Nov. 9, 2012
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Redshirt sophomore running back Lyle McCombs (Staten Island, N.Y.) ran for 120 yards and a touchdown and the University of Connecticut football team beat Pittsburgh 24-17 on Friday night before a crowd of 33,503 at Rentschler Field.
Sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer (Newna, Ga.) threw for 213 yards and a score for the Huskies. UConn is now 4-6 overall and 1-4 in the BIG EAST while Pittsburgh is also 4-6 and 1-4. Senior Nick Williams (East Windsor, N.J.)returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown.
Tino Sunseri threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns for Pitt, which fell short in its attempt to overcome a 24-0 halftime deficit. The Panthers, like UConn, must now win out to become bowl eligible.
McCombs, who ran for more than 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman, had just 547 yards and four scores coming into the game. He carried the ball 29 times in this one.
The Huskies held Pitt running back Ray Graham to 41 yards on 15 carries after he rushed for 172 against Notre Dame a week ago in an overtime loss.
UConn scored on its first possession when Whitmer hit redshirt senior tight end Ryan Griffin (Londonderry, N.H.) with a four-yard pass to cap an 11-play, 75-yard march. A staunch UConn defense, ranked ninth nationally, forced Pitt to punt on its first possession, setting the tone for the rest of the half. UConn extended the lead to 10-0 a little over three minutes later on a 29-yard field by redshirt junior Chad Christen (Etters, Pa.). The Huskies opened a 17-0 lead on Williams' punt return midway through the second quarter.
McCombs made it 24-0 on a two-yard plunge, giving the Huskies their first rushing touchdown since a Sept. 29 win over Buffalo.
While the UConn offense rolled in the first half, the Huskies' defense, led by redshirt senior linebacker Sio Moore (Apex, N.C.) pressured Sunseri throughout the first 30 and blanketed the Pitt receivers, forcing Sunseri to scramble or throw out of bounds. It also didn't help that several of Sunseri's passes were dropped.
The Panthers didn't score until Kevin Harper's 42-yard field goal in the third quarter. Harper's 44-yard attempt in the first half hit the right upright.
Pittsburgh opened the fourth quarter by going 72 yards in just six plays. Back-to-back passes from Sunseri to Devin Street picked up 46 yards and the Pitt quarterback then found Drew Carswell in the left flat for an 11-yard touchdown strike.
UConn had a chance to put the game away after a 44-yard run set the Huskies up at the Pittsburgh 14, but Whitmer threw an interception in the end zone to end the threat.
Sunseri took over and drove the Panthers 80 yards in just over two minutes, capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass to Mike Shanahan with 2:46 left.
The Panthers never got the ball back as Whitmer hit redshirt sophomore Shakim Phillips (Paterson, N.J.) for a key 17-yard completion on a third-and-9 on UConn's next drive and the Huskies ran out the clock.
The Panthers were coming off a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Notre Dame last week, a game in which they squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in the second overtime period that would have won the game.
The Huskies have been outscored 76-3 in the second half of their five BIG EAST games. Pittsburgh needs wins over Rutgers and USF to finish .500 and become eligible for a fifth consecutive bowl bid.
UConn returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 24 when it travel to Louisville with a game that will be heard on the WTIC IMG Sports Radio Network. The game time and television plans will be announced on Monday.