Posted by Chip Patterson
PITTSBURGH WON. The Panthers overcame both their offensive inefficiencies and their fourth quarter woes in their 44-17 rout of South Florida on Thursday night. Under the lights of Heinz Field and with the attention of national television, Ray Graham stole the show. Graham picked up 303 all-purpose yards (226 rushing, 42 receiving, 35 return yards) and was a crucial piece of every Pittsburgh scoring drive.
HOW PITTSBURGH WON: Head coach Todd Graham's "high-octane" offense finally lived up to their reputation against USF, and the result was a production of 523 total yards. South Florida's defense looked visibly worn down, starting with hands on hips as early as the second quarter and finishing with gasping defensive lineman in the fourth. Pittsburgh's defense also dialed up the pressure on BJ Daniels in the second half, and the junior quarterback - for the first time in a couple contests - looked completely out of sync with his wide receivers.
WHEN PITTSBURGH WON: The Panthers dominated most of the second half, but the game's fate was not sealed until Pittsburgh defensive back Jarred Holley forced Darrell Scott to fumble early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers flipped the turnover into a field goal, but most importantly ate up more than six minutes of clock to put the game out of reach.
WHAT PITTSBURGH WON: After a rocky start, the Panthers are rejuvenated. If there were any doubters, Todd Graham may have won the respect of the locker room with Thursday night's win. It was validation for Graham's system, and validation for his preparation to get Pittsburgh ready for a talented USF team on a short week. The Big East title race is focused on league play, and league play alone. At least for the next 40+ hours, Pittsburgh sits alone the top of the standings.
WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA LOST: A huge shot to the momentum that the Bulls have had rolling since the end of the 2010 season. The Bulls will likely lose their Top 25 status, and now will need to fight their way back into Big East title contention. The Bulls play three of their next four contests on the road, so this was not the best start to their October stretch. The next couple weeks will be crucial if the Bulls plan to contend in November and December.
THAT WAS CRAZY: I was going to write something about South Florida's tendency to choke on Thursday nights, or the strange trends regarding the Bulls and national television. Thankfully, our own Brett McMurphy summed up it well with this tweet.
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