One of the biggest positives coming out of Monday night — and there were a few — was that Tyler Boyd might be better than believed.
On the fourth play of the Panthers’ opening drive, he took off on a “jet sweep” around right end and gained 18 yards.
The drive resulted in a short-lived, 7-0 lead.
Boyd ran the play twice more for 20 and 16 yards. His 54 yards on three carries led the Panthers in rushing.
“I was very surprised,” he said. “When I got that first jet, I didn’t think I’d be as open as that. And the second one, they just kept opening it up for me. After that it was, like, totally comfort. I was ready for them to put the ball in my hands.”
After a first half with no catches, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Boyd in the third quarter turned an apparently errant sideline pass from Tom Savage into a diving, highlight-worthy grab worth 17 yards. He later plucked a pass off his shoe tops for a 9-yard gain.
One of 12 first-year freshmen who played, Boyd also accounted for 71 yards on three kickoff returns, including one for 35 yards.
“I could have made more plays, but I made enough plays to do right, do good,” he said.
He was given kick-off return duties at the end of the 2d quarter. As a freshman receiver he had five touches. And the issue now, is that he needs to get the ball in his hands even more. Yeah, that’s a good problem.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst won’t deviate too much from his traditional pro-style offense and do anything crazy with Boyd, but he admitted that it was important to find ways to get the ball in Boyd’s hands.
“I feel real confident that we can do it within the parameters of the offense,” Chryst said. “I don’t feel like we’ve got to get out of box. We want to make sure that the guys that can make plays are continuing to get touches.”
The thing that surprised me was seeing what a natural receiver he is. We knew he had speed and versatility. But how to translate/utilize that athletic ability to the college level was still a bit of a question mark. Justin and Reed both stated that he looked tremendous in practices catching the ball, but seeing him do that in game was still a very pleasant surprise.
That’s important since, as FSU showed, teams are going to be all over Devin Street. Manasseh Garner and the other TEs can help a little. To really open the field up, though, having a second WR is vital. Boyd has already made it obvious that he is that guy.