-year senior Steve Dell. The Panthers have 33 sacks, or the same number they had in 13 games last season.
• Pitt found another weapon at the goal-line — and he’s hard to miss. Redshirt freshman Mike Cruz, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound tight end, made his first catch at Pitt, a 2-yard touchdown from Bill Stull to give Pitt a 7-0 first-quarter lead.
“I was happy that they called my number,” said Cruz, who had 12 touchdown catches at Bishop McCort. “I was (smiling) ear-to-ear. I knew I was going to be open.”
It was a rewarding moment for Cruz, who nearly quit the team during training camp but returned after missing three days.
“To tell you the truth, I wasn’t thinking,” he said. “It was just training camp stress. But I really thank the coaches for hanging in there with me.”
• Pitt opened the game in a nickel package, with junior free safety Elijah Fields starting in place of strong-side linebacker Greg Williams. Fields finished with three tackles and an interception, his second of the season.
“We played a nickel package because they were three wide receivers the whole game,” Wannstedt said. “(Fields) is not a linebacker, but when we play nickel, he will be lined up there.”
• Redshirt freshman quarterback Tino Sunseri played for the first time in more than a month, going 2 for 5 for 27 yards and a touchdown pass to tight end Dorin Dickerson. Sunseri, who played most of the fourth quarter before giving way to third-stringer Andrew Janocko, hadn’t seen action since Pitt’s 27-14 win over Navy on Sept. 19.