TAMPA – Pitt used a 16-play, 72-yard scoring drive that included three pivotal penalties, then added a Conor Lee 35-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter to take a 17-7 halftime lead over No. 10 South Florida in a Big East game at Raymond James Stadium.
LeSean McCoy’s 6-yard touchdown run capped the drive, which included a fourth-down conversion and saw the Bulls whistled for three penalties inside their own 15. McCoy has rushed for 55 yards on 12 carries in the first half, equaling his game total against USF last season.
McCoy scored with 4:59 remaining in the second quarter, one play after he was called for a false start on a second-and-goal at the 1 to nullify a scoring pass from Bill Stull to tight end Dorin Dickerson.
The Panthers twice stopped USF drives in Pitt territory, the first after Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe spun out of the grasp of defensive end Greg Romeus and reversed field for a 27-yard run to the Pitt 34. Maikon Bonani’s 42-yard field-goal attempt, however, was blocked by Greg Williams.
Pitt unveiled its Wildcat formation on the next play, and tailback LeSean McCoy took a direct snap and was stripped by nose tackle Terrell McClain. The Bulls recovered at the Pitt 35, but the drive ended on a fourth-and-5 at the 30 when holder Grant Gregory was stopped by middle linebacker Scott McKillop 4 yards short of the first-down marker.
The Panthers responded with the death march that saw USF draw a holding penalty and a pair of personal fouls, the first for a late hit on tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling at the 10 and the other for pass interference against Jonathan Baldwin in the corner of the end zone.
Pitt added an eight-play, 31-yard drive at the end of the quarter, following a 10-yard holding penalty o third-and-4 at the USF 43 by Baldwin drawing a 15-yard pass interference penalty to the Bulls’ 37. McCoy was stopped short on third-and-2 at the 18, and Pitt settled for the Lee field goal.
USF scored first when Quenton Washington blocked a Dave Brytus punt and Charlton Sinclair recovered and scored on a 27-yard return to give the Bulls a 7-0 lead with 8:07 remaining in the first quarter. Washington had earlier drawn a 15-yard personal foul penalty for roughing the kicker on Brytus’ first punt.
On a third-and-8 at the Pitt 47, Stull found Baldwin streaking along the visitor sideline, several steps ahead of cornerback Tyller Roberts for the touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7 with 5:54 remaining.
Stull tossed a 52-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin to forge a 7-7 tie at 5:54 of the first quarter. Grothe saw his streak of passes without an incompletion end at 110 when safety Dom DeCicco picked him off with 5:05 remaining in the first quarter.
Pitt outgained USF, 152-79, in the first half, as Stull completed 7 of 13 passes for 87 yards, including two to Baldwin for 59 yards. Grothe completed 5 of 12 passes for 36 yards with the interception and leads USF in rushing with three carries for 22 yards. The greatest statistical difference came in penalties, where the Bulls had eight for 64 yards to Pitt’s two for 15.