Pitt crushes No. 21 Rutgers 27-6
PITTSBURGH (AP) Rutgers officially isn't swapping the Big East for the Big Ten for another two years.
The 21st-ranked Scarlet Knights sure looked ready to check out early, though, in a lifeless 27-6 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Though Rutgers (9-2, 5-1 Big East) still managed to clinch a share of its first conference title after No. 19 Louisville was stunned at home by Connecticut, the Scarlet Knights head into a showdown with the Cardinals next Thursday reeling.
"It (stinks) to lose, but we still have something to play for," Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova said.
Even if it was the Panthers (5-6, 2-4) who performed like the team with everything on the line.
Pitt's defense swarmed the Scarlet Knights all afternoon. Nova completed just 18 of 37 passes for 157 yards with a touchdown and an interception and left briefly in first half after getting slammed to the ground on his right (throwing) shoulder.
"Their defensive linemen are really good," Nova said. "They put a lot of pressure on me, and we really didn't execute well enough in protection on their pass rush to make a difference."
The Scarlet Knights came in the Big East's biggest surprise, rising to the cusp of the school's first Bowl Championship Series berth despite losing program architect Greg Schiano to the NFL last winter.
First-year coach Kyle Flood stressed his team would not be distracted by an eventful week in which the program announced it was heading to the Big Ten in 2014, though the Scarlet Knights appeared to have their minds on other things while falling into an early 21-0 deficit.
"I didn't hear any of the talk about anything (other than the game)," Flood said. "To me, we had a focused football team coming in here, but we just didn't execute on the football field."
There were no such issues for the Panthers, who continued their maddening inconsistency while keeping their hopes for a fifth straight bowl appearance alive.
Tino Sunseri passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns in his last home game and fellow senior Ray Graham ran for 113 yards and a score as the Panthers beat a ranked opponent for the second time this season thanks to some words of inspiration from the 18 players taking their final bow at Heinz Field.
"We just told (the underclassmen) to leave it out on the field," said Graham, who moved into third on the school's all-time rushing list. "If you're not ready to play, stay inside this locker room. That's one of those attitudes that we have."
The Panthers have alternated two-game losing streaks and two-game winning streaks all fall, leading first-year coach Paul Chryst to joke he hoped the pattern would continue over the final two weeks, allowing the Panthers to play beyond Dec. 1.
It shouldn't be an issue if Pitt can take the intensity it showed during an emotional Senior Day to South Florida next week.
Chryst began the afternoon hugging each of the seniors during pregame introductions, a sign how of hard he's worked to restore a sense of trust between the players and the program after Pitt went through four coaches in a span of 14 months, culminating with Chryst's hiring in January.
The seniors believe Pitt is heading in the right direction, and then went out and showed it by having little trouble with the Scarlet Knights in the final game between the two teams for the foreseeable future with Pitt heading to the ACC next fall.
Pitt outgained Rutgers 365-207, won the field position battle and controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage after finding its footing in the second quarter.
"We put it together today," wide receiver Mike Shanahan said. "I don't think we've played 60 minutes like that all season."
Certainly not on defense.
The Scarlet Knights had the ball eight times in the first half, and punted eight times. Nova never got comfortable in the blustery conditions and Pitt smothered whichever Rutgers back happened to carry the ball.
"If you watched Pitt over the course of the year, you saw that they were capable of playing really good on offense and defense," Rutgers safety Duron Harmon said. "They beat up on Virginia Tech and should have beat Notre Dame, so we knew it wasn't going to be easy coming in here."
Sunseri hit Shanahan for a 16-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to put the Panthers up and Graham made it 14-0 on a 1-yard touchdown plunge before the Panthers showed just how far they've come under Chryst's direction during a flawless 2-minute drill late in the half.
Taking over at the Pitt 45 with 1:19 to go, Sunseri directed the Panthers 55 yards in nine plays, the final one a perfect strike to Ed Tinker from 13 yards out that put the Panthers up 21-0 at the break.
Kevin Harper tacked on a 39-yard field goal early in the third quarter to make it 24-0. Rutgers finally got on board on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Nova to Brandon Coleman late in the third quarter but the 2-point conversion failed and Rutgers never threatened to make it interesting.
The blowout left the Scarlet Knights plenty of time to ponder how things went wrong while getting a headstart on what will be a de facto Big East championship game at home on Thursday night.
"All the marbles are out there for us, and it's a short week," defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. "So, this is for everything. This is why you play football. Sure, we're disappointed, but we still have everything to play for Thursday night. And that has to be our focus."
Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP
Updated November 24, 2012
We check in for our weekly update from Bill Belichick and get his take on the Pats win over the Texans on the road, the benching of Stevan Ridley, and Antonio Smith's thinly veiled Spygate comments after the Texans lost.
Patriots’ defensive end, Rob Ninkovich, joins Mut and Merloni on a Patriots Monday after the team’s victory in Houston. Rob addresses the postgame comments of Texans’ defensive lineman Antonio Smith and the defense struggling against the run.
Tom Brady joined the show fresh off the teams 9th win of the season in Houston. He dismissed Antonio Smith's spying allegations and told the guys he has already moved on.
Eagle checks in to give Grande and Max a perspective on the Brooklyn Nets after they acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett via trade earlier this summer. He breaks down what he thinks the future holds for the Nets after completing this blockbuster deal.
Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell take some time and look back at the history between the Celtics and the Lakers, specifically the legendary rivalry between Magic and Bird. Legendary broadcaster, Ian Eagle, checks in to give the Brooklyn perspective as KG and Paul Pierce settle into their new home. Sean and Max also reveal the behind the scenes details surrounding Max’s famous “I got the ball” moment.
In the first hour of this edition of the Celtics Summer Cooler, Grande and Max analyze the trade that sent Fab Melo out of Boston. Also in this hour, Max sets the story straight about his history with Larry Bird.
Rob Bradford and Alex Speier talk with Jon Lester about contract negotiations, losing a teammate like Jacoby Ellsbury, the World Series run, and looking ahead to 2014.
Rob Bradford and Alex Speier are back witht he Hot Stove Show. They talk about Jacoby Ellsbury signing with the New York Yankees, the Red Sox signings of AJ Pierzynski and Edward Mujica, and wrap it up with Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester, who talks about the World Series run, losing a teammate like Ellsbury and looking towards 2014.
The Red Sox new catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, joined the show to discuss his reputation as the most hated man in baseball. He also said that he turned down multi-year deals to come and win in Boston.
Shawn Thornton joined the show and discussed the teams long layoff leading into their game tomorrow night in Montreal. He told the guys that he anticipates fighting being a part of hockey for years to come.
Lucic joins Danny Picard to talk some hockey after the team’s overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Danny asks Lucic about David Krejci’s game winner yesterday and hockey outsiders that are trying to change the game.
Shawn Thornton joined the show fresh off his big night at MSG and talked about his recent goal scoring prowess. Shawn said that no matter who his line mates are he is always going to be a fourth liner.
Kirk Minihane answered any and all questions from the listeners and John and Gerry.
The New York Post's Joel Sherman joined the show with his thoughts on jacoby Ellsbury's signing with the Yankees. He said that if it were up to him he would have given the money to Robinson Cano over Ellsbury.
The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane. They discussed how Ron Burgundy has officially jumped the shark and played sound of him on Dan Patrick.
Peter King joins Mut and Merloni to go across the NFL and address the latest news. He discusses Kubiak's firing, Tomlin's fine, and Dennard's possible suspension.
Brick makes his weekly appearance on Mut and Merloni and discusses the Bruins loss to Montreal and the hit on Johnny Boychuck.
Michael Fabiano, fantasy expert and Yankees fan, gives his opinion on the Cano signing, discusses Julian Edelman's rising fantasy value, and actually suggests starting Ryan Fitzpatrick
We check in with Herm Edwards on the Pats, Stevan Ridley, and a great many things around the NFL.
We stir up a pot of crap when we debate the world cup and the popularity of soccer... pro callers, con-callers, plus Jack Edwards!
We tackle four topics at 4PM.
Ryder talks with WEEI.com's Chris Price about the Patriots upcoming game with the Cleveland Browns, and Stevan Ridley's status on the team.
Alex joins the show and gives his thoughts on the Jacoby Ellsbury deal, and what prospects the Red Sox have to fill the hole left in the lineup, or trade pieces to get a player who can fill the void.
John talks to Rob and gets his thoughts on the Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury, the Red Sox signing AJ Pierzynski, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia signing with Miami.
Mike Lupica of the Daily News joined the show to give the New York reaction to the Ellsbury signing. He said that the Yankees drastically overpaid.More from this show
The Red Sox new catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, joined the show to discuss his reputation as the most hated man in baseball. He also said that he turned down multi-year deals to come and win in Boston.More from this show
Johnny Damon joins Mut and Merloni to clear the air about his free agent signing with the Yankees and discusses Ellsbury's signing.More from this show
Buster Olney joins Mut and Merloni to discuss Jacoby Ellsbury signing with the Yankees and the possibility of the Red Sox trading for Andre Ethier.More from this show