Palko is another in a long line of quarterbacks produced in Western Pennsylvania's storied football heritage built on grit, tenacity and pride, an area that produced the likes of Johnny Lujack, George Blanda, Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Joe Namath. To date, 37 pro quarterbacks were produced from this region. The son of one of Western Pennsylvania's most successful high school coaches, Palko started drawing up football plays at age nine.
While the quarterback position is typically thought of in glamorous terms, Palko has thrived because of his linebacker mentality, as he is known to attack defenders rather than be attacked, and plays with a fiery passion that inspires those around him. An illustration of his toughness came in Pitt's 20-17 overtime victory over Boston College in 2004, when on a scramble he put his shoulder down and knocked the helmet off B.C. defensive back Peter Shean. Many observers characterized that play as a turning point in the 2004 team's season, when the young Panthers began to believe they could achieve.
The Pittsburgh coaching staff calls Palko cerebral and strategic, as he picks things up during a game that can be exploited for points later on. The coaches consider him to be a "gym rat" equivalent in football. Whether it is in or out of season, he is constantly in the film room. The left-handed passer complements his football knowledge with a highly accurate arm.
Palko earned Associated Press 2001 Pennsylvania Big School Player of the Year honors at West Allegheny High School, where he played four seasons for his father, Bob Palko. He was a three-time first-team honoree on the Associated Press Big School All-State Team, adding USA Today All-American second-team honors, and was also a three-time Pittsburgh Post-Gazette WPIAL Class AAA Player of the Year, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Fabulous 22" honoree, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Player of the Year and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review "Terrific 25" choice.
The Prep Star "Dream Team" selection was rated the nation's ninth-best overall prospect by Tom Lemming, in addition to being rated one of the nation's top seven passing quarterbacks by Max Emfinger. He was rated the premier quarterback in the East and sixth nationally by Prep Star, adding Super 30 All-Eastern Region honors. He was also named to the Super Prep All-American team and rated the 10th-best quarterback prospect in the nation by that recruiting service. He added Student Sports All-American first-team and East Region Player of the Year accolades.
Palko guided the team to a 48-7 record (.873) in four years as West Allegheny's starting quarterback, leading the squad to three consecutive WPIAL Class AAA championships and three consecutive PIAA title games. The team won the 2001 PIAA championship, the first AAA state title ever won by a WPIAL team, as Palko completed nearly 60 percent of his passes (134 of 225) for 1,887 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. He also rushed for 628 yards and eight scores that year. He finished his high school career with 5,553 passing yards and 1,681 rushing yards, and also excelled on defense at safety, where he totaled more than 80 tackles and four interceptions as a senior.
In the 2001 state championship game, Palko completed 14-of-20 passes (70 percent) for 202 yards and a touchdown, while also intercepting one pass on defense. His performance in the state title game lifted West Allegheny to a 28-13 win over two-time defending champion Strath Haven, which entered the contest with a 44-game winning streak. Palko also lettered three times in basketball and once in track-and-field. He was a 2002 YMCA Tribune-Review Scholar-Athlete honoree.
Palko saw limited action in six games as a true freshman at Pittsburgh in 2002. He hit on 2-of-3 passes (66.7 percent) for 13 yards and gained nine yards with a touchdown on 10 carries. Rather than have him sit on the bench behind Rod Rutherford in 2003, the coaching staff decided to redshirt Palko in 2003. He took over the quarterback reigns in 2004, connecting on 230 of 490 passes (56.2 percent) for 3,067 yards, 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He scored three times and amassed 139 yards on 129 carries (1.1 avg), finishing his sophomore season with 3,206 yards in total offense.
With coach Walt Harris departing for Stanford, Dave Wannstedt took over as head coach in 2005. The offense struggled early in the season, as Palko was sacked 19 times and threw six interceptions in the Panthers' first five games. He managed to hit on 193 of 341 throws (56.6 percent) for 2,392 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was held to minus-139 yards on 70 carries (-2.0 avg), but did score six times on the ground. He concluded the season with 2,253 yards in total offense.
The team MVP and a member of the American Football Coaches Association "Good Works" team in 2006, Palko started every game. He hit on 220 of 322 passes for 2,871 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions, adding 77 yards and two scores on 66 carries (1.2 avg). He ranked 18th nationally with an average of 245.67 yards per game in total offense and led a team that ranked 14th in the NCAA Division 1-A ranks in scoring, averaging 31.75 points per game.
In 41 games at Pittsburgh, Palko started 35 consecutive contests. The three-time team captain completed 645 of 1,975 passes (60.0 percent), as he ranked third in school history with 8,343 yards passing and second with 8,429 yards in total offense. His 66 touchdown passes place him second on Pitt's all-time record list, as he tossed 25 interceptions. He also gained 86 yards with 12 scores on 275 rushing attempts (0.3 avg).
Positives: Has adequate muscle tone with good arm length and room on his frame to carry additional bulk without having it affect his timed speed
Has marginal decision-making skills, but he's a "try hard" type who plays until the whistle
Durable athlete with a smooth running stride and decent quickness, making him a threat on bootlegs
Has the loose hips to avoid the initial tackler when flushed out of the pocket
Shows adequate timed speed with the leg drive to break tackles and while he relies more on his arm, his feet need to be accounted for, especially near the goal line (eleven touchdown runs inside the red zone the last three years)
Makes proper checks on the field and has a good understanding for the game
While Palko has only adequate height, his quickness is evident in his ability to drive back from center quickly to get to his pass-set point, when he sets his feet properly (when he does, it seems like he is ready to launch the ball in an instant and he shows very good balance throwing on the move)
Possesses the skills to step up or slide away from pressure and has the agility to reach his throwing point
The ball is delivered with a tight circle and exits his hand quickly when he steps into his throws (has a big circle when he fails to set his feet, though
When he carries the ball chest-high, he demonstrates the quick, compact load-and-release that gave him much success in 2004
With that compact release, he is effective hitting his receivers in stride, especially on short-to-intermediate routes
Can throw the deep ball and knows when to put zip behind his long passes
You can see his velocity on out routes, demonstrating the arm strength needed to get the ball down field
Knows how to put his power behind the hard throws, but also shows a soft touch working underneath
Has good control and accuracy to hit his receivers in stride, when given time to throw
Capable of putting the ball in the easy area for the receiver coming out of the break without having that target adjust in his stride
Can adjust his velocity, and could be a high percentage passer at the next level
Knows when to step up, buy time with his feet on rollouts and tuck the ball and run with it when he has no other options
Has good quickness and loose hips rolling out of the pocket
Bit of a streaky passer, but can freeze a defender with his play action and pump fakes.
Negatives: Lacks ideal size and needs better overall muscle development, especially in the lower body (skinny ankles)
Has a strong throwing arm, but while he has good timed speed he needs to improve his footwork and be more elusive when flushed out of the pocket (fails to locate the cutback lanes at times) and more conscious of ball security
Equally effective in a pro-style and West Coast offense, but Pittsburgh was more of a running team under the defensive-minded Dave Wannstedt the past two years
Seems to see the field well, but has too many passes deflected
Understands coverage packages, but tends to hang on to the ball too long at times, resulting in a high amount of sacks
Can make proper reads under pressure, but will get in trouble when he tries to force the ball into tight areas
Tried too much to play into the new coaching staff's scheme in 2005, running when he was told and throwing to where the staff wanted him to, but it negated his creativity that he showed as a sophomore
When he throws into a crowd, it is mostly due to him taking too long to look off the primary target or because his protection broke down
Sometimes holds the ball low, resulting in long arm motion and that is when he runs the risk of having the pass deflected at the line of scrimmage
Demonstrates good ball placement and throws an easy ball with a tight spiral, but needs to generate a higher arc and trajectory to prevent so many of his passes from getting batted away
Loses some accuracy and touch throwing on the move, especially when he passes off his back foot
When he senses pressure, he reacts quickly, adjusting his feet on the move, but must do a better job of sliding out of the pocket when the bull rush causes it to collapse
Can be late on inside throws when firing from the outside hashes
Needs to learn when to throw the ball away, as he stands too long in the pocket scanning for secondary targets, resulting in a high amount of sacks for a player with his mobility.
Compares To: MARK BRUNELL-Washington
Palko has great temperament and drive on the field, but the left-handeder shows the mobility and improvisational skills that made Brunell successful earlier in his career. Unfortunately, like Brunell, Palko sometimes "overworks" and over analyzes things on the field and a bad play will linger in his mind, taking him out of his game.
Palko's 8,343 yards passing rank third in school history behind Alex Van Pelt (11,267 yards; 1989-92) and Dan Marino (8,597 yards; 1979-82)
Gained 8,429 yards in total offense, the second-best career total in school history, topped only by Van Pelt (11,148 yards)
His 3,067 passing yards in 2004 rank third on the school's season-record list, surpassed only by Rod Rutherford (3,679 yards in 2003) and Alex Van Pelt (3,163 in 1992)
Only Rutherford (247 in 2003) completed more passes in a season for the Panthers than Tyler's 230 in 2004
Palko (409 in 2004) joined Rutherford (413 in 2003) as the only players in Pittsburgh history to attempt more than 400 passes in a season
His 25 touchdown passes in 2006 ranks fourth on the Panthers' annual record chart behind Rutherford (37 in 2003), Marino (37 in 1981) and Pete Gonzalez (31 in 1997)
His 3,067 yards passing in 2004 was the most ever by a Pittsburgh sophomore, topping the previous mark of 2,427 yards by Van Pelt in 1990
Gained 8,429 yards in total offense, the second-best career total in school annals, topped only by Van Pelt (11,148 yards, 1989-92)
Palko's 411 yards passing vs. South Florida in 2004 rank fifth on the school's single-game record list behind Rutherford (419 vs. West Virginia in 2003), John Ryan (433 vs. West Virginia in 1994), John Congemi (446 vs. Navy in 1986) and Pete Gonzalez (470 vs. Rutgers in 1997)
Threw for more than 300 yards 10 times during his career, tying the Big East Conference record that was first set by Ryan Hart of Rutgers (2002-05).
Maxwell Award and Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award semifinalist
Named the team's Offensive Most Valuable Player, serving as squad captain for the third consecutive season
Was named to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division I-A "Good Works" Team, which honors 11 players who have distinguished themselves through outstanding community service
Also named a semifinalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, a national award that honors the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement
Added Academic All-Big East Conference honors
Started all 12 games, ranking fourth in the nation with a 163.25 passing efficiency rating and finished 16th nationally in points scored, averaging 13.5 per game while also ranking 18th in the country with an average of 245.67 yards per game in total offense
Completed 220 of 322 passes (68.3 percent) for 2,871 yards, 25 touchdowns and only nine interceptions
Carried 66 times for 77 yards (1.2 avg) and two scores
Participated in 388 plays, gaining 2,948 total yards
Also recorded a solo tackle
Was sacked 22 times for losses totaling 157 yards and turned the ball over twice on four fumbles
Had 35 of his pass attempts deflected
Gained more than 200 yards passing in seven games, including three 300-yard performances.
|2006 Game Analysis|
Began the season with 17 of 22 passes (77.3%) for 283 yards and three touch-downs
Was intercepted once and sacked once for minus 8 yards in a 38-13 triumph
On Pitt's first possession, Palko led his team on a 15-play 65-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring lob to Darrell Strong for a touchdown. On that drive, Palko completed all seven of his pass attempts
.Palko fired a 72-yard scoring pass to Oderick Turner with 8:05 to play in the second quarter
.The Panthers passer also unleashed a 78-yard touch-down toss to Derek Kinder in the third quarter.
Palko turned the ball over once on a fumble, but connected on 11 of 21 attempts for 267 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-15 victory
The Pitt QB found Oderick Turner with a 15-yard scoring pass with 1:18 left in the first half and on the first play of the second half, he uncorked an 80-yard touchdown bomb to Derek Kinder
Later in the third quarter, Palko connected once again with Derek Kinder for a 55-yard touchdown.
Palko was sacked for a 5-yard loss and turned the ball over on a fumble and two interceptions, as he also had two touchdowns and gained 277 yards on 28 of 47 throws
Palko connected on seven consecutive passes before hitting Steve Buches with a 10-yard scoring toss with 2:05 left in the game
On Pitt's next drive, he fired a 49-yard touchdown to Derek Kinder.
Palko was successful on 88.2% of his passes (15-of-17) for 313 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-6 win, earning Big East Conference Player of the Week honors
He hit on his first nine pass attempts and his pass completion percentage was the sixth-best game in Big East history
Palko threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Derek Kinder, a 36-yarder to Tyler Tipton and a 22-yarder to Marcel Peterson before calling it a day after a 52-yard scoring bomb to Oderick Turner in the third quarter.
Palko again completed 80% of his throws (12-of-15), good for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 45-3 victory
He hit Derek Kinder with a 9-yard score during the team's game-opening drive and connected with Darrell Strong on a 1-yard touchdown toss with less than three minutes left in the half.
Palko became the first player in school history to complete more than 80% of his passes (83.3%) in three consecutive games, as he connected on 20 of 24 attempts for 177 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to Steve Buches that ended an 11-play, 63-yard in the third quarter
The Panther passer also ran for a 4-yard score in the first quarter, leaving the game with a nation-leading 191.59 passing efficiency rating.
Palko was successful on 11 of 15 attempts (73.3%) for 172 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers won their fourth consecutive game, 52-7
In the first quarter, he hit Oderick Turner with a 54-yard scoring bomb and on fourth-&-1, the Pitt QB found Tyler Tipton with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:06 left in the first half.
For the fifth consecutive game, Palko did not throw an interception, as he hit on 16 of 26 chances for 169 yards and an 8-yard touchdown to Oderick Turner, but the QB was sacked five times for minus 48 yards and fumbled once in a 20-10 loss.
Saw his consecutive pass attempt string without an interception stop at 118, as he completed 11 of 23 passes for 159 yards and three interceptions, as Palko was also sacked twice for minus 13 yards
He did find Darrell Strong with a fourth quarter 18-yard touchdown pass.
Accounted for three touchdowns passing, including a 14-yarder to Steve Buches and added 14 yards on six carries with a 1-yard scoring plunge that capped a 7-play, 62-yard third quarter drive.
Palko withstood a fierce pass rush to complete 28 of 37 passes (75.7%) for a season-high 341 yards and touchdowns of 23-yards to Nate Byham that capped a 9-play, 81-yard drive on Pitt's first series of the game and he also fired a 15-yarder to Oderick Turner to end a second quarter drive that amassed 84 yards on seven plays
But, Palko was sacked eight times for losses of 45 yards and fumbled once in a 45-27 loss.
The Cardinals brought Pitt's bowl hopes to an end with a 48-24 loss, as Palko threw for 307 yards on 31 of 50 attempts, but was picked off three times and sacked twice for losses of 11 yards
His lone touchdown came in the fourth quarter on Pittsburgh's first drive, when he connected with Oderick Turner on a 22-yarder with 11:05 to play in the game
Palko's three-interception performance marked the fourth time in his career in which he has that many pass thefts in a game.
All-Big East Conference second-team selection
Served as team captain for the second consecutive season
Started every game, but the team struggled to grasp the West Coast offense installed by the new coaching staff
The offense averaged only 335.8 yards per game, as Tyler ranked 25th in the nation in points responsible for (13.64 ppg), 58th with a 126.69 passing efficiency rating and 66th with an average of 204.82 yards per game in total offense
Completed 193 of 341 passes (56.6 percent) for 2,392 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions
Carried 70 times for losses totaling 139 yards (-2.0 avg), but did score six times on the ground
Gained 2,253 yards in total offense on 411 plays
103 of his 193 pass completions were good for first downs, with 31 of those passes gaining 20 yards or more
Added ten first downs on rushing attempts
Converted 57-of-162 third-down plays (35.2 percent)
Had 48 of his 341 pass attempts deflected and the opposition recovered six of Palko's eight fumbles
Sacked 29 times for minus 225 yards.
|2005 Game Analysis|
With a Top 25 ranking, a schedule filled with winnable games and a polished playmaker like Palko at quarterback, Pitt expected a big start to an excellent season, but instead, it was a huge letdown, with a sold-out Heinz Field half-empty before the end of the third quarter. Some of those 66,451 fans leaving early could be heard wondering if Pitt was so wise to jettison former head coach Walt Harris, an accomplished offensive coach, after five consecutive bowl seasons. Palko struggled with the team's new West Coast offense, as he hit on 20 of 35 attempts for 220 yards, an interception and a touchdown, adding another score on the ground, but he was sacked five times for losses of 38 yards in a 42-21 loss
Palko's first touchdown pass for the season was a 39-yarder to Greg Lee that capped an 8-play, 73-yard drive in the first quarter. He also finished off a 72-yard, 7-playdrive in the first quarter with a naked bootleg for a 4-yard score
Palko was picked off by safety Tom Zbikowski in the end zone for a touchback on a fourth-&-7 play with 1:39 left in the first half
Dave Wannstedt is the first Pittsburgh coach to lose his debut since Mike Gottfried's Panthers lost to Maryland 13-10 in 1986, and the most recent comparable loss by a debuting coach was Carl DePasqua's 42-8 loss to UCLA in 1969
Palko had nine first-down passes, including three for 20 yards or longer
He converted 4-of-14 third-down plays and also ran for a pair of first downs, but had five passes broken up by the Irish.
Pitt's LaRod Stephens-Howling returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, but the Panthers' offense self-destructed behind Palko, as the quarterback was 13-of-26 for 120 yards with three interceptions in a 16-10 loss. He was also sacked three times for minus 23 yards and had five passes deflected
Ohio cornerback Dion Byrum returned two interceptions for touchdowns, the second one in overtime that brought thousands of jubilant fans onto the field and gave Ohio coach Frank Solich a stunning victory in his home debut. Byrum ran one back 38 yards for a score in the first quarter to get the Bobcats revved. He stepped in front of Palko's pass in the first overtime and returned it 85 yards untouched for a touchdown, gently placing the ball down once he crossed the goal line. Tyler also had a third-&-7 pass at the start of the second quarter intercepted by safety Todd Koening in the end zone for a touchback
Compounding the Panthers' problems: Right tackle Mike McGlynn and left guard Dominic Williams were hurt on the same play in the first quarter, limping off the field together. McGlynn returned three series later, but it didn't make much of a difference
Palko also struggled against Ohio in 2004, completing only six passes in that season-opening 24-3 win at Pitt
Tyler's lone bright spot was completing 7-of-8 passes on a 70-yard drive that led to Josh Cummings' 27-yard field goal with 0:07 left in regulation play, but his only pass in overtime ended the game after Byrum intercepted the Panthers QB
Seven of Palko's passes were good for first downs, but for the first time in his 23-game career as a starter, Tyler did not have one completion for 20 yards or longer
Five of his pass attempts were broken up.
Playing in front of 77,336 fans in the NCAA-record 271st consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium and an ABC regional television audience, Nebraskakept the defending Big East champion Pitt Panthers out of the end zone, while sacking Palko four times for losses totaling 34 yards and also had six passes deflected. He hit on 11 of 26 throws for 190 yards, but lost 26 yards on seven carries
Nebraska defensive ends Adam Carriker and Wali Muhammad powered a strong defensive effort that kept the opponent out of the end zone for the second straight week. Carrikerfinished the day withtwo sacks for 21 yards. Muhammadadded a pair of sacks. After Nebraska's first missed field goal, the Blackshirts kept the pressure on Palko, flexing their musclesto force the Panthers to punt on 4th-&-22 to give the Huskers excellent field position
After Nebraska missed on their second field goal try, Palko drove the Panthers from their own 22 to the Nebraska 29 to set up a potential game-winning field goal on second down with seven seconds left. After Nebraska took two timeouts, the Panthers snapped the ball off holder Adam Graessle's helmet when he was not looking, but the ball zipped off Graessle's head directly into Pitt place-kicker Josh Cummings' hands. Carriker sprinted untouched toward Cummings, who threw the ball incomplete into the open area behind the Nebraska defense.The Nebraska sideline erupted into celebration, but one tick remained on the clock, giving the Panthers a second chance for the win on third down, but Huskers linebacker Adam Ickes sent the crowd and Nebraska sideline into a frenzy again when he sprinted off the corner of the right side of Nebraska's line and smashed Cummings' kick into the ground
Although the game featured a total of 15 penalties and the two teams were a combined 4-for-29 on third-down conversions, including a dismal 1-for-14 effort by Pitt,neither team committed a turnover on the afternoon
Palko spoke about the offense's lack of sync after the game, saying, "Offensively, there's a little miscommunication. We try to come out and make plays. Our adjustments are iffy at times. It doesn't matter whose fault it is, we just didn't get it done. We just have to keep working. We aren't playing well right now. Football is a tough game, and it's a test of our manhood to keep fighting. We have to go through growing pains and scrape the bottom before head to the top. We hope to establish the run first, and we ran the ball well. It's good for our offense when we draw another man in the box. When they brought another man up, we threw it well at times."
Palko had six first downs passing and one more rushing.
Palko completed 14 of 22 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Panthers past Youngstown State, 41-0, in front of 43,135 at Heinz Field. The Panthers set the tone early, scoring on their first two possessions. After forcing the Penguins to a three-and-out on their first possession and a 19-yard punt by Joe Bishop, the Panthers struck quickly on two-play, 41-second scoring drive capped by a 39-yard touchdown pass from Palko to Raymond Kirkley to take a 6-0 lead. David Abdul missed the point after attempt. Youngstown State, however, denied the Panthers on their next two possessions when Jason Perry picked off Palko in the end zone and Dorian Chenault forced Pittsburgh's Eric Gill to cough up the ball through the end zone for a touchback. Gill would make up for that miscue by catching a 3-yard scoring lob from Tyler with 7:47 left in the first half. Following a Darrelle Revis interception of a Tom Zetts pass, Palko connected on a 27-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lee with 10:39 to go in the third quarter
Palko was sacked twice and began a string of six consecutive games where he fumbled at least once, coughing up the ball on a second quarter 12-yard sack by James Terry on a third-&-17 play at the YSU 38, but Palko quickly recovered the ball
Tyler set up a third quarter 12-yard scoring scamper by Raymond Kirkley with a 55-yard pass completion on a slant pass to Greg Lee on the previous play
Palko converted 5-of-11 third-down plays
7 of his 11 first-down passes were good for 20 yards or longer
Added another first down rushing
Had four of his passes batted down
Pittsburgh's 41 points were the most scored vs. Youngstown State since Northern Iowa posted 47 on November 1, 2003
Pitt's 528 yards of total offense was the most given up by Youngstown State since Northern Iowa racked up 618 in that 2003 contest.
In the conference opener for both teams, Rutgers beat Pitt, 37-29, for the first time since 1998, a span of five games. Palko completed 35 of 58 tosses for 371 yards and threw four second-half touchdown passes for the Panthers, who fell to 1-4 under first-year coach Dave Wannstedt. Palko turned the ball over once on a fumble, was intercepted one and was sacked five times for losses totaling 45 yards
Rutgers took a 27-0 halftime lead before Pitt scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. But Rutgers linebacker William Beckford forced a fumble by Palko at the Panthers 27, and Knights QB Ryan Hart found Tres Moses on a crossing pattern three plays later to push Rutgers' lead to 34-14. Pitt closed to 37-29 with 7:26 left on Palko's fourth touchdown pass, a 3-yarder to receiver Derek Kinder, followed by a two-point conversion pass to Darrel Strong, but on Pitt's next possession, Rutgers defensive end Ryan Neill sacked Palko on a third-&-9 that started at the Rutgers 20, and Panthers' punter Adam Graessle's desperation pass on a fake punt fell incomplete. Pitt had one more possession, but Palko's pass was tipped by Rutgers' safety Corey Barnes and intercepted by Brandon Renkart at the Rutgers 34 with 1:58 left, as the Scarlet Knights then ran out the clock
Palko killed a second quarter drive when he was sacked by Rutgers' Manny Collins for a 7-yard loss on a fourth-&-7 play 8:10 before half-time
In the third quarter, a 13-yard touchdown pass from Palko to Greg Lee was followed by a Palko-to-Justin Acierno 2-yard score, and Pitt was back in the ballgame at 27-14 with 4:42 showing on the clock in the third quarter. Palko then hooked up with Steve Buches from 18 yards out for his third touchdown of the day, again cutting the Rutgers lead to less than two touchdowns (34-21, 13:38, fourth quarter). After a 42-yard field goal on the Scarlet Knights' very next possession that gave Rutgers a 37-21 edge (10:03), the Panthers answered back with a 14-play, 75-yard drive, one capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Tyler to Derek Kinder. Darrell Strong caught the two-point conversion pass, keeping Pitt within a single score at 37-29 with 7:26 remaining in the game. A Ryan Neill sack of Palko for a 7-yard loss on second-&-9 helped end Pitt's next possession prematurely, and a Brandon Renkhart interception of a Palko pass sealed the victory for Rutgers in the game's final seconds
Rutgers' Derrick Roberson picked off a Palko pass at the start of the second half, but it was ruled no play when Chenry Lewis was penalized 15 yards for roughing up the Pittsburgh passer. With 1:24 left in the third quarter, Palko turned the ball over on a fumble when he coughed up the ball after Tyler was hit by William Beckford on a 7-yard run
Four of Palko's 19 first-down pass completions were for 20 yards or longer
Tyler converted 9-of-19 third-down plays, but had seven pass attempts deflected by Rutgers
Record Watch-Palko's 35 pass completions were the most in a game by a Panthers quarterback since Alex Van Pelt set the school game-record with 37 completions vs. Notre Dame in 1990
Tyler's 371 yards passing rank fourteenth on the school's game-record list.
Palko led the Panthers to a 38-20 victory, but Pitt's offense was lethargic again in the first half - a season-long problem for a team that had one of the nation's best passing offenses a year ago - until Palko hit Greg Lee for a 44-yard reception to set up one of Josh Cummings' three field goals. Palko connected on 14 of 32 attempts for 175 yards and a touchdown, adding another score on the ground, but Tyler turned the ball over twice on fumbles and had seven passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage
Palko, despite being off on his throwing almost the entire game, ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter and later found Greg Lee on a 10-yard scoring pass to start the fourth quarter
Palko's fumbled twice on consecutive drives midway through the fourth quarter. His second fumble was recovered by the Bearcats' Anthony Hoke at the Pitt 22, setting up a 22-yard scoring strike from Cincinnati QB Dustin Grutza to Earnest Jackson with 2:07 left to play
Palko ran for one first down and threw for nine others while converting 5-of-17 third-down plays.
Tyler threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as Pitt overcame a slow start and two early mistakes to beat South Florida 31-17 in the Bulls' first Big East road game. Palko was successful on 15 of 21 throws for 203 yards, but turned the ball over once on a fumble after getting sacked four times for minis 35 yards. Pittburgh, winning consecutive games for the first time this season, fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter following a blocked punt and a fumble by Palko that set up a USF 36-yard field goal with 6:26 left in the first quarter, only to surge back with three touchdowns in a six-minute span in the second quarter as the Bulls (3-3, 1-1) again couldn't contain Palko. The Pitt QB found Greg Lee on a 69-yard scoring pass play on the opening play of the second quarter, then hit Lee again with a 41-yard seam pass to the Bulls' 3 following a Darrelle Revis fumble recovery. Palko then threw a 3-yard scoring pass to fullback Tim Murphy to make it 14-10. Another South Florida fumble, this one by quarterback Pat Julmiste, was recovered by Pitt's J.J. Horne and returned eight yards to the Bulls 12. Palko then ran it in from a yard out to put the Panthers up 21-10 with nearly nine minutes left in the second quarter. South Florida got back to 21-17 on a Jumiste-to-Andre Hall scoring pass play of 76 yards, but another fumble by a Bulls quarterback, this time by backup Courtney Denson, was returned by cornerback Bernard "Josh" Lay to the Bulls 8. Palko immediately found tight end Darrell Strong on an 8-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter
Three of Palko's seven first-down passes were for 20 yards or longer and only three of his pass attempts were knocked down by the opposition.
Palko ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in Pittsburgh's second comeback victory in as many games, a 34-17 triumph. Tyler hit on 18 of 28 throws for 201 yards and a touchdown, as Pitt became the latest team to benefit from Syracuse's ongoing stream of turnovers. A week after falling behind South Florida by 10 points before winning 31-17, Pitt followed the same pattern in a turnover-filled first half by trailing 17-7 before scoring 27 consecutive points behind Palko's passing. Tyler, who threw an interception and lost a fumble during a first half that featured a combined seven turnovers, found Derek Kinder on an 11-yard scoring pass to make it 17-14 after Panthers linebacker J.J. Horne intercepted a Perry Patterson pass. Pitt sustained a drive for the first time early in the third quarter, driving 60 yards on seven plays for Palko's 2-yard touchdown run and a 24-17 lead. Previously, 17 of the first 19 possessions by the teams ended in five plays or fewer, partly because both teams kept turning the ball over on a breezy, wet day. A light rain fell during the first half picked up during the second half, when Pitt scored the only two touchdowns. After Syracuse missed a field goal attempt, Palko found Greg Lee on a 37-yard completion to the Syracuse 7 before running it in himself from the 1 early in the fourth quarter for the junior quarterback's first career two-touchdown game. On the next Pitt possession, Palko dropped back to pass on third down, but defensive end James Wyche beat his man, forced the ball from Palko's hands, and recovered it himself to give SU the ball at the Pitt 15-yard line, setting up a Syracuse 32-yard field goal. Earlier in the game, Tyler was picked off by safety Anthony Smith in the first quarter, but the Syracuse defender was tackled by Palko after a 73-yard return. Syracuse failed to score on the ensuing drive
Palko converted 9-of-18 third-down plays and had eight passes result in first downs, adding three more first downs rushing
Only one of Palko's passes were deflected, matching his lowest total in any game as a starter (had onely one pass broken up vs. Furman on September 25, 2004).
Pitt's three-game winning streak came to an end, as Palko connected on 17 of 30 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown, but he turned the ball over once on a fumble, was sacked twice for minus 8 yards and had three pass attempts broken up
Tyler's only scoring strike was a 12-yarder to Derek Kinder that ended a 4-play, 63-yard drive with 0:58 left in the first half
Palko was sacked for a 3-yard loss by All-American defensive end Elvis Dumervil with 0:40 left in the game, as the ball was recovered by Louisville's Adrian Grady
Three of Palko's ten first-down pass completions went for 20 yards or longer, but he converted only 2-of-10 third-down plays.
Palko led the team to a 24-0 victory, the Panthers' third win in four games. Tyler threw for 12 of 21 throws for a season-low 116 yards, but did hit Steve Buches with a 2-yard touchdown pass on Pitt's first and only sustained drive, and Palko also scored on a 1-yard run to help the Panthers win their fifth in a row at home - their only victories in a disappointing season. The Panthers managed only 43 yards passing in the first half and no Pitt running back gained more than 26 yards as the Panthers were held to 76 yards on 34 carries. Pittsburgh's only other touchdown, except for the Palko-to-Buches throw that ended a 64-drive on their first possession, also came off a UConn breakdown. Adam Gunn broke through UConn's punt coverage unit to deflect walk-on Chris Pavasaris' 16-yard punt to the Huskies' 28. Palko scored three plays later after finding Erik Gill for 22 yards to the 2-yard line on second-&-6. Tyler then ran for a 1-yard score with 2:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Palko's disappointing season came to an end in a 45-13 loss, as he completed 24 of 43 tosses for 308 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Tyler also fumbled once, finishing the day with 316 yards in total offense. Pittsburgh (5-6, 4-3), which struggled to get into scoring position all day, ended up with its first losing season since 1999. Palko responded to West Virginia's opening score with a three-pass drive, capped by a 63-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lee, when Lee got behind West Virginia cornerback Dee McCann. Palko later threw a 31-yard scoring strike to Lee, as the receiver made a pretty fingertip catch by Lee in the back of the end zone, but a bobbled snap by Panther holder Adam Graessle led to a botched PAT try for Pitt. Palko had saved that scoring drive when he recovered a bad snap on a second-&-2 play earlier in the drive
A key point in the game came with 46 seconds left in the third quarter with Pitt looking to put some points on the board. Trailing by just 11, the Panthers got to the WVU 24 before running back Rashad Jennings was thrown for a 3-yard loss. A couple of incomplete Palko passes forced Pitt to try a difficult 44-yard field goal attempt into a stiff win. It appeared as if Pitt could have run out the clock and tried a much easier kick at the other end of the field with the wind. But Pitt tried it against the wind and Panther kicker Josh Cummings slipped trying to get it through the wind and the ball sailed harmlessly into the end zone
West Virginia safety Jahmile Addae iced the game by picking off a Palko pass and racing 40 yards for a touchdown with 2:03 left to play. It was one of five Panther turnovers collected by West Virginia's defense. On Pitt's next drive, Palko first fumbled the ball on a 2-yard run, recovered the ball and on the next play, he threw a pass that was picked off by Jeff Noechel and the Mountaineers then ran out the clock
Three of Palko's 12 first-down pass completions were good for 20 yards or longer
He converted 7-of-15 third-down plays, but had five passes deflected in addition to his two interceptions.
All-Big East Conference second-team choice
Team MVP and offensive captain in his first year as a starter
Set a school season-record for sophomores with 3,067 yards passing, topping the previous mark of 2,427 yards by Alex Van Pelt in 1992
His 3,067 yards rank third on the school's season-record list, surpassed only by Rod Rutherford (3,679 yards in 2003) and Alex Van Pelt (3,163 in 1992)
Connected on 230 of 409 tosses (56.2 percent) with 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions
Only Rutherford (247 in 2003) completed more passes in a season for the Panthers than Tyler's 230
Palko joined Rutherford (413 in 2003) as the only players in Pittsburgh history to attempt more than 400 passes in a season
His 24 touchdown passes rank fourth on the Panthers' annual record chart behind Rutherford (37 in 2003), Dan Marino (37 in 1981) and Pete Gonzalez (31 in 1997)
Finished 33rd in the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 135.17
Carried 129 times for 139 yards (1.1 avg) and three scores
Gained 3,206 yards on 538 plays, ranking 18th in the country with an average of 267.17 yards per game in total offense
Led the Big East Conference and ranked 20th nationally in points responsible for (13.83 ppg)
Had 60 of his 409 pass attempts deflected and four of his ten fumbles recovered by the opposition
Was sacked 39 times for losses totaling 304 yards
39 of his 132 first-down pass completions were good for 20 yards or longer, adding 24 more first downs rushing
Converted 72-of-189 third-down plays (38.1 percent)
Threw for over 200 yards in eight contests, including four games with at least 300 yards and one for over 400
Had at least one touchdown pass in ten of twelve contests.
|2004 Game Analysis|
Palko made his first career start for Pittsburgh, throwing for one touchdown and 49 yards on 6-of-19 passing, but was also intercepted once and sacked five times for losses of 38 yards in a 24-3 win. With time winding down late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers found the end zone through the air for the first time. Palko threw his first career touchdown pass on a 7-yard toss to Greg Lee. The touchdown sealed the first victory of the year for the Panthers
Palko's third quarter pass was intercepted by T.J. Wright, but Tyler made up for that miscue with a 43-yard option run that set up his 7-yard scoring strike to Lee with 2:46 left to play
Pittsburgh's win improved its record vs. Ohio to 7-0 and the Panthers are now 23-1 vs. teams from the Mid-American Conference
Had seven of his 19 pass attempts batted down at the line of scrimmage, including five by T.J. Wright.
Tyler threw for 228 yards on 22 of 45 attempts with a touchdown, but Pitt fell to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 24-17, before a crowd of 40,133 at Heinz Field, as Palko was intercepted three times, had eleven passes deflected by the opposition, fumbled once and was sacked three times for minus 23 yards. The Huskers' Fabian Washington intercepted a Palko pass early in the first quarter, returning the ball 19 yards to set up Nebraska's 26-yard field goal and Wali Muhammad's theft of Tyler's pass at the end of the first quarter let Husker tailback Cory Ross score on a 2-yard run. Palko was again intercepted in the second quarter by Josh Bullocks and fumbled on a rushing attempt when he was tackled by Muhammad on Pitt's first drive of the second half (Pittsburgh recovered). Palko's lone bright spot was a 34-yard touchdown toss to Greg Lee with 4:45 left to play
Pittsburgh's defense stopped the Cornhuskers offense and set up the offense with an attempt to tie the game with 1:18 remaining. After a 21-yard pass to Kelvin Chandler and a 31-yard pass to Darrell Strong, Pittsburgh had the ball on Nebraska's 14-yard line with five seconds remaining in the game. On the ensuing play, Palko's pass was batted down in the end zone, giving Nebraska the slim victory
Tyler converted 8-of-18 third-down plays and four of his eleven first-down pass completions were for 20 yards or longer.
Palko had a career day, as the Pittsburgh Panthers overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat the Furman Paladins 41-38 in overtime Saturday at Heinz Field. The Pitt QB hit on 30 of 36 passes (career-high 83.3 percent) for 380 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He did fumble twice (Palko recovered his own fumble at the start of the second quarter on a fourth-&-goal play after having an interception called back two plays earlier by a Furman penalty) and was sacked three times for minus 30 yards, but had 20 of his completions result in first downs, including five throws for longer than 20 yards. Palko earned co-Player of the Game honors as he started the team's scoring with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Joe DelSardo midway through the first quarter, setting up that score with a 14-yard run on the previous play. The offense remained silent until the fourth quarter, but Palko then found Steve Buches with an 8-yard touchdown pass with 11:33 remaining that cut the Paladins lead to 31-24. The Panthers continued to battle back as Tyler hit Buches scored again, this time on a 30-yard scoring reception to tie the game at 38, with 3:44 remaining
Palko completed his first eleven passes thrown and had a season-high 30 completions
Tyler completed passes to nine different receivers and converted 8-of-15 third-down plays
Record Watch-Palko's 380 yards rank twelfth on the school's game-record list.
Pittsburgh suffered a 29-17 defeat, as Palko connected on 11 of 31 throws for 267 yards, an interception and a touchdown, adding 49 yards and a score on 15 carries, but also turned the ball over on a fumble and was sacked four times for minus 29 yards while having five pass attempts batted down at the line of scrimmage. Palko hooked up with Greg Lee for a 77-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, but on the previous drive, Tyler was picked off by Justin Perkins, who returned the ball 9 yards for a UConn score. Tyler capped a 66-yard, 5-play drive with a third quarter 1-yard scoring plunge, but at the start of the fourth quarter, defensive end Tyler King recovered a fumble when line-backer Alfred Fincher stripped the ball from Palko on a 4-yard run
Palko ran for four first downs and threw for nine others, with four of those tosses gaining over 20 yards, but he converted only 4-of-16 third-down plays.
Coming off a tough loss at Connecticut, the Panthers struggled over the first three quarters, mustering just six points on a pair of field goals by Josh Cummings before Palko awakened. He connected on 13 of 18 throws for 191 yards, but was tackled for a safety in the second quarter and sacked three times for losses of 14 yards for the day. He was 9-fo-9 passing, gaining 136 yards in the second half, including a 50-yard touchdown to Greg Lee. Tyler then engineered a 9-play, 58-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Raymond Kirkley with 8:38 remaining, giving Pittsburgh its first lead of the game and a 27-22 decision
Palko threw for seven first downs and ran for two more.
Palko threw for 131 yards on 12 of 27 attempts and ran for 55 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries as Pittsburgh defeated Boston College, 20-17, in overtime before 34,071 at Heinz Field. Early in the second quarter Pittsburgh got on the scoreboard with a 3-yard touchdown run by Palko, making up for a lost fumble by Tyler when the QB coughed up the ball in the first quarter when hit by cornerback DeJuan Tribble on a 9-yard rushing attempt. The touchdown had been set-up by a 36-yard run by Raymond Kirkley to Boston College's 6-yard line. Early in the third quarter, Palko hit Greg Lee for a 43-yard reception to the Eagles' six. Two plays later, Kirkley ran in a 2-yard touchdown to extend the Panthers' lead to 14-3. Palko later recovered his own fumble on a 2-yard run with 3:26 left, but BC failed to capitalize, as Pitt went on to a 20-17 win
Palko threw for seven first downs and ran for two others, but converted only 5-of-16 third-down plays.
Pittsburgh's defense forced five turnovers and Tyler threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns on 27 of 43 tosses as the Panthers defeated Rutgers 41-17 at Heinz Field. Palko did fumble twice, with Rutgers recovering one of those miscues and he had one pass intercepted and nine others deflected while also getting sacked three times for losses totaling 38 yards. Still, the Panthers struck early and often. Six plays into the game, Palko hit Greg Lee for a 31-yard reception down to the Rutgers 18-yard line. On the next play, Palko found Joe Delsardo for the first of two touchdown connections between the duo, good for 18 yards to cap a 7-play, 80-yard drive. After the Scarlet Knights responded with a field goal, and with the clock running out in the first quarter, Palko found Delsardo again in the end zone, this time from 17 yards out to put Pittsburgh up 14-3 after one quarter. In the second quarter, Palko continued his aerial assault. He hooked up with Lee again for 31 yards, this time to the Rutgers one-yard line, and on the very next play, Raymond Kirkley scampered into the end zone to give Pitt a 21-3 lead. Lee had two 31-yard receptions in the first half to set up Panther touchdowns. After place-kicker Josh Cummings connected on a 47-yard field goal, the Pittsburgh defense came up big again. H.B. Blades recorded his first career interception at midfield. Five plays later, Palko hit Erik Gill with 29 seconds left in the half for his third touchdown pass of the game, a 5-yarder. The first half was not without mistakes on Tyler's part, however. The Pitt QB was picked off by Jarvis Johnson to set up a Rutgers 48-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. Palko killed a second quarter drive when he lost the ball on a fumble near the goal line and had another fumble after he was sacked for an 11-yard loss in the fourth quarter, but Pitt recovered
The Panthers have now scored in 97 consecutive games, the longest streak in the Big East
Palko's first quarter interception was the first thrown in his previous 76 passing attempts
Palko threw three touchdown passes for the second time this season (9/25/04 vs. Furman)
His 318 yards mark the second time in his career he's passed for over 300 yards to date
Tyler only converted 4-of-18 third-down plays, but 16 completions and two of his rushes were good for first downs
He also had nine of his pass attempts knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
In a tough 38-31 overtime loss, Tyler completed 28 of 42 passes for 342 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, but fumbled once in the second quarter after being sacked for a 5-yard loss by defensive end Ryan LaCasse and was sacked three times for minus 18 yards. Palko tossed a pair of touchdowns to spark an 18-point rally and give the Panthers a 24-21 lead late in the third quarter, including a 57-yard score to Greg Lee (Lee ran a streak down the right sideline after making a one-handed grab) and a 15-yarder to tight end Erik Gill. A 53-yard catch-&-run by Lee on a Palko pass put the Panthers in scoring position on their next possession. Lee ran a short comeback route, broke a tackle and ran to the SU 26-yard line. Safety Diamond Ferri forced Lee to fumble, but Pittsburgh recovered on the Orange's 20-yard line. After moving the ball inside the SU 10-yard line, the Panthers settled for a 24-yard field goal by Josh Cummings to take a 24-21 lead with 4:23 left in the third quarter. Pitt scored on its first overtime possession on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tyler to Joe DelSardo. The Orange responded to force a second overtime session when Perry Patterson recorded his first career touchdown run, a three-yard run on an option play
Palko had five of his pass attempts deflected, but also threw for 15 first downs, adding two more first downs rushing and converted 9-of-19 third-down plays.
Palko became the first quarterback to throw five touchdown passes against Notre Dame, four in the first half alone, and Josh Cummings kicked a 32-yard field goal with 0:01 left to give the Panthers a 41-38 victory over the 24th-ranked Irish. Tyler enjoyed his third-straight 300-yard performance, gaining 334 yards on 26 of 42 attempts with no interceptions and also picked up 30 yards on 13 carries to finish with 364 yards in total offense. He turned the ball over once on a fumble and was sacked three times for minus 15 yards. Palko capped an 82-yard, 15-play drive at the end of the first quarter with a 3-yard scoring lob to Derek Kinder. It made up for Palko's lost fumble on the game's opening drive that was recovered by Irish linebacker Mike Goolsby, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by ND tailback Darius Walker. Palko opened the second quarter with a 1-yard scoring pass to Steve Buches and with 5:39 remaining in the first half, he hit Greg Lee with a 3-yard touchdown toss before coming back to Buches with a 20-yard TD pass with 2:55 before halftime. With 2:24 left in the game, Palko connected with Erik Gill on a 9-yard scoring strike to complete a 13-play, 69-yard drive. Tyler then engineered a 55-yard drive, as he threw to Gill for what appeared to be a short gain. But Irish linebacker Mike Goolsby tried to strip the ball and Gill broke free for a 36-yard gain. Palko completed two more passes to Gill on the drive to help set up Josh Cummings' game-winning 32-yard field goal
Palko drew national honors for his Notre Dame performance, including The Sporting News Player of the Week, Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week and USA Today Player of the Week
He was named by the coaching staff as the team's Co-Offensive Player of the Game for Notre Dame contest
Palko was the first quarterback to ever throw for five touchdowns in a game vs. the Irish. Eleven previous quarterbacks had passed for four scoring passes vs. Notre Dame, most recently Purdue's Kyle Orton earlier in the 2004 campaign
The Irish secondary struggled throughout the game, repeatedly giving up big plays and making mistakes that kept Pitt drives alive. On Pitt's final TD drive, the Irish secondary was called for two pass interference calls -- including one that wiped out an interception
The Panthers scored on four of their six first-half possessions
After the game, Palko talked to reporters about this victory. Asked about throwing a record five touchdown passes vs. the Irish, he replied, "It's nice for the media to go get a stat book and tell me about it. There's no better feeling then to come in here and get a win. I'd give those five touchdowns back and get a win anytime. I really don't pay attention to the ghosts or tradition, that's for the fans and the families. They have a sideline and score-board just like any other football stadium and it is just nice to get a win."
Asked about the final game-winning drive, he stated, "It's what you live for and I told the guys in the huddle that they would remember it for the rest of their lives. I looked at every one of them in the eye and I saw that look in their eye and they saw it in mine. It is a tremendous tribute to our football team and character."
Talking about the Pittsburgh pass attack, he said, "Anybody who watches Notre Dame, they stop the run and we saw that on film. And that makes them weaker in pass defense and we tried to exploit that, and it worked well tonight."
Seven of his thirteen first-down completions were for 20 yards or longer
He converted 9-of-17 third-down plays and also ran for three first downs
Record Watch- Tyler's five touchdown passes were the most in a game by a Pitt QB since Pete Gonzalez had seven vs. Rutgers in 1997
The Notre Dame game marked the third consecutive week that Palko threw for over 300 yards.
For the second consecutive game, Palko led the Panthers on a game-winning, fourth quarter touchdown drive. Almost two weeks after Tyler threw for five touchdowns at Notre Dame, the Panthers' sophomore quarterback ran in Pittsburgh's only touchdown from two yards out, giving Pittsburgh a 16-13 win over West Virginia in the 97th edition of the "Backyard Brawl." Palko hit on 14 of 38 throws for 165 yards, but had six passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage and another intercepted before deciding to use his feet to gain victory. He rushed nine times for 26 yards, with three of those runs resulting in first downs. Palko was picked off by Lawrence Audena at the start of the second quarter and was sacked three times for minus 15 yards. With Pitt trailing 13-9 in the fourth quarter, Palko orchestrated the game-winning march by completing four third-down passes before scoring on a 2-yard keeper with just 4:06 left in the game to cap a methodical 14-play, 73-yard drive that gave the Panthers a 16-13 win
With 10 minutes left in the game, the Panthers gained possession on their own 27-yards line. From there, Palko marched Pittsburgh down to the Mountaineers 10-yard line on six passes. After a pass interference call in the end zone left the Panthers with a first and goal from the two, Palko put the game in his hands and ran in for the winning touchdown
Palko had eight pass completions for first downs and converted 7-of-18 third-down plays.
Tyler Palko did his job. The sophomore who pumped vitality into what once loomed as a disappointing season, as he threw for a career-high 411 yards and five touchdowns on 19 of 28 attempts with no interceptions, helping Pitt (8-3) rout South Florida 43-14 and virtually assure the Panthers the Big East's automatic BCS bid. "It doesn't really matter who we play, where we play and what time we play. I'm just excited to get our football team the kind of respect that we've earned," Palko said. "And with that, we've set the bar high. There's going to be naysayers here and there, but the only way we take care of that is continue to stay focused as a team and keep winning." Tampa-native Greg Lee was the beneficiary of many of Palko's tosses, as Lee scored on receptions of 18, 6 and 7 yards in his homecoming. The victory was the sixth in seven games for Pitt, which hardly resembled a BCS team in stumbling to 2-2 start that included an overtime victory over Division I-AA Furman and a 12-point loss at Connecticut. The strong finish, however, gave the Panthers a share of the Big East title with Syracuse, Boston College and West Virginia and set up a date against unbeaten Utah (11-0) in the Fiesta Bowl. "I thought this was a big game, obviously, for us because we had to make a statement that we weren't backing in," Pitt coach Walt Harris said. "We had a chance to take care of our destiny. Our players stepped up and played like we had to play."
Palko finished his afternoon by throwing for two scores in the last 1:27 of the third quarter to match the career-high five TD passes he threw against Notre Dame on November 13, finding Marcus Furman with an 11-yard scoring lob and then uncorked a career-long 80-yard touchdown to Erik Gill. Furman's 11-yarder capped an 8-play, 93-yard drive
In his last five games, Palko completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,570 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions. "Stats are nice to look at when you're old and gray, but I really don't care how many yards I have. As long as we get the win, you're going to see a smile on my face" Palko said. "It's awesome just seeing these guys execute and have fun because there was so much negativity around Pittsburgh with us before. Now we've set the bar pretty high, so it's going to be fun to continue that high play."
The last time Pitt won at least eight games three consecutive seasons was 1981-83. The Panthers are headed to a bowl for the fifth straight year, but haven't played on New Year's Day or later since concluding the 1983 season in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State
Seven of Palko's thirteen first down pass completions were for 20 yards or longer, adding another first down rushing
Tyler also converted 5-of-9 third-down plays and had only four passes deflected while getting sacked twice for minus 19 yards
Palko's 411 yards rank fifth on the school's game-record list behind Rod Rutherford (419 vs. West Virginia in 2003), John Ryan (433 vs. West Virginia in 1994), John Congemi (446 vs. Navy in 1986) and Pete Gonzalez (470 vs. Rutgers in 1997)
His 402 yards in total offense were the most in a game by a Panther since Pete Gonzalez totaled 479 vs. Rutgers in 1997.
Utah (Fiesta Bowl)
Utah was a 16-point favorite, the biggest margin of any of the bowls, and it was a safe bet, as the defeated Pittsburgh, 35-7. Palko managed to throw for 251 yards and a touchdown on 22 of 40 tries, but had five passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage and was harassed all day by the Utes defense, who registered nine sacks for minus 73 yards on the Pitt QB. The Panthers were overmatched in its final game under coach Walt Harris, who left for Stanford after eight seasons with the Panthers. Pittsburgh was the unwanted team among the eight BCS squads. "I really don't have a lot of feelings right now," Harris said. "I'm kind of numb because, you know, I was hoping that we would play better." Pittsburgh got its only score of the game with 4:29 left in the third on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Palko to Greg Lee
Tyler was sacked for a 2-yard loss on the team's first possession, followed by 3 & 11-yard sacks on back-to-back plays at the start of the second quarter. He was sacked for minus 15 yards midway through the second quarter and was dropped for a 12-yard loss on a third-&-3 play early in the third quarter. The start of the fourth quarter saw Palko go down on a 12-yard sack, followed by an 8-yard sack on the next drive on a third-&-10 play. With 5:08 remaining, Tyler was taken down twice on sacks of 7 & 9 yards
Three of Palko's 12 pass completions that resulted in first downs were for 20 yards or longer
Converted 7-of-17 third-down plays
Record Watch-Palko was sacked a Fiesta Bowl record nine times.
Rather than sit on the bench behind Rod Rutherford and Luke Getsy, Tyler was redshirted, retaining three years of eligibility.
|2003 Game Analysis|
Palko's first career pass completion was a 7-yarder to Lamar Slade vs. Texas A&M, but he was also sacked for a 9-yard loss in that contest
Set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Marcus Furman in the fourth quarter with an 8-yard gain on a bootleg and a 6-yard pass completion to Larry Fitzgerald vs. Rutgers
Was sacked for a 5-yard loss, but gained 12 yards on one rushing attempt vs. Syracuse
Ran for an 8-yard touchdown on a third-&-3 play in the fourth quarter vs. Oregon State in the Insight Bowl.
Played in six games as a reserve behind Rod Rutherford as a true freshman
Managed only 13 yards on 2-of-3 passes (66.7 percent) and carried ten times for 9 yards (0.9 avg), including one touchdown
Saw action vs. Ohio University, Texas A&M, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Oregon State (Insight Bowl).
No injuries reported.
Campus: 4.87 in the 40-yard dash
4.19 20-yard shuttle
335-pound bench press
274-pound power clean
265-pound incline press
29-inch vertical jump
31 3/4-inch arm length
9 1/8-inch hands
18/29 Wonderlic score.
Combine: 4.85 in the 40-yard dash
1.75 10-yard dash
2.86 20-yard dash
4.36 20-yard shuttle
7.05 three-cone drill
31.5-inch vertical jump
9'4" broad jump.
Attended West Allegheny (Pa.) High School, playing football for his father, head coach Bob Palko
Earned Associated Press 2001 Pennsylvania Big School Player of the Year honors
Three-time first-team honoree on the Associated Press Big School All-State Team, adding USA Today All-American Team (second team), and was also a three-time Pittsburgh Post-Gazette WPIAL Class AAA Player of the Year, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Fabulous 22" honoree, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Player of the Year and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review "Terrific 25" choice
The Prep Star "Dream Team" selection was rated the nation's ninth-best overall prospect by Tom Lemming, in addition to being rated one of the nation's top seven passing quarterbacks by Max Emfinger
Rated the premier quarterback in the East and sixth nationally by Prep Star, adding Super 30 All-Eastern Region honors
Named to the Super Prep All-American team and rated the 10th-best quarterback prospect in the nation by that recruiting service
Added Student Sports All-American first-team and East Region Player of the Year accolades
Guided the team to a 48-7 record (.873) in four years as West Allegheny's starting quarterback, leading the team to three consecutive WPIAL Class AAA championships and three consecutive PIAA title games
The team won the 2001 PIAA championship, the first AAA state title ever won by a WPIAL team, as Palko completed nearly 60 percent of his passes (134 of 225) for 1,887 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior
Also rushed for 628 yards and eight scores that year
Finished his high school career with 5,553 passing yards and 1,681 rushing yards and also excelled on defense at safety, where he totaled more than 80 tackles and four interceptions as a senior
In the 2001 state championship game, Palko completed 14-of-20 passes (70 percent) for 202 yards and a touchdown, while also intercepting one pass on defense
His performance in the state title game lifted West Allegheny to a 28-13 win over two-time defending champion Strath Haven, which entered the contest with a 44-game winning streak
Also lettered three times in basketball and once in track and field
.2002 YMCA Tribune-Review Scholar-Athlete honoree.
Communication and Rhetoric major
Son of Sally and Bob Palko
His father was Tyler's head coach in football at West Allegheny High School
Brother, Luke, is a standout receiver at St. Francis (Pa.) College
Born Tyler Robert Palko on 8/09/83
Resides in Imperial, Pennsylvania.