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Pitt football notebook: Connecticut offense finds little resistance in first half

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Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 10:43 p.m.

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — The talk coming into Pitt's Big East game Friday night at Connecticut centered around the Huskies' pathetic offense.

The Panthers helped the Huskies get well — in a hurry.

Connecticut came into its 24-17 win against Pitt on a four-game losing streak with only three touchdowns in that span. Its average of 16.6 points per game was last in the Big East and 117th among 120 FBS schools.

No matter: UConn surpassed that total before halftime and led, 24-0, at the break.

First, quarterback Chandler Whitmer hit Ryan Griffin with a 2-yard touchdown pass. Then, Chad Christen kicked a 29-yard field goal, proving it is possible to convert a field goal from the right hash mark. In the second quarter, Nick Williams returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown, and running back Lyle McCombs scored from the 2.

Also in the second quarter, Pitt kicker Kevin Harper hit the upright on a 44-yard field-goal attempt from the right hash. He missed a potential game-winning 33-yarder from that spot in the second overtime last week against Notre Dame.

• What made Connecticut's opening 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive even more embarrassing was this: Eight plays gained at least 5 yards. Players were out of position and outside linebacker Eric Williams, who had played so well against Notre Dame, missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage on McCombs' 12-yard run to the 2.

• Tight end Hubie Graham, who has been nagged by shoulder and ankle injuries, was hurt on the Panthers' first play from scrimmage.

• Long-snapper Kevin Barthelemy, who had an injured hand, played for the first time in six games and made a tackle on Pitt's first punt.

• Quarterback Tino Sunseri entered the game with a streak of 172 passes without an interception. In the first quarter, he threw a pass in the belly of linebacker Sio Moore, who dropped the ball.

• Pitt has advanced to a bowl game in nine of the past 12 years. The Big East has six postseason slots available, including the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., which Pitt attended after each of the past two seasons. The Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium matches Big East and Big 12 also-rans, setting up a potential game between former conference rivals Pitt and West Virginia.

— Jerry DiPaola

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