Pitt clinched its first bowl berth under fourth-year coach Dave Wannstedt in impressive fashion, pounding Louisville, 41-7, this afternoon in a Big East Conference game before 44,055 at Heinz Field.
It marked the first home victory for the No. 25 Panthers (7-2, 3-1) when nationally ranked under Wannstedt, and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Cardinals (5-4, 1-3). Pitt hadn’t beaten Louisville since 1983.
Pitt outgained Louisville, 320-299, with 230 yards coming by pass.
Bill Stull was 15 of 27 for 216 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers took advantage of a series of Louisville mishaps. The defense scored its first two touchdowns of the season on turnovers in the fourth quarter, as cornerback Ricky Gary scooped up a lateral with 8:19 remaining and middle linebacker Scott McKillop scored an 18-yard interception return 50 seconds later.
Defensive tackle Craig Bokor added another interception with 1:52 remaining.
Pitt’s first points came after Jovani Chappell recovered a Louisville fumble on a punt return. Doug Beaumont signaled for a fair catch, but let the ball bounce by him. Bobby Buchanon tried to field the bouncing ball, but it slipped from his grasp and was recovered by Chappel at the Cards’ 19 to set up Conor Lee’s 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Aundre Wright had a 76-yard scoring run negated by a penalty, but capped a seven-play, 76-yard drive by scoring on an inside handoff from LaRod Stephens-Howling out of the Wildcat package for a 10-0 lead at 4:12 of the first quarter.
Beaumont muffed three punts in the first half, and the Panthers recovered two.
Stull returned after missing the Notre Dame game with a concussion, and threw a 26-yard corner fade to Oderick Turner for a touchdown to cap a four-play, 47-yard scoring drive for a 17-0 lead with 3:30 remaining in the first half.
The Panthers had that double-digit lead despite star tailback LeSean McCoy gaining only 2 yards rushing on seven caries in the first half. McCoy finished with a season-low 39 rushing yards on 17 carries. At one point, McCoy had more yards passing than rushing, after completing a 14-yarder to T.J. Porter out of the Wildcat formation. Pitt twice converted on fourth down on a 16-play, 63-yard drive that covered 8:35 – its most time-consuming drive of the season – before Lee kicked a 19-yard field goal for a 20-0 lead.
Louisville answered with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Cantwell to Troy Pascley to cut it to 20-7 with 4:42 remaining in the third. It marked the only scoring play of the game for the Cardinals, who were averaging 29.2 points per game.