It's been a shootout at Heinz Field in the first half, as Pitt leads No. 14 USF 20-17. Tino Sunseri has 173 yards of total offense; completing 14-of-23 passes for 118 yards, and rushing for another 55 on six carries. Ray Graham has been lighting it up, and has already crossed the 100-yard mark with 102 yards on 13 carries, which included a go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter.
Though Pitt moved the ball well on its opening drive, things didn't start off great. Lucas Nix went down on the game's second play. Darius Patton fumbled the ball away after the Panthers gained 50 yards on the game's first seven plays. The Bulls answered Patton's fumble with a 9-play, 52-yard drive; capped by a 12-yard sneak from B.J. Daniels.
Sunseri answered the call—sprinting one in from nine yards out on the following drive, as Pitt tied the score 7-7 with 5:14 left in the first quarter. Pitt operated a successful 10-play, 77-yard drive in three and a half minutes. Despite that turnover, Pitt had 113 yards of offense on its first 17 plays.
After holding the Bulls to a three-and-out, Pitt got the ball back on a punt. The Panthers had some help from two USF penalties to keep this drive going. Despite two drops from Mike Shanahan—including one where he was wide-open on the USF 6 yard-line, Pitt took a 10-7 lead on a 47-yard field goal from Kevin Harper.
Pitt scored with another 10-play drive, as Harper hit a 39-yard field goal. The big play of the drive was a pair of big runs from Tino Sunseri—a 10-yarder and a 17-yarder—which kept the drive going. The 17-yarder converted a 3rd-and-10 from its own 20.
After Harper's second field goal, USF answered with an impressive 13-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 7-yard run by Demetris Murray. Of those 13 plays, USF passed twice. The Bulls' ground game had 119 yards of its 170 total yards of offense to this point. More importantly, they led 14-13.
Pitt wasn't done yet, as the Panthers answered with yet another score—this time, a 13-yard rushing touchdown from Ray Graham. The fourth Pitt scoring drive of the day lasted 14 plays, 82 yards and 5:14. Graham carried the ball six times on that drive for 36 yards, and caught another 2 passes for 20 yards. Graham touched the ball 8 times out of 14 plays on the drive, and was responsible for 56 of the 82 yards.
The Bulls were still able to answer—as they got the ball back with under two minutes left in the half. The Pitt defense toughened up after giving up a couple of big pass plays—including a 42-yard completion from Daniels to Sterling Griffin, which was the key play of the drive. The Bulls settled for a 34-yard field goal from kicker Maikon Bonani. Pitt took the 20-17 lead into the locker room.
Penalties affected both teams, and in one instance overlapped with turnovers. USF was called for a false start. The Bulls picked off the pass, but the turnover was negated by the penalty which kept the Pitt drive alive. Pitt went on to add the 47-yard field goal by Kevin Harper. Both teams combined for eight turnovers in the first half. The one turnover was the fumble by Patton.