Sunseri, Pitt Defeat Louisville 21-14
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KDKA/AP) — Following a loss last weekend at home to the Cincinnati Bearcats, the slumping Pitt Panthers hit the road to Louisville looking to get back in the win column.
Despite a late-game rally from Louisville, the Panthers managed to hang on for a 21-14 win over the Cardinals. It was Pitt’s first road win under head coach Todd Graham, and it ended a three-game winning streak for the Cardinals.
Pitt’s quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the win.
The Panthers (5-5, 3-2) needed a boost after losses in three of its previous four games. They ran over Louisville’s stout defense, starting with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by freshman Isaac Bennett’s 1-yard TD run.
Sunseri found Mike Shanahan for a 17-yard score on Pitt’s first drive of the second half and ran in for a 5-yard touchdown with 1:53 left as the Panthers continued their success against Louisville (5-5, 3-2) with their fourth straight win in the series with a penalty-free performance.
Victor Anderson scored from 3 yards out late in the third for Louisville, but the Cardinals didn’t reach the end zone again until Teddy Bridgewater’s 25-yard TD pass with 12 seconds left.
Trailing 14-0, the Cardinals sacked Sunseri on consecutive plays in the third quarter before Matt Yoklic shanked a 7-yard punt in the face of winds gusting up to 30 mph to give Louisville the ball on the Panthers 11.
The Cardinals scored two plays later on Anderson’s 3-yard run, but Louisville lost its best chance to rally with 4:37 left in the fourth when Eli Rogers muffed his second punt of the game and Pitt’s Drew Carswell recovered.
Sunseri followed with his TD run and Bridgewater answered with his TD toss to Scott Radcliff to make it 21-14. Louisville recovered the onside kick, but Bridgewater never got the ball downfield on the final play of the game.
Graham took over the Panthers from Tulsa after a turbulent offseason in Pittsburgh that started when Dave Wannstedt resigned under pressure and Mike Haywood was fired after being arrested on a domestic violence charge.
After losing road games at Iowa and Rutgers, the Panthers finally broke through and also won for the first time when scoring less than 35 points.
Shanahan’s heads up effort helped give Pittsburgh a 14-0 lead early in the third quarter after he broke up a would-be interception by Andrew Johnson. On the next play, Sunseri, who finished 16 of 22 for 196 yards, found Shanahan over the middle and scored from 17 yards out.
Bennett’s 1-yard TD run put Pittsburgh on the board first after he’d originally been scheduled to redshirt this season. He was forced into action last week in the aftermath of the season-ending knee injury to starting running back Ray Graham and finished with 69 yards on 13 carries.
Zach Brown added 86 yards on 15 carries.
Louisville beat then-No. 24 West Virginia 38-35 last week for coach Charlie Strong’s first win over a ranked team in his short tenure.
That put the Cardinals in position to challenge for a Big East title, but those hopes are dwindling after allowing 200 yards rushing, their worst effort against the run since a 23-16 loss to Kentucky on Sept. 4, 2010 that was Strong’s first game as coach.
Bridgewater went 18 of 26 for 165 yards passing and ran for 54 more, but made threw a pass picked off by linebacker Carl Fleming, who dropped into coverage. Louisville, who donned their Stars and Stripes helmets for the first time this season, wouldn’t get close to scoring again until Yoklic’s shank late in the third quarter.
Up next, the Backyard Brawl! Pitt heads to West Virginia for a showdown against the Mountaineers on Nov. 25.
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