PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — For a second straight week, the Pitt Panthers had to endure tense moments down the stretch, but were able to hold on for victory.
Ray Graham ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns to lead Pitt over the Maine Black Bears 35-29 on Saturday.
The junior running back added five receptions for another 30 yards for the Panthers (2-0), who struggled to put away the Black Bears (1-1).
Tino Sunseri completed 21 of his 35 passed for 224 yards, but was picked off twice and sacked seven times in the game.
Freshman Trey Anderson took over as Pitt’s quarterback in the fourth quarter and orchestrated an 11-play touchdown drive, which was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run from Zach Brown.
However, Maine would not go away quietly and found the end zone twice in the final four minutes of the game.
Maine, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, simply wouldn’t go away. The Black Bears scored on a 1-yard plunge by David Hood with 3:12 to go and Smith found Maurice McDonald for a 2-yard touchdown with three seconds remaining.
Warren Smith passed for 334 yards and three touchdowns for Maine. Derek Buttles added seven receptions for 148 yards and a score for the Black Bears, who never led but kept it interesting from start to finish.
Sunseri had trouble getting the ball downfield once again. The junior’s longest completion was a 25-yard strike to tight end Hubie Graham.
The Black Bears were supposed to be a chance at a tune-up. They gave Pitt plenty to work on.
Ray Graham, who ran for 201 yards and three scores a week ago, again proved to be the only consistent weapon in the Panthers’ arsenal. He scored on runs of 1, 3 and 1 yards, the last of which gave Pitt a 28-15 lead.
It creates a murky picture going forward even as Pitt improved to 10-0 all-time against FCS opponents while the Black Bears failed to beat a BCS conference team for the second time under coach Jack Cosgrove.
Maine shocked Mississippi State in 2004 and while the Black Bears never found a way in front, they provided plenty of fodder for the boos that showered the Panthers at times as they tried desperately to gain some traction.
Pitt will now go on the road for the first time this season. The Panthers will take on the Iowa Hawkeys (1-1) at noon on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 44-41 overtime loss to Iowa State.