PITTSBURGH — When Pittsburgh's Kevin Harper hit a 47-yard field goal late in the first quarter Thursday, it put USF in a position it had not faced for quite some time: trailing.
Before Pittsburgh's 10-7 lead, you had to go back to last year's regular-season finale at Connecticut, which hit a field goal with 17 seconds left for a 19-16 victory.
Since then, the Bulls went five full games (including all of this season) without trailing, a span of 5 hours, 13 minutes, 6 seconds of football.
Not only had the Bulls not trailed this season, but they barely knew the feeling of being tied. They scored in the first four minutes of all four games this season, and only once (against UTEP on Saturday) had a team answered to tie.
So out of four hours of football this season, the Bulls had been tied for all of 12:55.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, had its share of adversity in its four games, giving up late leads in losses to Iowa and Notre Dame. Even the wins were close, with just a five-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 35-16 win against Buffalo plus a 35-29 win against I-AA Maine.
LOTS OF OFFENSE: USF and Pittsburgh didn't show much defense during the first half, combining for 506 yards and going 11-for-16 on third downs.
Pittsburgh RB Ray Graham had 102 yards and a touchdown, and USF had three players with 36 yards as it piled up 233 yards.
With WR Terrence Mitchell out with a concussion, there was a question of who would take over the punt return duties for USF. Alas, Pitt went the entire first half without punting. A fumble marked the only possession in which it didn't score.
For the game, the Panthers punted just twice.
In comparison: USF had 192 yards of offense during the second half. But 71 came on its final drive, when it trailed 44-17. After putting up 273 yards in the first half, Pitt had 250 in the second.
Double duty: After giving up 251 yards on kickoff returns last week, USF coach Skip Holtz said he would move starting offensive and defensive players onto the coverage units. Sure enough, RB Demetris Murray and LB DeDe Lattimore were on the field for the opening kickoff.
This and that: CB Quenton Washington played after missing last week with a knee injury. He broke up a second-quarter pass to force Pittsburgh to settle for a 39-yard field goal. … Freshman DT Elkino Watson, who came in leading the Bulls with 41/2 tackles for loss, got his first sack on the final play of the first half.
Times writer Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected]