South Florida free safety Nate Allen intercepted a Pat Bostick pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter to give the Bulls a 27-14 lead.
USF overcame a 14-10 halftime deficit when Matt Grothe ran 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second half, and Delbert Alvarado added a 45-yard field goal to give South Florida a 20-14 lead with 2:54 remaining.
Grothe faked a reverse to receiver Taurus Johnson, then sprinted for a scoring run to give the Bulls a 17-14 advantage with 14:47 remaining in the third quarter.
USF marched 72 yards in 12 plays to the Pitt 11 before outside linebacker Shane Murray sacked Grothe, forcing a fumble that was recovered by end Joe Clermond.
But the Panthers were forced to punt, and Marcus Edwards returned it 25 yards to the Pitt 48. Alvarado kicked the 45-yarder for a six-point cushion.
Then Allen picked off Bostick’s pass intended for tight end Darrell Strong and gave the Bulls a 13-point lead as time expired. Pitt had taken a 14-7 lead on Bostick’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Williams, but USF answered with Alvarado’s 31-yard field goal with two seconds left in the first half.
Pitt had a second-and-9 at the USF 18 when a pass to Cedric McGee was nullified by a holding penalty by right tackle Mike McGlynn. On the next play, a 6-yard pass to T.J. Porter was brought back when receiver Oderick Turner drew a flag. Then, LeSean McCoy’s 5-yard run on a draw was brought back by a penalty on tight end Darrell Strong. After a deep pass to Turner fell incomplete, Bostick threw one to Williams for a touchdown.
The scoring drive followed a series where Pitt was stopped a yard short of a first down at the USF 3 on a fake field goal. On fourth-and-3 at the 5, the Panthers lined up in a swinging gate formation, with Conor Lee appearing to attempt a 22-yarder. But they snapped it to fullback Conredge Collins, who gained 2 yards.
Pitt started the scoring after McCoy turned a screen pass from Bostick into a 45-yard gain, turning the left corner and accelerating past three defenders to the USF 12.
On third-and-3 at the 5, McCoy took a direct snap out of the Wildcat formation for a 4-yard gain. Two plays later, McCoy ran a toss to the right for a 1-yard scoring run to give Pitt a 7-0 lead with 5:23 remaining in the first quarter.
It was his 12th rushing touchdown of the season, one shy of Tony Dorsett’s school record.
USF answered with a fake punt, as linebacker Sam Miller took the snap and sprinted 29 yards to the Pitt 17. Two plays later, Mike Ford scored on a 15-yard run to tie the game at 7-7 with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.