Sluggish Pitt drops another to UConn
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Blame it on a Notre Dame hangover.
Blame it on a defense that was out of position and a step late on many plays.
Blame it on an offensive line that couldn't hold back a fierce pass rush and a quarterback who couldn't find a consistent connection with his receivers.
Whatever the reason, Pitt (4-6, 1-4) fell into a tie for last place in the Big East on Friday night after a 24-17 loss to Connecticut at Rentschler Field.
The Panthers, who have two conference games remaining, haven't finished in last place since 1998.
Connecticut (4-6, 1-4), which broke a four-game losing streak, shares the Big East basement with Pitt and South Florida (3-6, 1-4).
Pitt's defense shut out the Huskies in the second half, but a 24-0 halftime deficit was too much to overcome.
“We came out too sluggish,” said running back Ray Graham, who was held to 41 yards on 15 carries, his second-lowest output this season. “We just were too flat. Definitely give credit to them, but we stopped ourselves.”
Coach Paul Chryst said he didn't sense lingering effects from the tough loss to Notre Dame last Saturday.
“UConn outexecuted us,” he said.
Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had trouble developing a rapport with his receivers and completed 19 of 34 for 302 yards, but he helped rally his team. He also stretched his streak of not throwing an interception to seven games and 206 attempts, but he was sacked three times.
Pitt didn't score until the fourth quarter. Sunseri hit tight end Drew Carswell on an 11-yard score and receiver Mike Shanahan from 18 yards out with 2:46 left. Kevin Harper kicked a 42-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Carswell was playing for starter Hubie Graham, who was hurt on Pitt's first play of the game.
After Shanahan's touchdown, Pitt didn't get the ball back. On third-and-7 from the UConn 38, Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer shook off blitzing linebacker Shane Gordon at his feet and completed a 17-yard pass to receiver Shakim Phillips to secure the victory.
“It falls into making plays,” Chryst said. “Shane's there. (Cornerback K'Waun Williams) slips, and they made a play. You make plays, and that helps you win the game. That was big.”
Connecticut didn't score after halftime, however, and now has been outscored, 76-3, in the second half of five Big East games.
The Panthers' misery started early when Connecticut, which entered the game with the 117th-ranked offense, drove 75 yards on 11 plays on the first series. Whitmer, who was sacked once after getting dumped 26 times in the previous nine games, threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ryan Griffin for the first of Connecticut's three touchdowns.
The Huskies scored just three touchdowns during their four-game losing streak.
Connecticut also scored on a 29-yard field goal by Chad Christen, an 80-yard punt return by Nick Williams and a 2-yard run by Lyle McCombs.
“I don't think in the first half we tackled extremely well,” Chryst said. “Some things with our eyes and guys not being in the right spot. They made more plays than we did.”
The return was the second for a touchdown by Williams this season and the second allowed by Pitt. Williams also returned a kickoff for a touchdown here two years ago when the Huskies rallied for a 30-28 victory over Pitt.
McCombs ran 29 times for 120 yards, only his second 100-yard effort of the season. Whitmer completed 19 of 25 passes for 213 yards, including six for 84 to Griffin.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt’s potent rushing attack could slow down the passing game
- Pitt notebook: Average yards allowed good, but there’s room for improvement
- Root Sports prepares for Pitt/WVU telecast overlap
- Pitt notebook: Receiving depth up in the air
- Pitt’s secondary has room for improvement
- Pitt notebook: Boyd has breakout performance in loss