Pittsburgh 34, Grambling St. 10

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Some of that promise Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt recruited the last two years is turning into production.

LeSean McCoy ran for three touchdowns on his first four carries in the first quarter and fellow freshman Kevan Smith threw for 202 yards and a score in his first career start, helping the Panthers quickly open a 21-point lead during a 34-10 victory over Grambling State on Saturday.

Smith became the second Pitt quarterback to win his initial college start in as many weeks, throwing a 50-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nate Byham in the second quarter and connecting with Oderick Turner on a 61-yard completion in the third quarter that led to a Conor Lee field goal.

McCoy, one of the top running back recruits at Pitt since Curtis Martin, ran for 107 yards on 19 carries and scored the Panthers' first three touchdowns in his second college game.

"The crazy thing is it happened so fast, they turned the ball over in the red zone and we'd get it back," McCoy said of his three quick scores. "It feels good, though. Hopefully I can get used to that, it's a good thing."

Smith replaced Bill Stull, who was lost for at least a month with a torn ligament in his right thumb during a season-opening 27-3 victory over Eastern Michigan. Smith (15-of-22, 1 interception) had thrown only four passes in his career, all of them last week, before beating out freshman Pat Bostick in practice to make the start.

Smith, a redshirt freshman, ran the team better in practice than Bostick did, Wannstedt said, and clearly looked more prepared to start. Bostick got into the game late and threw an interception on his only pass.

"I thought Kevan did a good job of managing the game for what we asked him to do," Wannstedt said. "What we need to do is get the running game going to take the pressure off him."

Wannstedt has had two strong recruiting classes in a row, but that perceived talent didn't show up as Pitt finished 5-6 in 2005 and 6-6 last season. Though the competition has been soft so far this season, some of that talent is emerging.

"We're happy to be 2-0, but we should be 2-0," Wannstedt said.

Smith said he was jittery at the start, but was confident in his ability to get the job done.

"Having jitters means you're excited," he said. "Nervous is not being prepared and not executing what you see."

McCoy, a freshman from Harrisburg, Pa., was one of the nation's most recruited running backs two years ago until he broke his right ankle and tore a ligament in the fourth game of his senior season.

The extensive rehabilitation required after those injuries led McCoy to spend last season at a prep school before he signed with Pitt (2-0). He is off to an encouraging start, with 175 yards in his first two games.

"Every time you looked in his eyes, you could tell he was ready to run the ball," Smith said. "I think he and I are meshing real well."

The last Pitt freshman with a 100-yard game was LaRod Stephens-Howling with 105 yards against Syracuse in 2005. Stephens-Howling, slowed by a rib injury and McCoy's productive day, got the ball only three times for 7 yards against Grambling (1-1) after gaining 67 yards last week.

"I didn't know my yardage, so that's pretty cool, I guess," McCoy said. "I'm excited, I'm pumped, but I don't want to get too happy with that."

The only Pitt freshman to have four rushing touchdowns in a game was Elliot Walker against Temple in 1974. Tony Dorsett had one three-TD game as a freshman in 1973, against West Virginia.

Grambling's speed was a worry to Pitt -- the Tigers were coming off a 31-10 victory over Alcorn State in coach Rod Broadway's debut -- but that didn't prove a factor. A blocked punt and an interception led to two of McCoy's touchdown runs and a 21-0 Pitt lead with 11 minutes gone.

The Tigers also hurt themselves with 108 yards of penalties. They failed to score three times after moving the ball inside the Pitt 10 in the second half.

McCoy didn't have problems with Heinz Field's notoriously slippery grass or a steady rain that lasted until just before halftime. He ran for 25 yards on his first carry before gaining 17 yards on a swing pass. McCoy later scored from the 5.

After Pitt's Brian Kaiser blocked Tim Manuel's punt, McCoy scored on the Panthers' next play from the 7 with slightly less than six minutes left in the first quarter. McCoy scored again, on a 13-yard run, less than two minutes later after Eric Thatcher intercepted Brandon Landers' pass. Landers was 19-of-40 for 155 yards and three interceptions.

"Any time you throw three interceptions, get a punt blocked and get the ball inside the 20 four times and come away with nothing, you've got to do a better job of coaching," Broadway said. "Pitt's better than us, but we should have closed the gap a little bit on them."


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2015 Southwestern Athletic Conference Standings

Alcorn State7-28-3
Alabama State5-46-5
Alabama A&M3-63-8
Jackson State3-63-8
Mississippi Valley State1-81-10
Grambling State9-09-2
Prairie View A&M8-18-2
Texas Southern2-73-7
Arkansas-Pine Bluff1-82-9