PITTSBURGH (AP) — Shayne Simon spent two years watching Phil Jurkovec try to get comfortable at Notre Dame. It never quite took.
Reunited in Pittsburgh, Jurkovec seems different. More relaxed. Happier. So much so that Simon, a graduate transfer linebacker, pulled the Panthers' redshirt senior quarterback aside in the second half of a breezy 45-7 win over Wofford on Saturday to tell him so.
“I said ‘I think it looks like you’re having fun again. Like the old Phil is coming back, the high school Phil,'" Simon said.
For an afternoon, it sure looked like it.
Playing in his hometown on a field where he has more than a little history, Jurkovec threw for a touchdown and ran for another as the final chapter of his nomadic college career started with an efficient bang.
“It felt great to be out there on that field playing with the guys,” said Jurkovec, a high school star in the northern Pittsburgh suburbs in the late 2010s. “We put in a lot of work. It felt good to get the first one.”
Jurkovec, who grew up in the northern Pittsburgh suburbs before embarking on a college career that included stints with the Irish and Boston College, completed 17 of 23 passes for 214 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown to Karter Johnson in the third quarter. He also ran for 41 yards, most of them coming on a 23-yard sprint to the end zone in the first quarter that showcased the dual-threat ability that once made him one of the most coveted high school recruits in the country.
It's a facet of Jurkovec's game Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi would like Jurkovec to get more comfortable using going forward. There wasn't much opportunity to take off during training camp. There may be in the coming months as Jurkovec settles in.
“He’s got mobility,” Narduzzi said. “You see how calm he is in the pocket, stuff is flying by him ... that’s what you like, just the moxie he has.”
“We talked 'Are we going to out-score them?' Or is it going to be a beatdown,'" Narduzzi said. “It was a beatdown.”
Wofford, coached by former Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, had no ground game at all while running for minus-1 yard. The Terriers didn't cross midfield until the fourth quarter. Quarterback Bryce Corriston went 12 of 17 for 126 yards, 75 of them coming on a touchdown pass to Tyler Parker in the final minutes to spoil Pitt's bid for a shutout.
The Panthers racked up four sacks and didn't allow a drive over 20 yards until Corriston's late heave, offering a hint that while Jurkovec might be back, the identity of a program that's won a combined 20 games over the last two seasons is not going to change too much.
Pitt wants to run the ball, attack the opposing quarterback and hope Jurkovec regains some of the magic that he summoned so regularly as a high schooler while it tries to stay in the mix in an ACC that looks wide open behind No. 9 Clemson.
Three hours of solid play against the overmatched Terriers offered a promising start.
Wofford: Watson had the “interim” tag removed last December after putting together a 3-3 run down the stretch following Josh Conklin's midseason resignation amid a 15-game losing streak. The opener wasn't a fair fight. The better gauge of whether Wofford is ready to take a step forward comes later in the season.
Pitt: The Panthers kept it pretty vanilla in their one gimme on the schedule. Pitt is one of a handful of teams that will play 11 games against Power 5 opponents. There was no need for offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti to go too deep into the playbook. The goal was to get Jurkovec's feet wet and boost his confidence. Done and done.
Wofford: Visits William and Mary next Saturday.
Pitt: Meets former Big East rival turned Big 12 member Cincinnati (1-0) next Saturday when the Bearcats visit for the first time since 2011.