EAST HARTFORD, CONN.
Lyle McCombs ran for 120 yards and a touchdown and Connecticut beat Pittsburgh, 24-17, on Friday night for the Huskies’ first conference win after four losses.
Chandler Whitmer threw for 213 yards and a score for the Huskies (4-6, 1-4 Big East), and Nick Williams returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown.
Tino Sunseri threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns for Pitt (4-6, 1-4), 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 Ryan Griffin with a 4-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 3 minutes later on Chad Christen’s 29-yard field. The Huskies opened a 17-0 lead on Williams’ punt return midway through the second quarter.
McCombs made it 24-0 on a 2-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 linebacker Sio Moore 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.
But they 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.