Pitt needed to beat Rutgers on Saturday at Heinz Field to keep its hopes for bowl eligibility alive, and for what may have been the first time all season, the Panthers did exactly what they needed in beating the Scarlet Knights 27-6.
The first quarter wasn't one for those who seek excitement, as the two teams combined for a grand total of 115 yards, eight punts, and zero points. But the Panthers struck first just over a minute into the second quarter when Tino Sunseri connected with Mike Shanahan for a 16-yard pass.
Pitt added on again in the second quarter with a Ray Graham touchdown run, and the Panthers ended the half with a 55-yard scoring drive in one minute and 12 seconds to set the halftime score at 21-0.
Meanwhile, Pitt's defense never let Rutgers get out of punt-mode in the first half. The Scarlet Knights had eight possessions before halftime and punted on every single one. In fact, Rutgers went three-and-out on six of those eight possessions, and only gained 50 total yards of offense in the half.
The Scarlet Knights finally got on the board near the end of the third quarter when Gary Nova connected with Brandon Coleman for an 11-yard pass that finished a 60-yard drive, easily Rutgers' longest drive of the game.
Before that happened, though, the Panthers came up with three more points on a Kevin Harper field goal, and Pitt went to the fourth quarter with a 24-6 lead.
Lafayette Pitts offered the coup d'etat for the defense when he intercepted a Nova pass in the fourth quarter, adding a turnover to the Panthers' stout defensive performance. In total, Pitt allowed Rutgers to gain just 208 yards on Saturday, with 158 through the air and 50 on the ground. Rutgers only converted 5-of-15 third downs and punted 11 times. Aaron Donald was arguably the best player on the field, with seven tackles, one sack, and three tackles for loss.
On offense, Graham finished with 113 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, moving him into third place on Pitt's all-time list with 3,177 career rushing. Sunseri completed 21-of-39 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Shanahan caught five of those passes for 62 yards and a score.
With the win, Pitt improves to 5-6 overall and 2-4 in the Big East, while Rutgers drops to 9-2 on the season and 5-1 in the Big East. The Panthers need to beat South Florida in Tampa next week to secure bowl eligibility for the fifth consecutive season.
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