TAMPA, Fla. -- Ray Graham rushed for a pair of touchdowns
and went over 1,000 yards Saturday night to help Pittsburgh become
bowl eligible with a 27-3 rout of struggling South Florida.
Tino Sunseri threw for 211 yards and one TD for the Panthers
(6-6, 3-4 Big East) to join Graham in giving Pitt a 3,000-yard
passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time
in school history.
USF (3-9, 1-6) finished its second straight losing season by
losing nine of 10 after a 2-0 start, a slide that could cost
coach Skip Holtz his job. A year ago, the Bulls dropped seven of
eight after a 4-0 start that vaulted them into the Top 25
before a 44-17 loss to Pitt.
Graham scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, Sunseri tossed a 2-yard
TD pass to J.P. Holtz, and a Pitt defense that's allowed just nine
points the past two weeks held USF 117 yards and forced four
turnovers, including three interceptions of Matt Floyd in the
redshirt freshman's second career start.
Pitt bounced back from losing its first two games to Youngstown
State and Cincinnati to qualify for a postseason berth for the
fifth straight season. Along the way, the Panthers gave top-ranked
Notre Dame its toughest test before losing in triple overtime. They
also rebounded from a disappointing loss to Connecticut to upset
Rutgers 21-6 and put themselves in a position to extend their first
season under coach Paul Chryst.
Despite forcing turnovers on the Bulls' first three possessions
of the game, Pitt only led 13-0 at the half. Jason Hendricks'
interception and 10-yard return to the USF 21 set up Graham's TD
and a sack-fumble led to Kevin Harper's 25-yard field goal early in
the second quarter.
USF failed to take advantage of Marcus Shaw's long kickoff
return to the Pitt 48 when Floyd was intercepted for the second
time after moving his team to third-and-goal at the Panthers 5.
Linebacker Todd Thomas broke on a throw intended for Demetris
Murray and returned the pick 33 yards up the left sideline.
Sunseri extended his streak of consecutive passing attempts
without an interception to 270. However, Pitt failed to establish
much of a rhythm on offense before getting in the end zone twice
within a five-minute stretch of the third quarter. Graham's second
TD put the Panthers up by 20, and Sunseri's 19th TD pass of the
season made it 27-0.
USF fell to 16-21 under Holtz, who led the Bulls to an 8-5
record and their sixth consecutive bowl trip two years ago. He
inherited a program built from scratch with expectations of
contending for Big East titles, but has gone 5-16 in the
An announced crowd of 35,141 that appeared much smaller booed
when USF's career scoring leader Maikon Bonani trotted onto the
field to kick a 25-yard field goal to avert a shutout.
Sunseri finished 19 of 25 and boosted his season passing total
to 3,103. Graham gained 94 yards on 26 carries, topping 1,000
rushing for the first time in his career early in the second half
and ending the night with 1,042.
Pitt beat USF for the fifth straight season and has won the past
two contests by a combined score of 71-20 - 51-3 over the past six
quarters of those meetings.
Floyd completed 12 of 25 passes for 93 yards. The Bulls were
held to 8 yards rushing.