Football: Panthers beat South Florida, stay atop Big East

By Alex Oltmanns

On the last play of Pitt’s game against South Florida, with the outcome still in the balance,… On the last play of Pitt’s game against South Florida, with the outcome still in the balance, Panthers cornerback Antwuan Reed redeemed himself.

The junior cornerback who had already been flagged for four defensive pass interference calls, came up with an interception to end the game and thwart any chance of a comeback the Bulls had.

“Reed has been good all year for us and we trust him,” fellow cornerback Ricky Gary said after the game. “I mean, sometimes things don’t go your way. I wanted Coach to keep him in there through the things he was going through, because that made him respond.”

The Panthers’ (6-4, 4-1 Big East) 17-10 win wasn’t pretty, but the team managed to string a few plays together at Raymond James Stadium when it counted to maintain their lead in the Big East standings.

Pitt committed 11 penalties for a total of 116 yards and totaled only 292 yards of offense, but their running game established itself early and often, the main key to the team’s victory.

On the Panthers first drive, running back Dion Lewis ran eight times in a row, leading to a 36-yard Dan Hutchins field goal.

For the game, Lewis ran 22 times for 104 yards while teammate Ray Graham chipped in with 44 yards on 10 carries.

But, it was Graham’s 12-yard touchdown catch with 6:22 left in the third quarter that might have made the biggest impact as the score put the Panthers up 10-3.

“We felt like we could balance running and throwing,” Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt said after the game. ” They came after us and pressured us a little bit more, or at least did a little bit better job than we anticipated.”

But South Florida (6-4, 3-3 Big East) came right back and scored on the next drive on a 45-yard touchdown on a reverse by Terrence Mitchell.

The deciding score came on Lewis’ 22-yard touchdown run with 14:53 left to play where he bounced off a couple defensive players on his way to the end zone.

The Bulls had one last chance to tie the game and send it to overtime and were mounting a drive with under a minute left that was prolonged by Reed’s fourth penalty.

But as time expired, Reed’s interception of Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels put the Panthers back in the win column after their first Big East loss at Connecticut last Thursday.

“At the end of the game, we stepped up and made a huge play, and we finished the game,” Pitt defensive end Jabaal Sheard said.

The win also sets up the highly anticipated Backyard Brawl against West Virginia Friday at noon.