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Pitt slips, slides, and then roars past UConn, 34-10;
Five turnovers key 31 second half points for Panthers
East Hartford, CT - The Pitt Panthers (9-3, 5-2) and UConn Huskies (7-5, 3-4) slipped and slid during the first half of play to battle to a 3-3 deadlock, but LeSean McCoy finally broke loose on a 47-yard TD run to ignite the Panthers to 24 points in the third quarter to defeat Connecticut 34-10 and earn a trip the the Brut Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX. UConn's Donald Brown picked up the offensive slack for the Huskies with 189 rushing yards including a 57-yard TD run to offset 80 paltry passing yards by two UConn QBs. For CFF.com, it was our third consecutive weekend enjoying a football game in chilly New England. The lack of wind and a noon time start made this one a little more tolerable than the wind-chilled Harvard-Yale game or the BC-Maryland game that started at 3:30 pm last week. We drove through some snow on the way home this evening.
In the first half , the field of play was like the 12th man on defense for both teams as QB, RBs, and Kickers slipped and tripped on several key occasions between the 20 and 35-yard lines on the eastern end of Rentschler Stadium. The field was slick under the cold, cloudy skies. Neither team scored until the second quarter following a blocked punt by Pitt which set them up on the UConn eight-yard line. The Husky D held, however, and Pitt settled for a 3-0 lead on Conor Lee's 21-yard FG. UConn retaliated immediately on the ensuing possession with Dave Teggart's 45-yarder to tie the score.
UConn individually introduced each senior band member on Senior Day to extend their halftime performance. We procured seats right behind the band before the game among 39,535 fans.
Following McCoy's 47-yard jaunt up the middle of the Husky defense, Greg Williams intercepted a Tyler Lorenzen pass and returned it down to the Husky six. Once again, the UConn D tightened up and forced Pitt to settle for a 21-yard FG by Lee to make the score, 13-3. UConn continued to make it a game when Brown broke loose around the left side for his 57-yard score to close it to 13-10. However, the UConn passing attack remained inept all day. Pitt QB Bill Stull (10 of 18 for 141 yards, 1 INT, 2 TDs) needed one play on his team's next possession when he connected with Derek Kinder on a crossing pattern for a 61- yard TD pass and a 20-10 lead. With :15 seconds left in the third, he tossed a 28-yard TD pass to Nate Byham for a 27-10 lead. UConn's Tyler Lorenzen (6 for 27, 2 INTs, 80 yards) was pulled by Head Coach Randy Edsall in the fourth to get things going, but the Husky passing game only got worse. Back-up Zach Frazer came in and completed three of four passes - all to PItt! Like Lorenzen's passes, they all seemed low and behind his intended targets. On his final pass, his receiver slipped and Greg Williams caught the pass and returned it 20 yards for Pitt's final TD and a 34-10 lead. With about 4 minutes left, we'd seen enough. Pitt, ranked 23rd heads to Texas to play a PAC-10 team, and UConn supposedly heads north of the border to the International Bowl to meet some raging Bulls from Buffalo. Somehow before then, they need to find their passing game, or it's going to be another long day for this Big East team.
Extra Points: With his 189 rushing yards, Donald Brown finished with 1,822 yards for the season to lead the nation. LeSean McCoy's TD was his 21st of the season. His 126 points tied him with Javon Ringer of Michigan State, who we also watched play this year, for second in the nation.
There's a new twist at "The Rent" since last time we ventured to a game there. Adjacent to the air-strip parking lot is a Cabela's. GGA Eric and I checked out the World's Foremost Outfitter for the first time and had a post-game meal at the grill in there which was perfect on a cold day to let the traffic clear before we left. It's a combination Hunting/Fishing/Boating super store and natural history museum. We saw lots of stuffed fish and animals, but no Huskies or Panthers - only their fans.
It turned out to be a nice, smooth ride up and back to East Hartford, especially along the Merritt Parkway.
We saw five of the eight Big East teams play this year, and we were not impressed. WVU put on the best show against Auburn in their win we saw in Morgantown. We'd think, however, that Pitt playing UConn a week after their traditional Backyard Brawl rivalry had to be a bit of a letdown. The Big East should reconsider and always let that game be the season finale for Pitt and WVU. WVU hosted South Florida this evening and just got by the Bulls, 13-7.
Can't understand how UConn defeated Big East Champ Cincinnati so handily, 40-16. Both teams today fell to Rutgers this season - UConn by a score of 12-10 and Pitt by a score of 54-34.