Facing a must-win situation, Pitt marched in to Louisville and came away with a 21-14 upset of the Louisville Cardinals. All this coming a week after Pitt had a second half letdown against Cincinnati, along with a Louisville team that registered its first win in Morgantown in 20 years. This week, both teams had different results.
Tino Sunseri threw for a score and ran for another score. Freshman Isaac Bennett also ran for a score, getting the Panthers on the board. Devin Street led Pitt in receiving for a second week in row; six catches for 101 yards. Todd Graham talked about discipline this week. It wasn't all ‘coach speak,' as Pitt committed no penalties in the game. The Cardinals committed five for 56 yards which offset many of their drives. The Cards also led in the turnover department—turning the ball over twice, to just one turnover by Pitt.
Pitt marched down the field on the opening drive in just under six minutes, completed with an Isaac Bennett 1-yard touchdown run. Pitt looked as smooth as it had looked all year offense—converting 2-of-2 third down attempts. Both third downs were converted by Tino Sunseri running the ball, including an 8-yarder that got Pitt to the Louisville 1 yard-line. Sunseri also completed all four of his passes on the drive. Ronald Jones came on in the Wildcat formation. Interestingly, Jones didn't have a carry on the drive. The play he was in for, Louisville was completely sucked in by Jones simply being on the field. They bought, completely forgetting about Zach Brown—who gained 16 yards to the Louisville 14.
Louisville answered, moving the ball well against Pitt on its opening drive. Pitt couldn't get any pressure on freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He showed that on a 12-yard run where no Pitt defenders were in sight. He got the ball to the Pitt 35. Two plays later, however, Bridgewater was picked off by Carl Fleming who was by himself, in perfect position just waiting for the ball. Pitt took over with 4:42 left in the first quarter, up 7-0. Fleming was making the start in place of Todd Thomas, who was bothered by a neck injury. Thomas did return to the field late in the second quarter.
Despite getting the turnover, Pitt was forced to punt after eight plays. They marched into Louisville to the Cards' 44 yard-line before sputtering. Louisville was getting more pressure on Sunseri, and the offense lost its sync on the last three plays of the drive. Matt Yoklic's 44-yard punt went out of the end zone. Pitt led 7-0 after the first quarter.
Louisville kept shooting itself in the foot. A chop block pinned the Cardinals deep in their own territory on their next series. Louisville tried to open the short passing game—something defensive coordinator Keith Patterson felt would be a challenge this week. Chas Alecxih broke through the line to drop running back Victor Anderson for a loss of three, after Anderson caught a screen pass. Bridgewater nearly bailed the Cardinals out—scrambling for 26 yards on a 3rd-and-32. Andrew Taglianetti made the saving tackle, forcing the Cardinals to punt.
In a bizarre sequence, Mark Myers entered the game on a 4-and-1 on Pitt's following series. It looked like it was an attempt to catch Louisville off-guard, and maybe let Myers take a chance on a deep ball (with the ball at the Louisville 42), have Myers pooch punt it, or try to draw them offsides. Well, nothing happened. Pitt had to call timeout in order to avoid getting penalized for a delay of game. After the long timeout, Matt Yoklic came in to punt, which was mishandled by Eli Rogers on the return, but he held on.
Louisville got the ball going—and even escaped the depths of a 1st-and-25, after an illegal block on a 15-yard pass from Bridgewater to Dominique Brown. Bridgewater found that short-yardage passing game, turning screens into a couple of big gains. However, on a 3rd-and-2 situation, freshman Khaynin Mosley-Smith stopped Victor Anderson for no gain.
Pitt took over at its own 15, and got the ball moving on the ground pretty well. Sunseri took off an a 11-yard run, out of a read option. The defense bought in to it, as two defenders wrapped up Bennett on the play. Bennett scampered for a gain of 20 yards, as it looked like the Panthers would score right before the half. Unfortunately, the one time Sunseri held the ball too long in the entire half, Louisville made him pay with its first sack of the game.
Pitt still took a 7-0 lead in to the locker room at halftime.
Louisville wasted little time committing its first penalty of the second half—another block in the back on the opening kickoff of the second half. It was the fifth penalty of the day for the Cardinals. It set them back to their own 15. Though they did start to move the ball better, they couldn't get past mid-field, being forced to punt again. They were clicking on their short-passing plays—getting gains of 10, 12 yards. When they went for the deep ball, they couldn't connect, which led to the punt.
Pitt answered quickly on its opening drive of the first half. On the first play, Sunseri stepped up and found a wide-open Devin Street. Street turned it into a 59-yard gain to the Louisville 21. It was reminiscent of his 66-yard touchdown reception at Iowa. After a short run by Zach Brown, Mark Myers came into the game. He was aiming for Mike Shanahan in the end zone—who was covered by Andrew Johnson in the end zone. Johnson broke the pass up, but the Louisville crowd erupted with boos. Though no penalty flag was thrown, fans appeared to be questioning why Shanahan wasn't flagged for offensive pass interference. On the next play, Sunseri returned under center, and found a wide-open Shanahan for a 17-yard touchdown pass. Both of Pitt's touchdowns came on the opening series of each respective half, with Pitt in a groove on offense.
Pitt's defense—even though Louisville had some success moving the ball, especially in the short and intermediate passing game—came up big again. Though they had yet to sack Bridgewater, they were doing enough to impact the quarterback. Brandon Lindsey came with pressure, drew a double-team that forced Teddy Bridgewater out of the pocket. Bridgewater, on the run, forced a pass that was broken up by Andrew Taglianetti. On the next play, Bridgewater was sacked for the first time of the game. Freshman Ejuan Price came up with the play, as Louisville punted for the sixth time of the game.
Pitt flopped on its next series, which included giving up two sacks on consecutive plays. Worse yet, Matt Yoklic's punt took a bizarre turn in the wind, and traveled backwards. He got the punt off, but it immediately got blown back in the wind, traveling just seven yards. Louisville took over at the Pitt 11, and answered quickly. They scored on a 3-yard run by Victor Anderson. Louisville cut the score to 14-7 in favor of Pitt, with just under four minutes left in the third quarter.
Pitt moved the ball on its next series, taking the ball to end the quarter. Sunseri found Street on crossing pattern over the middle. Street converted the first down, but the play would have never happened without a big block from Zach Brown.
As Pitt started the fourth, they committed their first turnover of the game. Zach Brown fumbled the ball away. The Cards recovered at their own 28. They were forced to punt after just three plays. Todd Thomas keyed in on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, on what looked like an option keeper. Bridgewater still pitched the ball out as Thomas hit him. However, Antwuan Reed also came up from his corner position to stuff Dominique Brown for a loss of 4. On the next play, Lloyd Carrington chased down Bridgewater to the sideline. Carrington did hit him, but couldn't bring him down. He did set up Aaron Donald, who was able to finish with the sack. Pitt got the ball back—after it looked like they were showing signs of not being able to finish, as they have shown at other times this year.
Pitt answered by getting inside the Louisville 20. The offense was in a rhythm—running the ball well, keeping the tempo up and also running some time off the clock. It was once they got in the red zone, that things came to a halt. An option pitch from Sunseri to Ronald Jones resulted in just a one-yard gain. Sunseri was forced out of the pocket on third down, and forced to throw the ball away, which resulted in a 29-yard field goal attempt for Kevin Harper. The snap was low, and the holder couldn't place the ball in time for a decent hold. Harper's kick sailed wide right, giving the Cardinals an opportunity to still tie the game.
Pitt punted, but got probably its biggest break of the game. The punt was bobbled by Eli Rogers—the second time in the game Rogers mishandled a kick. The ball ended up into the hands of Drew Carswell, who took it in for what looked like a touchdown. However, Carswell was ruled down on the play. Still, Pitt had the ball on the Louisville 33. It gave them the opportunity to run the ball five times and eat up over three minutes of clock. Sunseri closed the drive with a five-yard sneak, putting Pitt up 21-7.
Louisville did get a late touchdown as Bridgewater connected with Scott Radcliff on a 25-yard touchdown pass. The Cardinals also receovered the ensuing onside kick with a few seconds left, but were only able to get one play off. Bridgewater connected on a short pass to Dominique Brown, who tried to flip the ball back to Bridgewater, but instead fumbled the ball out of bounds.
Stay tuned for more postgame coverage from Papa John's Stadium.