TAMPA — Pitt is clinging to a 17-14 lead entering the fourth quarter and is poised to pull an upset of No. 10 South Florida in an ESPN nationally televised Big East game before 50,307 at Raymond James Stadium.
USF opened the second half with an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that featured a pair of third-down conversions and a 38-yard pass from Matt Grothe to A.J. Love along the home sideline to the Pitt 16. Two plays after Pitt linebacker Austin Ransom was called for holding, Grothe scored on a 1-yard run to cut it to 17-14 with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter.
Pitt twice had the ball near midfield. The Panthers attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-4 at their own 48, but Dave Brytus’ pass to Conredge Collins went for no gain. Pitt later had a turnover when defensive end Jarrett Buie sacked quarterback Bill Stull, and linebacker Kion Wilson recovered at the Pitt 46.
Pitt took a 17-7 lead into halftime on Conor Lee’s 35-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
LeSean McCoy’s 6-yard touchdown run with 4:59 left in the first half capped a 16-play, 72-yard drive, which included a fourth-down conversion and saw the Bulls whistled for three penalties inside their own 15. McCoy scored one play after he was called for a false start on a second-and-goal at the 1 to nullify a scoring pass from Stull to Dorin Dickerson.
The Panthers twice stopped USF drives in Pitt territory, the first when Greg Williams blocked Maikon Bonani’s 42-yard field-goal attempt and the second when middle linebacker Scott McKillop stopped holder Grant Gregory 4 yards short of the first-down marker on a fake field goal.
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 receiver Jonathan Baldwin in the corner of the end zone.
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.
Stull found Baldwin streaking along the visitor sideline, several steps ahead of cornerback Tyller Roberts for a 52-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7 with 5:54 remaining.