Football: Panthers lose first Big East game of season

By Alex Oltmanns

The Pitt football team found itself trailing Connecticut late in the fourth quarter for the… The Pitt football team found itself trailing Connecticut late in the fourth quarter for the second straight season last night.

Yet this time the Panthers weren’t able to come away with a come-from-behind win.

Pitt left the game with a 30-28 loss at the hands of the Huskies at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.

Connecticut (5-4, 2-2) ran the ball at will for most of the game. The Pitt defense came into the game giving up 93.8 rushing yards per game but allowed 249 last night, including 222 to Huskies running back Jordan Todman.

“We’ve got to tackle better,” Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt said at halftime. “He [Todman] runs low to the ground.”

While the Panther defense did play better after halftime, the team was victimized by special-teams errors as they let Nick Williams run a kickoff back for a 95-yard touchdown on one and Ray Graham lost a fumble on another.

Pitt grabbed momentum right away when safety Jarred Holley intercepted a Zach Frazer flea-flicker pass on the first play from scrimmage.

Dion Lewis scored a touchdown on a 4-yard run on the ensuing drive.

But Pitt trailed 13-7 at halftime and just seemed like it couldn’t execute one of Wannstedt’s keys to the game: “We have to be able to play in a tough environment and not get distracted,” he said before the game.

Miscues certainly did the Panthers (5-4, 3-1 Big East) in last night. From Graham’s lost fumble and the touchdown Pitt’s special teams allowed to two Tino Sunseri interceptions, Pitt just couldn’t seem to make a play when it needed to.

But trailing 30-21 in the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Panthers had new life when Sunseri found Jon Baldwin in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown to cut the lead to two with 4:35 left to play.

It seemed as if the Pitt defense had stopped Connecticut on the next drive, forcing a fourth and one, but the Huskies went for it and converted, sealing the game.

Sunseri finished the game 20 for 28 with a touchdown and two interceptions, while Baldwin finished with six catches for 95 yards and a score.

Although Pitt couldn’t seem to stop the run, it was able to run the ball itself.

Lewis finished with 77 yards on 13 carries and Graham added 75 yards. Each scored a touchdown.

The loss drops Pitt’s lead in the Big East to only one game heading into the final three-game stretch of the conference schedule.

But the Panthers’ goal has been the same all season and won’t change.

Senior leader and defensive end Jabaal Sheard summed it up well earlier this week in a press conference.

“We’re all coming together. We’re playing a lot more focused, and we want this Big East title,” he said.