Pitt beats Rutgers for first time since '04
Freshman Dion Lewis ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns and the Panthers posted their first win over Rutgers since 2004 with a 24-17 victory on Friday night.
"I think a few guys on our team had this game circled on their calendar," guard John Malecki said after the Panthers (6-1, 3-0 Big East) got off to their best league start since 2003.
This was a game the seniors wanted though. They had beaten every other Big East team during their careers except the Scarlet Knights (4-2, 0-2).
And last year might have been the most embarrassing game. Rutgers went to Pittsburgh and embarrassed the-then No. 17 Panthers 54-34.
"It's been a long time coming," Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said. "I am very happy for our seniors. These kids really worked extremely hard over the past four years to try to build this program up and Rutgers has been a team that we just haven't been to play well enough to win."
Lewis was the difference this year. He carried 31 times and scored on runs of 1 and 58 yards, noting he was motivated by the seniors this week.
"Everybody, you could see it in their eyes they really wanted this game, not having beat them in four years," Lewis said. "To get this win for those guys, who worked hard for four years to try and beat this team, it's just great."
Bill Stull threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson, Dan Hutchins added a career-long 45-yard field goal and the Panthers held Rutgers to a season-low 38 yards rushing.
"It was personal for our team, considering we haven't beaten them ever since I was here and Coach Wannstedt was here," said Stull, who completed 16 of 24 for 153 yards. "So it really wasn't just personal for the players, it was personal for the coaching staff also."
Pittsburgh holds its Big East fate in its own hands with No. 8 Cincinnati, West Virginia and South Florida left on its league schedule.
Mohamed Sanu scored on an 11-yard run, Tom Savage threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown and San San Te kicked a 23-yard field goal for the Scarlet Knights, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.
"We made mistakes tonight that cost us winning the football game," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "Some were caused by an opponent who is very good."
Pittsburgh spotted Rutgers an early 7-0 lead when a Scarlet Knights punt hit off Panthers defensive back Dom DeCicco and was recovered at the 11. Sanu, a wide receiver playing a wildcat quarterback, scored on the next play from scrimmage.
A 54-yard kickoff return by Ray Graham on the ensuing kickoff set up Pittsburgh at the Rutgers 40.
Stull ended the drive with his pass to Dickerson, the eighth TD for the tight end.
DeCicco made up for his error by intercepting a Savage pass to give Pittsburgh the ball at the Scarlet Knights' 49 early in the second quarter, setting up Hutchins' 45-yard field goal.
Lewis stretched the lead to 17-7 with his short TD run late in the second quarter after Stull kept the drive going with a 15-yard, third-down pass to Mike Shanahan.
"For a freshman, he's pretty good," Rutgers defensive end Alex Silvestro said. "He's quick, and he's only going to get better."
Te closed the gap to 17-10 on the final play of the half after Pittsburgh's defense forced a field goal after Rutgers had a first-and-goal from the 3-yard line.
Lewis squirted through a hole and ran down the right sideline to push the lead to 24-10 midway through the third quarter.
Savage's touchdown pass to Brown with 9:37 to play got Rutgers within a touchdown. The Scarlet Knights had one final shot after Hutchins missed a 30-yard field goal with 2:31 to play.
Savage (23 of 39 for 248 yards) got Rutgers to its own 42, but Sanu fumbled a fourth down pass and the Panthers ran out the clock after Antwuan Reed recovered.