South Florida’s Matt Grothe scored on an 80-yard run on the first play of the second half, and the Bulls capitalized on three interception returns in a 48-37 victory over Pitt in a Big East game before 31,123 at Heinz Field.
Pitt quarterback Pat Bostick threw three second-half interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns and one that was returned to the Pitt 1 to set up another touchdown.
The Bulls (9-3, 4-3) scored on safety Nate Allen’s 37-yard interception return and cornerback Trae Williams’ 21-yard pick six. Middle linebacker Ben Moffitt had a 60-yard interception return to set up Mike Ford’s 1-yard run.
It was the second consecutive loss for Pitt (4-7, 2-4), which had a 14-10 halftime lead. It also overshadowed the record-setting performance of tailback LeSean McCoy, who broke Tony Dorsett’s 34-year-old freshman record for rushing touchdowns with three scoring runs (1, 12 and 1).
McCoy has 14 touchdown runs this season.
The Bulls got started when 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. Delbert 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. Moffitt’s interception return led to Ford’s 1-yard run and gave the Bulls a 34-14 lead.
Pitt answered with McCoy’s 12-yard run to cut it to 34-21 with 7:10 to play, but Williams picked off Bostick for a 21-yard return to make it 41-21.
The Panthers responded with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darrell Strong, and Bostick threw a two-point conversion pass to T.J. Porter to cut it to 41-29 with 4:27 to play. But USF recovered Cody Sawhill’s onside kick and drove 43 yards in eight plays, capped by Benjamin Williams’ 6-yard run to make it 48-29 with 1:27 remaining.
Lowell Robinson’s 55-yard kick return to the USF 19 was followed by an 18-yard pass to Porter and a 1-yard run by McCoy with 42 seconds remaining.
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.
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.