PITTSBURGH—Pitt earned its first Big East Conference win by manhandling visiting Temple 47-17 at a cold and rainy Heinz Field on Saturday. Pitt head coach Paul Chryst felt it was a complete team win with many players contributing on both sides of the ball.
“It was a good win. A lot of different guys made significant plays. We jumped on them in the first half and that helped,” Chryst said. “Some areas we’re getting better. Other areas, we need to keep grinding to get better.”
Tino Sunseri completed 20 passes on 28 attempts for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
“We just wanted to keep growing as an offense,” Sunseri said. “We wanted to make sure every time we got the ball, we took advantage of it.”
Devin Street had a career-high 140 yards and a touchdown on six catches.
“I didn’t even know I had a career-high until someone told me after the game,” Street said. “I think our offense did some good things out there but there’s still a lot we can improve on.”
The running game produced 207 yards led by Graham who had 109 yards on 19 carries and Rushel Shell who had 79 yards on 12 carries. Graham moved into fifth place on Pitt’s career rushing list with his performance, passing LeSean McCoy.
“Rushel [Shell] and I compliment each other on everything we do,” Graham said. “It’s an honor to be mentioned with LeSean McCoy. He moved onto the NFL and is playing really well there.”
Dan Mason fueled the defense with ten tackles, a half-sack, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, and one breakup. Chryst credited him after the game for his performance.
“I think he was all around the ball and productive,” Chryst said. “You appreciate that.”
Chryst felt going into the game that the Panthers (4-4, 1-3 Big East) had to take advantage of the opportunities against the Owls (3-4, 2-2Big East). It did not take long for them to do just that after Pitt was forced to punt on the first possession of the game.
The ball hit Temple player Anthony Robey and Eric Williams recovered the muff at the Temple 39 yard line. Nine plays later, Shell banged into the endzone for a one-yard touchdown and Pitt led 7-0 less than five minutes into the game.
On the Panthers next possession, Graham helped fuel a 90 yard scoring drive by running 17 yards on three carries and catching a screen pass 33 yards. Tino Sunseri hit J.P. Holtz for an 18-yard touchdown (his career first) and pushed Pitt’s lead to 14-0 with 2:47 left in the first quarter.
Pitt had a special teams letup on the ensuing kickoff and Matt Brown returned it 77 yards to the Panther 21 yard line. Temple took advantage of the short field and Chris Coyer hit Cody Booth for a 9 yard score and Pitt led 14-7 less than a minute later.
The Panthers extended their lead to 17-7 on the next possession when Kevin Harper booted a 32-yard field goal.
Pitt got a break late in the first half. After taking over at their 20-yard line, the Panthers drove to the Temple 7-yard line. Ray Graham burst through the middle and was upended at the 1-yard line. He appeared to fumble the ball into the endzone and Temple recovered.
However, after review, the play was overturned and Graham was called down. He walked into the endzone on the next play and it appeared Pitt would take a 24-7 lead into the break.
The Panthers defense forced a three-and-out and took over with a minute left. They drove to the Temple 4-yard line with seven seconds left. Sunseri hit Ray Graham for a 4-yard touchdown pass with one second left to give Pitt a 31-7 lead at halftime.
The Owls struck first in the second half as Montel Harris tore off a 14-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into the third quarter. The Panthers responded with a Harper 38-yard field goal and took a 34-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
Temple mounted a 15-play, 67-yard drive that took 6:17 off the clock but had to settle for a Brandon McManus 45-yard field goal and Pitt led 34-17 with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the first one fueled by a Lafayette Pitts strip and fumble recovery at the Pitt 37-yard line. Graham had an acrobatic run to the two-yard line and scored on the next play to push Pitt’s lead to 40-17.
Temple tried to respond and drove to the Pitt 2-yard line but Mason ran down option quarterback Clinton Granger mark on fourth down to keep the Owls out of the endzone
On the ensuing possession Sunseri hit Street for a 58-yard touchdown that capped the 98-yard drive.
The Panthers now travel to Notre Dame next week to play a non-conference game against the top-five ranked Fighting Irish.