EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut coach Randy Edsall gambled on a key fourth down deep in his own territory and now every team in the Big East race other than Pittsburgh looks like a winner.
Jordan Todman, who rushed for 222 yards, converted the fourth-and-1 with a 4-yard run from UConn’s 19 with 2½ minutes left, and the Huskies hung on to beat the league-leading Panthers 30-28 on Thursday.
“I knew I’m not going to let anybody stop me,” said Todman, who put his head down and broke through the line for a 4-yard gain. “I had confidence in my offensive line and knew they were going to get a push and all I had to do was run hard.”
Pittsburgh (5-4, 3-1) had a two-game conference lead coming in, and was looking to become the first Big East team to become bowl eligible.
“It’s very disappointing,” Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham said. “Every time in the meeting room we preach Big East and Big East championship. We didn’t come out here to lose.”
But the Panthers, who had been giving up just under 94 yards a game on the ground, could not stop Todman. The junior had 102 yards rushing at halftime and moved into third place on the school’s all-time rushing list and had career highs in carries (37) and yards.
“The thing that’s impressive, he’s running between the tackles, he’s running outside, he’s doing it all,” said Edsall.
Jon Baldwin caught a 20-yard TD pass with 4:35 left to get the Panthers within two. It was initially ruled incomplete, but the call was overturned when a replay showed he dragged a foot in the back of the end zone.
Pittsburgh’s defense then appeared to hold, before Edsall decided he wasn’t go to let the team go three and out.
“I looked into the eyes of the offensive lineman and in the eyes of (Todman), and I knew they would find a way to get the first down,” he said.
Dion Lewis ran for 77 yards and Ray Graham added 75 for the Panthers. But Graham fumbled a kickoff that set up the Huskies’ final touchdown.
With UConn trailing 21-20 in the fourth quarter, Todman broke off a 31-yard counter play that set up Dave Teggart’s 25-yard field goal, his third of the day.
Graham was stripped on the return by Anthony Sherman, and two plays later, Zach Frazer found Isiah Moore from 14 yards out to put the Huskies up 30-21.
Frazer, was just 9 of 20 on the day for 100 yards with an interception, but threw for two scores.
The Huskies ran for 249 yards, all but 27 with Todman.
“I thought they pushed us around and we missed some tackles,” said Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. “Two or three times we had a chance to put him on the ground and we didn’t. He played extremely well, he’s the best back we’ve faced all year.”
Pittsburgh’s Tino Sunseri completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. But he had two first-half interceptions, both of which stopped long drives.
The Panthers appeared to be in control in the third quarter after consecutive touchdowns from Lewis and Graham made it 21-13.
The Huskies answered Graham’s score on the kickoff, which Nick Williams took at the 5-yard line, cut right and ran 95 yards for a touchdown.
Pittsburgh started quickly. Jarred Holley picked off a flea-flicker on the game’s first play, and the Panthers needed just five more plays to score. Lewis took a screen pass 31 yards, and scored the touchdown on a 4-yard run.
Connecticut responded with an 11-play, 83 yard drive. Frazer hit Kashif Moore on a crossing pattern and Moore reached the ball just over the pylon for a 36-yard touchdown.
UConn, which beat West Virginia a week ago in overtime, is now one game from being bowl eligible, and is back in the race for the conference championship.
The Panthers finish the season with games at South Florida and Cincinnati, with the annual Backyard Brawl with West Virginia sandwiched between them.
The Huskies, who came in averaging just over 13 points per game in Big East play, are now 5-0 at home his year and are 3-1 against the Panthers at Rentschler field.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
- UConn Beats West Virginia In OT (newyork.cbslocal.com)