PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh needed less than five minutes to
turn a pair of pivotal mistakes by Toledo into a two-touchdown lead
in the first quarter, and Tyler Palko threw for two scores that led
the Panthers to a 45-3 victory Saturday.
Pitt, off to a 4-1 start after being 1-4 a year ago under coach
Dave Wannstedt, never gave the Rockets (2-3) a chance.
Palko threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Derek Kinder shortly
after Toledo couldn't convert on fourth-and-1 from its own 42. One
play later, defensive lineman Gus Mustakas returned a Brandon
Summers-thrown interception 9 yards to make it 14-0 before Pitt got
the ball for a second time.
Palko, tied for the national lead in TD passes going into the
weekend, sat out the fourth quarter but still threw his 13th and
14th touchdown passes while going 12-of-15 for 172 yards.
Dorin Dickerson, a highly recruited freshman wide receiver and
running back, also scored on a 14-yard reverse on his first carry
from scrimmage as a college player following another Toledo
turnover late in the third quarter. Dickerson was injured during
training camp, and there was speculation Pitt might hold him out to
preserve a year of eligibility.
Kevin Collier, another freshman, added a 5-yard run following
another Davis fumble, this one in the third quarter, not long after
fullback Conredge Collins scored from the 13 to end Pitt's opening
possession of the second half.
Palko and linebacker H.B. Blades are among the few players left
on the Pitt roster around for a 35-31 loss to Toledo in 2003 -- one
of the biggest upset losses in Pitt history and its first to a
Mid-American Conference school. Pitt had Heisman Trophy runner-up
Larry Fitzgerald in its lineup and was ranked No. 9, but the loss
set the tone for a disappointing 8-5 season that led to former
coach Walt Harris' departure a year later.
Wannstedt wasn't around for that defeat, but was in charge when
Pitt was upset 16-10 in overtime last year by MAC member Ohio
University, a defeat that ultimately resulted in the Panthers'
first losing season in six years.
Maybe that's why Wannstedt looked especially animated after Pitt
repeatedly scored off Toledo's numerous mistakes, including two
fumbles, two interceptions and the failed fourth-down gamble.
Toledo's first major mistake came when Richard Davis lost 10
yards on a fumble on fourth-and-1 from the Rockets' 42, and Palko
needed only three plays to get Pitt into the end zone on Kinder's
sixth touchdown catch this season.
Summers was intercepted by Mustakas on Toledo's next play, and
it didn't get much better after that on offense for the Rockets,
who have spent nearly half the season trying to find a reliable
Neither Aaron Opelt (15-of-30, 92 yards, 1 interception) nor
Summers (3-of-5, 14 yards, 1 interception) was all that effective,
though Opelt also was the Rockets' top rusher with 56 yards.
Pitt held a 374-230 advantage in total yardage despite playing
backups most of the second half.