Sophomore tailback Ray Graham rushed for 277 yards – the second-highest total in Pitt history – and three touchdowns to lead Pitt to a 44-17 victory over Florida International at Heinz Field.
Graham, starting in place of Dion Lewis (shoulder), had touchdown runs of 19, 34 and 79 and 19 yards. The Elizabeth, N.J. native, who had 27 carries, finished behind only Tony Dorsett’s school-record 303-yard effort against Notre Dame in 1975.
It was the third consecutive 100-yard game for Graham, who also caught three passes for 19 yards and returned two kickoffs for 78 yards to give him 374 all-purpose yards.
Lewis, who was listed as probable on the weekly injury report, dressed but didn’t play.
Pitt (2-2), which led only 13-10 at halftime, scored three touchdowns in an eight-minute span of the fourth quarter to rebound from a lopsided loss to Miami on Sept. 23 and gain some momentum heading into next week’s game at Notre Dame.
FIU (0-4) had cut the Panthers’ lead to six points, 23-17, with 12 minutes left in the game.
But four plays later, Graham broke through for a 79-yard run for a 30-17 Pitt lead with 9:43 left in the fourth quarter. Pitt forced FIU to punt and six plays later, Graham raced for his third touchdown, a 19-yarder, for a 37-17 lead with 4:33 to play.
Chris Burns added a 4-yard scoring run, his first career touchdown, to give Pitt a 44-17 lead with 1:32 to play.
Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, after a slow start, completed 15 of 23 pass attempts for 169 yards and one touchdown. The sophomore connected on 13 of his last 14 pass attempts, as Pitt amassed 469 total yards.
Florida International had lost to Rutgers, Texas A&M and Maryland by an average of 8.6 points.
With Pitt leading 23-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, Florida International needed only four plays to drive 47 yards, capped by Darriet Perry’s second touchdown of the game, a 3-yarder, to pull the Sun Belt Conference to within 23-17 with 12:07 to play.
Pitt led 13-10 at halftime on a long Graham touchdown run and a pair of Hutchins field goals, including a 38-yarder as time expired in the first half.
Pitt took a 3-0 lead on Hutchins’ 30-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Florida International answered by driving 75 yards on 13 plays, capped by Perry’s 1-yard run for a 7-3 FIU lead with 8:35 to play in the first half.
Graham sprinted 34 yards for a touchdown with 7:04 to play in the second quarter to give Pitt a 10-7 lead.
Florida International tied the score at 10-all on Jack Griffin’s 27-yard field goal with 1:01 to play before Pitt drove for the go-ahead field goal on the final play of the first half.