GAMEDAY College Football

Pittsburgh 45, Rhode Island 24

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

By DAN SCIFO
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH - Tailback Israel Abanikanda rushed for four touchdowns and quarterback Kedon Slovis was solid in his return from injury as No. 24 Pittsburgh beat Rhode Island 45-24.

The Panthers (3-1) have been searching for a top-tier running game since Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall both rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2018. Pitt relied on Kenny Pickett and the passing game since, including the program's first ACC championship last season. But with Pickett in the NFL and Slovis sidelined last week, the Panthers have leaned on the ground game and Abanikanda has emerged in a big way.

"I'm not surprised because I know what I'm capable of," Abanikanda said. "I'm going to keep working to try and do even better."

The Panthers rushed for 272 yards and scored at least 30 points for the ninth time in 11 games, and Slovis had plenty of help on the ground from Abanikanda, who had 19 carries for 177 yards. The four touchdowns tied for second-most in program history. It marked the first time a Pitt running back rushed for that many TDs in a game since Hall against North Carolina in November 2017.

"(Abanikanda) is a great player and a great back," Slovis said. "You saw it today. He had four touchdowns. That's a testament to him and the offensive line."

Slovis started after missing last week's win at Western Michigan with an undisclosed injury. He was an efficient 20 of 27 for 189 yards. A USC transfer, he hadn't played since the first half of an overtime loss against Tennessee two weeks ago.

"He was efficient with the football and took what they were giving us," Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. "He didn't make bad decisions throwing the ball into coverage. I thought he was good."

Marquis DeShields scored a pair of touchdowns for Rhode Island (2-2), Narduzzi's alma mater. The Rams, playing their first-ever game against a ranked FBS opponent, trailed by 10 points at halftime before Pitt pulled away after the break.

The Panthers took a 7-0 lead the first time they touched the ball on M.J. Devonshire's 82-yard punt return for a touchdown.

On Pitt's second possession, Abanikanda ran untouched up the middle for a 67-yard touchdown. It was his second rushing touchdown of 60 yards or more this season.

DeShields answered less than a minute later for Rhode Island with a 63-yard touchdown.

Abanikanda scored his second touchdown on Pitt's next possession on a 12-yard run to make it 21-7.

Pitt added a 31-yard field goal and DeShields scored his second touchdown in the final minute of the first half.

Abanikanda scored again on Pitt's opening drive of the second half on a 24-yard run.

NARDUZZI TIED FOR THIRD

Narduzzi earned his 56th career coaching victory at Pitt, tying him for third all-time with John Michelosen, who coached the Panthers from 1955-65. Narduzzi trails only Jock Sutherland and Glenn "Pop" Warner for the most wins by a Pitt head coach.

Narduzzi, a 1990 graduate of Rhode Island, played for the Rams from 1987-1989 as a three-year starting linebacker. He also coached linebackers at Rhode Island from 1993-1997 before he was promoted to defensive coordinator for two seasons.

ON THE RUSH

Abanikanda rushed for 100 or more yards for the third straight time this season. He's the first Pitt player with three straight 100-yard rushing games since Hall in 2017.

Abanikanda entered the game as the ACC's leading rusher and has 75 carries for 464 yards in the past three weeks. He was briefly injured on a kickoff return late in the first half.

RUN IT BACK

Devonshire scored his second touchdown of the season. He also had the game-clinching interception return for a score in the season-opener against West Virginia. He's the first Pitt player to return an interception and punt for a touchdown in a season since Darrelle Revis in 2006. Revis and Devonshire both attended the same high school outside Pittsburgh.

THE TAKEAWAY

Rhode Island: A pair of big plays helped Rhode Island score twice in the first half. The Rams are ranked and they're one of the better FCS teams, but they couldn't keep up with the Panthers, who improved to 20-1 against FCS opponents.

Pitt: Rhode Island served as one final tune-up before Pitt begins defense of its ACC title next week against Georgia Tech. Abanikanda and the Panthers controlled the game on the ground and Slovis was effective through the air with short swing passes on multiple long drives.


Scoring Summary
First Quarter URIPitt
Pitt TD 12:18 M.J. Devonshire 82 yd punt return (Ben Sauls kick) 0 7
Pitt TD 6:03 Israel Abanikanda 67 yd run (Ben Sauls kick) 0 14
URI TD 5:09 Marques DeShields 63 yd run (Harrison Leonard kick) 7 14
Second Quarter URIPitt
Pitt TD 12:28 Israel Abanikanda 12 yd run (Ben Sauls kick) 7 21
Pitt FG 3:39 Ben Sauls 31 yd FG 7 24
URI TD 0:50 Marques DeShields 1 yd run (Harrison Leonard kick) 14 24
Third Quarter URIPitt
Pitt TD 9:18 Israel Abanikanda 24 yd run (Ben Sauls kick) 14 31
URI FG 0:56 Harrison Leonard 34 yd FG 17 31
Fourth Quarter URIPitt
Pitt TD 8:32 Israel Abanikanda 13 yd run (Ben Sauls kick) 17 38
URI TD 1:21 Darius Savedge 15 yd pass from Kasim Hill (Harrison Leonard kick) 24 38
Pitt TD 1:11 Vincent Davis 18 yd run (Ben Sauls kick) 24 45
Team Stats
  Rhode Island Pittsburgh
First downs 16 25
  Rushing 1 17
  Passing 12 7
  Penalty 3 1
3rd Down Efficiency 5-13, 38% 10-14, 71%
4th down efficiency 2-2, 100% 1-2, 50%
Rushes-Yards 22-63 41-271
Passing Yards 223 189
Return Yards 36 124
Completions-Attempts-Int 17-30-0 20-27-0
Sacks-Yards Lost 4--30 0-0
Punts 5 1
Punts-Average 43.6 34
Fumbles Lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties - Yards 7-50 9-97
Time of Possession 24:51 35:09
Rhode Island Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
K. Hill 17 30 223 1 0
Pittsburgh Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
K. Slovis 20 27 189 0 0
Rhode Island Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
M. DeShields 10 82 8.2 2
J. Smith 4 1 0.3 0
E. Lee 1 0 0.0 0
G. Sloat 1 -8 -8.0 0
K. Hill 6 -12 -2.0 0
Pittsburgh Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
I. Abanikanda 19 177 9.3 4
V. Davis 7 51 7.3 1
D. Carter 7 19 2.7 0
C. Flemister 4 13 3.3 0
K. Slovis 1 7 7.0 0
B. Means 1 6 6.0 0
Rhode Island Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
K. Summers 4 55 13.8 0
P. Woods 2 50 25.0 0
C. Warren 2 50 25.0 0
E. Lee 3 28 9.3 0
D. Savedge 2 23 11.5 1
G. Sloat 1 13 13.0 0
J. Erby 2 6 3.0 0
J. Smith 1 -2 -2.0 0
Pittsburgh Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
K. Mumpfield 5 42 8.4 0
K. Johnson 1 41 41.0 0
B. Means 6 38 6.3 0
V. Davis 3 34 11.3 0
I. Abanikanda 1 19 19.0 0
G. Thomson 1 8 8.0 0
J. Bradley 2 4 2.0 0
G. Bartholomew 1 3 3.0 0
Rhode Island Interceptions
Player Int Yards
Pittsburgh Interceptions
Player Int Yards
Rhode Island Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
D. Schaum-Bartocci 5 218 43.6
Pittsburgh Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
S. Vander Haar 1 34 34.0
Rhode Island Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
E. Lee 1 0 0
Pittsburgh Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
M. Devonshire 3 75 25.0
Rhode Island Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
R. Jordan 2 36 18.0
Pittsburgh Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
I. Abanikanda 3 49 16.3
M. Devonshire 1 0 0
Rhode Island Missed FG
Player Length
Pittsburgh Missed FG
Player Length




Sight
D1SportsNet