PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett took the snap, looked to his right and heaved the ball toward the corner of the end zone. When wide receiver Tre Tipton outwrestled a teammate for a 22-yard touchdown, Pickett and Tipton reunited at the goal line and celebrated with an intricate and deftly executed handshake, complete with a shimmy at the end.
The 22-yard connection - the second of two touchdowns passes from Pickett to Tipton - during the Blue/Gold scrimmage on Saturday served as the exclamation point of a spring the Panthers believe signaled a positive step forward for a passing game that struggled to make any sort of impact in 2018.
Though Pitt reached the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game for the first time last fall behind a brawny rushing attack, it wasn't enough for Shawn Watson to keep his job as offensive coordinator. Head coach Pat Narduzzi lured Mark Whipple - whose previous stops included Massachusetts, Miami and the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers - out of semi-retirement and tasked him with bringing balance to an offense that finished next to last in the 14-team ACC in yards passing per game.