PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Marquel Blackwell threw for four touchdowns
out of a spread offense and South Florida held off Pittsburgh's
fourth-quarter comeback for a 35-26 upset Saturday.
All-America receiver Antonio Bryant sat out for Pittsburgh with a sprained ankle. In the offensive plays I saw, it looked like the Panthers were lost without Bryant because they didn't have a go-to guy. Once they were down, I think they became dispirited because they knew they didn't have a playmaker to get them back in the game. Unfortunately, that's what happens when the offense is dependent on one player. The Panthers no longer have running back Kevan Barlow, who's now with the San Francisco 49ers. He made a big difference in the offense last year because he gave them another choice other than Bryant. Without Barlow in the offense, the Panthers are struggling to find balance, and it showed in their upset loss to South Florida.
The loss to a program that didn't field a team until 1997 and
only this year began playing most of its schedule against Division
I-A opposition was arguably the most stunning in Pitt's 111-year
It also came just when the Panthers (1-1) seemed on the verge of
breaking into the Top 25.
South Florida's remarkable victory came in only its eighth
Division I-A game and was its first against an established major
college team. The Bulls (1-1) had been 1-6 against I-A opponents,
beating only Connecticut's start-up program a year ago.
The Bulls had lost their other six games against major college
teams by an average of 20 points, including a 45-9 loss to Middle
Tennessee State last year.
The Panthers were without All-American receiver Antonio Bryant
(sprained left ankle), but, more importantly, they also were
without any emotion or sense of urgency until South Florida -- a
24-point underdog -- had opened a 28-7 lead.
Pitt frantically closed to 26-20 in the fourth quarter on
Raymond Kirkley's 1-yard scoring run and David Priestley's 10-yard
touchdown pass to R.J. English. However, Nick Lotz missed the extra
point after Kirkley's touchdown, forcing Pitt to go for two points
to tie it after English's score. Priestley's pass intended for
English was knocked away by Bernard Brown.
Blackwell then drove the Bulls down the field again and, aided
by a pass interference penalty on fourth-and-goal from the 2,
scored on a 1-yard run with 4:31 remaining. He finished 37-of-65
for 343 yards.
South Florida, playing what it called its most prestigious
opponent since starting football, got a huge confidence boost by
recovering an onside kick on the opening kickoff.
The Bulls didn't score on that series, but forced Pitt to punt
and drove it 54 yards for the first of Blackwell's two touchdown
passes to DeAndrew Rubin, a 14-yarder with 9:34 left in the first
quarter. He found Rubin on a 15-yarder later in the quarter to make
It could be have been 21-0 -- or 17-0 -- after Blackwell found
Huey Whittaker on a 33-yard completion to the Pitt 20, but the
drive stalled at the 5 and Santiago Gramatica badly hooked a
21-yard field goal attempt.
Pitt was in danger of being shut out in the first half until
Priestley, who split time with Rod Rutherford, found freshman
Roosevelt Bynes on a 57-yard scoring pass play with 56 seconds left
in the half. It was Bynes' first college catch.
But the Bulls came out moving the ball again in the second half,
with Blackwell hitting Hugh Smith on a 13-yard scoring pass play
less than five minutes into the third quarter.
The score was set up when William "TuTu" Ferguson's fumbled
punt was recovered by the Bulls' Jason Allen at the Pitt 37.
Ferguson was later responsible for the pass interference penalty
that led to Blackwell's touchdown.
Later in the quarter, Blackwell and Brian Fisher hooked up on a
22-yard scoring pass on fourth-and-1.