Buccaneer Football Falls to Pittsburgh in Season Opener, 31-0

Sunday, September 02, 2001

PITTSBURGH (AP) - David Priestley scored on an 85-yard run that was the longest ever by a Pittsburgh quarterback and the Panthers withstood the injury loss of star wide receiver Antonio Bryant to beat East Tennessee State 31-0 Saturday night. Bryant, last year's Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's top receiver, left with a sprained left ankle in the first quarter and did not return. He was undercut at the East Tennessee State 5 on what would have been a 60-yard punt return, but was reduced to a 10-yarder by a clipping penalty. Bryant was taken to the Pitt sideline and tried to walk on the injured ankle, but could not put any weight on it. A few minutes later, he rode a cart to the locker room and did not return, his status for Saturday's game against South Florida not immediately known. Bryant, a junior, had 68 catches, 11 touchdowns and a nation's best 130.2 yards receiving per game average last season while becoming a first-team All-America selection, Pitt's first since 1985. Without Bryant, Pitt's offense struggled for the middle two quarters in the first college game in Heinz Field after quarterbacks Priestley and Rod Rutherford each had scoring runs in the first quarter. Priestley finally got the offense going again, finding R.J. English on a 12-yard scoring pass in the third quarter. Raymond Kirkley, a freshman playing his first game, had a short touchdown run in the fourth quarter as Pittsburgh (1-0) won its fifth straight season opener under coach Walt Harris. Bryant was injured shortly after Priestley's big run. Priestley, whose career rushing total entering the game was minus-159 yards, faked a handoff into the line out of the shotgun formation and took off undetected down the Pitt sideline on the Panthers' third play from scrimmage. Priestley, who almost never carries the ball, was nearly 30 yards downfield before the Bucs realized he had the ball, and he held the ball over his head for the final 10 yards of the sixth longest running play in Pitt history. Later in the period, East Tennessee punter Aaron Bass couldn't handle a low snap from center deep in his own territory and was tackled at the 3, setting up Rutherford's 3-yard scoring run three plays later. East Tennessee State, a Division I-AA school playing its first Division I-A opponent since a season-opening 41-7 loss to Colorado State last season, missed its best chance to score in the second quarter. Matt Wilhjelm, under a heavy pass rush all night, found Cecil Moore on a 49-yard completion to the Pitt 11. But the drive stalled, and Con Chellis was wide left on a 23-yard field goal attempt. East Tennessee State was the second Southern Conference to lose in Pittsburgh in three nights. VMI lost 41-18 Thursday to Duquesne, which offers only minimal scholarship aid to most of its players.
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