Playing with the hopes of reaching a bowl game, the Pitt Panthers sure didn’t act like it.
The Panthers showed no signs of being a desperate team until it was too late, nor did they play like the team that took No. 3 Notre Dame into triple-overtime six days ago.
Instead the Panthers looked flat and the results reflected that, as the Connecticut Huskies handed Pitt their sixth loss of the season, 24-17.
With the loss, Pitt (4-6, 1-4 Big East) will have to beat both Rutgers (home) and South Florida (away) to become bowl eligible.
The Huskies scored the game’s first 24 points beginning on their opening drive, which lasted 11 plays and took 6:29 off the clock. UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer capped off the 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Griffin.
A field goal from Chad Christen gave the Huskies a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and then the UConn (4-6, 1-4) special teams delivered the back-breaker early in the second when Nick Williams took a punt back 80 yards for a score to make it 17-0.
UConn’s Lyle McCombs had good success on the ground against the Panthers, rushing for 120 yards on 29 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run before the half to give the Huskies more than they would need on the night.
The Panthers got on the board in the third quarter with a Kevin Harper 42-yard field goal in the third quarter and then the Pitt offense finally got going in the fourth.
Ray Graham (41 yards) and Rushel Shell (23 yards) were pretty much held in check on the night, but quarterback Tino Sunseri got the Panthers moving in the second half.
The senior signal-caller missed some open deep throws in the first half that could have got the Panthers on the board, but ended up throwing for 302 yards and a pair of scores, although a lot of that came in garbage time with the Huskies already holding a big lead.
He hit Drew Carswell with an 11-yard scoring pass to cut the U Conn lead to 24-10 and found Mike Shanahan with an 18-yard touchdown with a little over two minutes remaining to pull Pitt within a score.
But Panthers head coach Paul Chryst elected to kick the ball deep instead of trying for the onside kick and the Huskies were able to run out the clock to end the ballgame.