Pitt Torches USF 44-17

Ray Graham puts on a display in front of a nationally-televised audience with his second 200-yard game.

Pitt put it all together on Thursday night, in a 44-17 win over No. 14 South Florida. The offense got a huge boost by the play of quarterback Tino Sunseri and especially running back Ray Graham.

Sunseri accounted for 251 yards of total offense; completing 22-of-33 passes for 216 yards, and adding another 35 on the ground. It was Ray Graham who stole the show, with his second 200-yard performance of the season. Graham carried the ball 26 times for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He also had four receptions for 42 yards. Cameron Saddler led all receivers with a career-game of his own—6 catches for 68 yards.

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. He did not return to the game. 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.

Pitt extended its lead to 34-17 in the third quarter thanks to a pair of nine-play drives. After holding USF on its first drive of the second half, the Panthers responded with a 9-play drive that was capped by a Hubie Graham 12-yard touchdown. Graham set up his own score with a 18-yard reception to the USF 12.

Pitt's second touchdown of the third quarter came on a 2-yard run by Zach Brown, but it was Ray Graham who set everything up. After a 13-yard reception to convert a Pitt first down, Graham reversed field for a long run on the next play. After he found no blocking, he cut back out to his left for a gain of 29 yards, all the way to the USF 2.

The Pitt defense came up with a big stop. Again—that focus on Daniels was put to the test. On a 4th-and-2 at the Pitt 37, the Bulls went for it. Daniels got a little more pressure than he anticipated from the Pitt defense. He got chased out of the pocket and dropped for a 12-yard loss by linebacker Todd Thomas.

Ray Graham had one more score left in him, as he took one more in from 8 yards out. On a 4-play, 69-yard drive, Graham carried the ball three times for 58 yards including the 8-yard touchdown run from Graham. Kevin Harper added his third field goal of the night—a 46-yarder, to close the scoring for Pitt.

The Panthers silenced B.J. Daniels—as they always seem to do, not matter how much they give him credit heading into a game. Daniels—outside of his touchdown run on his team's opening drive—was a non-factor. He completed just 18-of-36 passes for 223 yards, was sacked twice, and was limited to 45 yards on the ground. He gained 34 of those yards on the ground and completed 4-of-9 passes for 43 yards on the final series of the game.

Penalties affected both teams, and in one instance overlapped with turnovers. USF was called for a false start in the first half. 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 which put them up 10-7.

Both teams combined for nine penalties in the game—eight of which came in the first half. Pitt turned the ball over just once on the fumble by Patton. USF had three fumbles, all in the second half.

Panther More Top Stories