Football: Pitt falls to Rutgers on the road

By Lauren Kirschman

Last week, the Pitt football team looked like it figured out how to efficiently run head coach… Last week, the Pitt football team looked like it figured out how to efficiently run head coach Todd Graham’s system as the Panthers throttled South Florida 44-17.

But against Rutgers, the Panthers regressed, falling to Scarlet Knights 34-10 on Saturday night and looking nothing like the team that scorched the Bulls offensively just a week ago. Pitt didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter and failed to pick up a first down the entire third quarter.

The Scarlet Knights’ defense — the strength of the team this season — holds opponents to 16.5 points per game, good for 17th in the nation. That defense broke through a Pitt offensive line missing two senior starters to reach quarterback Tino Sunseri throughout the contest, sacking him six times.

Senior right guard Lucas Nix didn’t play after injuring his knee against South Florida — a double blow since Pitt already lost senior left guard Chris Jacobson for the season to a knee injury.

Sunseri threw for 127 yards on 14-28 passing and three interceptions — throwing two interceptions in three passes during the first quarter.

Both teams struggled in the first half as the Scarlet Knights went into the break with a 6-3 lead. Rutgers extended its lead in the second half when freshman quarterback Gary Nova found Mark Harrison in the end zone to put the Scarlet Knights ahead 13-3.

Rutgers added to that advantage with 0:24 left in the third quarter when Nova completed a pass to Joe Martinek that went 60 yards for a touchdown to make the score 20-3. The play marked the longest play from scrimmage on the season for Rutgers.

Pitt answered when Ray Graham broke free for a 64 yard run to Rutgers’ 3-yard line and then rushed in on the next play to score the Panthers’ first touchdown of the game and slim the Scarlet Knight lead to 20-10. But the Panthers’ momentum didn’t last long as Jeremy Deerling returned the punt 73 yards for Rutgers and then Savon Huggins rushed three yards into the end zone to put the Scarlet Knights back ahead by 17, 27-10.

Rutgers put the game away for good in the fourth quarter when Logan Ryan intercepted Sunseri and returned the ball 45 yards for a touchdown to produce the final 34-10 score.

The Panthers started the scoring in the first half when Kevin Harper hit a 29-yard field goal on Pitt’s first drive, but the Panthers wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter. Rutgers answered with a 50-yard field goal with 6:06 remaining in the first quarter and a 44-yard field goal with 917 left in the second quarter to build its three-point halftime lead.