|Senior running back Ray Graham ran 23 times for 113 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh's 27-6 win. (US Presswire)|
PITTSBURGH WON: The Panthers were not focused on Big East title scenarios -- only keeping their bowl hopes alive as they notched an impressive 27-6 win over Rutgers. Tino Sunseri threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, while Ray Graham starred in his final game at Heinz Field with 113 yards and a touchdown.
It was the first conference loss of the season for Rutgers (9-2, 5-1 Big East), which missed out on the opportunity to clinch at least a share of the Big East title with a win. The Scarlet Knights host Louisville -- which lost to Connecticut 23-20 in triple overtime -- on Thursday in a game that will decide the Big East's automatic bid to the BCS.
HOW PITTSBURGH WON: The Panthers' offense caught fire just before halftime. One reason they finally were able to get in a rhythm was some help from Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were only able to muster two first downs in the entire first half, allowing plenty of opportunities for Sunseri and Graham to get rolling. With two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the second quarter, Pittsburgh entered halftime with a 21-0 lead.
The Scarlet Knights have gotten off to several slow starts and managed to win (Army, Temple, USF - to name a few), but have not overcome a deficit of 21 points or more in eight years. By losing the battle at the line of scrimmage, Rutgers was unable to get the ground game going and early and that made Pittsburgh's job much easier to defend in the second half.
WHEN PITTSBURGH WON: Gary Nova led a 10-play touchdown drive late in the third quarter that gave Rutgers fans some hope for a historic comeback. But the next time the Scarlet Knights' quarterback got the ball, he was picked off by Lafayette Pitts and the Panthers got back to milking clock on the ground.
WHAT PITTSBURGH WON: The Panthers keep their postseason hopes alive, now needing a win at USF next week to finish 6-6 and become bowl eligible. Despite the off-field turmoil (coaching turnover, conference realignment, etc.), Pittsburgh has been to bowl games four years in a row. From the loss to Notre Dame in four OTs to the win over Virginia Tech, it has been a strange first season under Paul Chryst. Keeping that streak alive and making a bowl game would give the staff extra practices and help the team prepare for its first season of ACC play in 2013.
WHAT RUTGERS LOST: The Scarlet Knights not only missed out on an opportunity to clinch a share of the conference title, they missed a chance to clinch the outright championship and a BCS bid. A win, paired with Louisville's loss, would have given Rutgers a two-game lead in the standings and made Thursday's showdown with the Cardinals meaningless for the title. Now it's do-or-die for Rutgers on Thursday, as Kyle Flood will try to deliver the program's first Big East title and first BCS bowl appearance.
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