Pitt scores with 47 seconds left to upset VT

PITTSBURGH -- Kevin Jones easily won the matchup of the Big East's two premier offensive players. Larry Fitzgerald won what counted: the game.

Lousaka Polite finished off a score-or-else 70-yard Pittsburgh drive -- highlighted by Fitzgerald's three catches -- with a 2-yard touchdown run with 47 seconds remaining, rallying the Panthers (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) past No. 5 Virginia Tech 31-28 Saturday night.

QB Rod Rutherford's went 24-of-31 for 303 yards to keep the Panthers undefeated in Big East play.
QB Rod Rutherford's went 24-of-31 for 303 yards to keep the Panthers undefeated in Big East play.

Playing its first ranked opponent this season, Pitt beat the Hokies a year after upsetting them 28-21 in Blacksburg when they

were ranked third and unbeaten.

"I'm thankful we have a lot of great football players who

wouldn't quit when things got bleak," a visibly relieved Pitt

coach Walt Harris said.

Pitt, which also beat the Hokies two years ago in Pittsburgh,

led 24-14 late in the third quarter, only to fall behind 28-24 as

Jones scored on runs of 80 and 13 yards barely two minutes apart.

Jones scored all four Tech touchdowns and ran for a school-record

241 yards, the second time in less a month an opposing runner named

Jones has shredded Pitt's defense for more than 200 yards. Notre Dame's Julius Jones had 262 yards in the Irish's 20-14 upset of

Pitt on Oct. 11.

With the Hokies in position to close it out, Marcus Vick threw

incomplete on fourth-and-4 from the Panthers 30 with 4:10


Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford, who was 24-for-31 for 303 yards

and two touchdowns and also ran for a score, then directed the

winning drive that kept the Panthers (7-2, 4-0) as the only

unbeaten team in Big East play. Rutherford's 12-yard scramble to

the 18 might have been the biggest play on the drive.

"Virginia Tech did a great job of taking things away from us,

but we made a lot of big plays when it counted," Rutherford said.

"They had big time players who made big time plays on that

final drive," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.

Fitzgerald, quiet most of the second half, made three catches

for 49 yards on the drive. Fitzgerald finished with eight catches

for 108 yards and a 5-yard touchdown that extended his NCAA record

to 15 consecutive games with a scoring reception.

"It's getting tougher and tougher to get him the ball," Harris

said. "They doubled and tripled him, but he still got 108 yards.

And we used him to help some other guys."

Kris Wilson, often getting free behind a Tech secondary

preoccupied with Fitzgerald, made six catches for a team-high 111


Virginia Tech (7-2, 3-2) failed to follow up on last week's 31-7

rout of previously unbeaten Miami and dropped out of contention for

the national championship. Tech is 1-2 on the road with consecutive

losses at West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

"This really hurts," Hokies cornerback Eric Green said.

"Nothing explains how we feel. We did a great job against him

(Fitzgerald), but we beat ourselves."

Jones, never slowed by a Pitt defense that came into the game

allowing 157.6 yards rushing per game, broke Kenny Lewis' 1978

school record of 223 yards against VMI. He also scored on

first-half runs of 1 and 11 yards.

"That was the game plan, we were going to keep giving him the

ball," Vick said.

On the first play after Wilson caught an 11-yard touchdown pass

from Rutherford to put Pitt up 24-14, Jones ran down Tech's

sideline on the 80-yard score that seized the momentum away from

the Panthers.

Pitt then went three-and-out on its next possession, and Vick

immediately hit Ernest Wilford -- who said before the game he was

just as good as Fitzgerald -- on a 46-yard completion with Josh Lay

in coverage. Jones scored from the 13 a play later.

Before that, Virginia Tech turned the ball over three times in

falling behind 17-14 at halftime, but Pitt turned only one of the

mistakes into scores. Cedric Humes' fumble late in the second

quarter and Jawan Walker's 27-yard run on a fourth-and-8 play from

the Hokies' 31 led to Rutherford's 2-yard scoring run.

Fitzgerald figured in all of Pitt's scoring, and not always with

the ball. His 17th touchdown catch in nine games broke Julius Dawkins' school record of 16 touchdown catches in 1981, Dan Marino's junior year. Fitzgerald also threw a key block on the

Walker run.

Jones' 11-yard touchdown run was set up by Mike Imoh's 50-yard

kickoff return, while the 1-yard run came on a quickly executed

75-yard drive in which Jones carried five times for 40 yards.

Pitt, trying for its first Big East championship, plays at rival

West Virginia and Temple before closing out the regular season Nov.

29 against Miami.