EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – With a chance to pull further away from the rest of the league, Pitt fell to Connecticut, 30-28, on Thursday night in a back-and-forth game at Rentschler Field.
Pitt (5-4, 3-1 Big East) was trying to remain undefeated in the Big East, but the Panthers – much to the delight of the rest of the league — slipped back toward jumbled conference in which every other team had at least two losses.
“It’s very disappointing to come out here and lose a game,” running back Ray Graham said. “It makes things much harder than it should be.”
Running back Jordan Todman carried 37 times for a career-high 222 yards, the most against a Pitt defense in at least five years.
Down 30-21, the Panthers pulled to within 30-28 on Jon Baldwin’s acrobatic 20-yard touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri with 4:35 to play.
But Connecticut took over and ran out the clock – converting on a fourth-and-1 from its own 19 with 2:45 to play after a gutsy call by coach Randy Edsall. Todman gained four yards for a first down and Connecticut (5-4, 2-3) ran out the clock to improve to 5-0 at home this season, while Pitt dropped to 2-10 in its past 12 games on ESPN Thursday Night games.
Dion Lewis had 13 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns, and Graham added 75 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries.
Sunseri completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 220 yards with one touchdown, but was intercepted twice in the first half as Connecticut took a 13-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Pitt, which still controls its own destiny, plays at South Florida next week as it tries to take another step towards its first outright Big East title.
Pitt, down 13-7 in the second half, rallied to take a 21-13 lead late in the third quarter. But Connecticut scored the next 17 points, taking advantage of a stagnant Pitt offense and some Panthers special team breakdowns.
With Pitt ahead 21-13, Connecticut sophomore Nick Williams returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to pull the Huskies to within 21-20 entering the fourth quarter.
Connecticut took a 23-21 lead on Dave Teggert’s third field goal of the game, a 25-yarder with 7:07 to play. Ray Graham fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Connecticut’s Robbie Frey recovered at the Panther 22. Two plays later, Zach Fraser hit Isiah Moore for a 14-yard touchdown for a 30-21 Connecticut lead with 6:19 to play.