PITTSBURGH (AP) Jon Baldwin caught a 45-yard touchdown pass and set up two other scores with difficult catches, Tino Sunseri threw for three touchdowns and Pittsburgh overcome a series of first-half mistakes to beat Rutgers 41-21 on Saturday.
Rutgers (4-3, 1-1 in Big East) played a week after defensive lineman Eric LeGrand became paralyzed from the neck down while making a tackle against Army. His prognosis for recovery from a spinal cord injury is uncertain, and a trust fund already has been established to provide support for his care.
Dion Lewis, the nation’s leading returning rusher after gaining 1,799 yards last season, gained 130 yards on 17 carries and ran for a touchdown during his first 100-yard game this season. Sunseri was 21 of 27 for a career-high 307 yards and now has seven touchdown passes as Pitt (4-3, 2-0) has easily won its first two Big East games.
To honor LeGrand, Rutgers players wore the word “Believe” on their helmets, and the school still lists him on its player roster. Pitt players and students signed a large banner wishing him well that was displayed in the end zone.
Many fans wore stickers bearing Rutgers’ logo and the message “Pitt Is Pulling For Eric.”
The Scarlet Knights, aware that winning a difficult road game victory might be the best way to cheer up their injured teammate, turned a Sunseri-thrown interception into a touchdown early in the game and later blocked a punt for a touchdown that made it 14-all at the half.
About then, the two touchdown-underdog Knights – playing with visible emotion – looked ready to pull off an upset.
But, unable to run much of their wildcat offense due to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu’s foot injury, the Knights repeatedly failed to move the ball while being oustcored 27-7 during the second half.
Sanu, Rutgers’ leading rusher coming in, carried only once for 1 yard as Pitt outgained the Scarlet Knights 513-203.
Rutgers freshman quarterback Chas Dodd, who directed a pair of fourth-quarter comeback victories after becoming the starter, went 8 of 19 for 62 yards and an interception.
With Rutgers unable to move the ball, Dan Hutchins kicked field goals of 18 and 34 yards before Sunseri connected with Baldwin on their 45-yard touchdown with 12:34 remaining, making it 34-14.
Baldwin ended with five catches for 139 yards, including a one-handed reception for 23 yards between two defenders to the Rutgers 2 that led to the first of Hutchins’ two field goals.
Baldwin, limited to one catch during a 45-14 victory at Syracuse the week before, also outjumped two defenders on a 46-yard catch to the Rutgers 13 near the midpoint of the second quarter. Ray Graham ran it in on the next play to put Pitt ahead 14-7.
Rutgers’ Brandon Bing fell on a Dan Hutchins punt that was blocked by Wayne Warren for a touchdown late in the first half, but Pitt came back to recover Jordan Thomas’ fumble on Rutgers’ second play from scrimmage in the second half. Max Gruder recovered at the 43, and Sunseri threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Mike Cruz seven plays later that put Pitt ahead to stay at 21-14.
Sunseri also found Cruz on a 3-yard scoring pass play.
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