Pittsburgh maintains first place in Big East, closer to automatic BCS bowl bid

TAMPA, Fla. -- Dion Lewis rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown Saturday, helping Pittsburgh beat South Florida 17-10 to retain sole possession of first place in the Big East.

The Panthers (6-4, 4-1) rebounded from a two-point loss to Connecticut to remain in control of the crowded conference race. They can clinch the title and the league's automatic Bowl Championship Series bowl berth by winning their remaining games against West Virginia and Cincinnati.

Receiver Terrence Mitchell scored on a 45-yard TD run for USF (6-4, 3-3), however the Bulls got little production out of their passing game. B.J. Daniels completed 15 of 29 passes for 132 yards, and his final attempt was intercepted on the game's final play.

Tino Sunseri threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ray Graham in the third quarter, then helped Pitt put the game away in the closing minutes with a 12-yard completion to Devin Street on third-and-9 and an 18-yard quarterback keeper that took more time off the clock.

The possession ended with Dan Hutchins missing a 43-yard field goal attempt, however the impressive drive that started at Pitt's 10 and ended at USF's 26 left Daniels with just 1:31 to try to bring the Bulls back.

A pass interference call near midfield -- the fifth of the afternoon on Pitt's secondary -- gave USF a first down near midfield, however Daniels was unable to get his team into position to possibly tie the game.

Cornerback Antwuan Reed, flagged for pass interference four times, intercepted Daniels' final throw as time expired. Pitt finished with 11 penalties for 116 yards.

The 100-yard game was just the second of the season for Lewis, who rushed for 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman a year ago. He broke three tackles on his scoring run that snapped a 10-10 tie on the first play of the fourth quarter.

USF, which had won three straight games, rushed for 153 yards, with Moise Plancher leading the way with 67 yards on 13 attempts.

The Bulls battled back from losing their first two conference games to beat Cincinnati, Rutgers and Louisville to climb back into contention for the league title with Pitt, as well as three other teams -- Syracuse, West Virginia and Connecticut -- that entered Saturday with two conference losses.

Lewis carried eight straight times, accounting all 41 yards of Pitt's 10-play, 41-yard march that Hutchins finished with a 36-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead. South Florida countered with Maikon Bonani's 35-yarder on the first play of the second quarter.

A couple of special teams gaffes cost Pitt field position that possibly could have led to scoring opportunities.

Linebacker Max Gruder was penalized for running into the kicker with USF punting from near its goal line in the second quarter. The Panthers wasted a chance to snap the 3-3 tie when Andrew Taglianetti blocked Justin Brockhaus-Kann's punt only to have Pitt's Nate Nix pick up the loose ball and then fumble it away at the USF 10 early in the third.

Pitt overcame the turnover, scoring on its next two possessions -- sandwiching Graham's 12-yard TD reception and Lewis' eighth TD of the season after Mitchell's long touchdown run on an end-around that enabled USF to briefly pull into a 10-10 tie.

The scoring play was set up by two pass interference penalties on Reed, who drew three of them trying to cover USF's leading receiver, Dontavia Bogan.