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Hutchins FG Lifts Pitt over Connecticut, 24-21

Written by: on Sunday, October 11th, 2009

PITTSBURGH — For 59 minutes and 57 seconds of Saturday’s clash at Heinz Field, the Connecticut Huskies and Pitt Panthers proved absolutely nothing as the two teams were deadlocked at 21-all.
However, in the final three seconds of the game, Panther place-kicker Dan Hutchins (Loyalsock) decided everything as he nailed a 31-yard field to give Pitt a 24-21 win over the Huskies in a Big East matchup.

“Obviously this was a great come-from-behind win for our team,” said a relieved Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. “I told the players that part (coming from behind) was outstanding and I really liked how we did it.”

The Panthers got on the board first when Hutchins drilled a career-best 42-yard field goal, but the Huskies came back to answer Hutchins’ 3-pointer and more when Marcus Easley sprinted past the Pitt secondary and quarterback Cody Endres hit him in stride for a 79-yard TD connection.

Taking the 7-3 halftime lead into the second half, the Huskies widened their advantage and it was a Pitt mistake that led to the score.

Deep in their own territory, quarterback Bill Stull went to the airways and Robert Vaughn stepped in front of Stull’s pass and took the “pick” 20 yards to the house.

The Panthers drove to the Connecticut 2-yard line on their next possession, but they had to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Hutchins.

As they had done twice before, the Huskies answered the Pitt scoring with their third touchdown of the game on Andre Dixon bulled in from the two for a 21-6 Husky lead with four minutes left before the turn for home.

With the Dixon score, the Huskies built their lead to 21-6 before the Panthers scored the final 18 points for the win.

On Pitt’s next possession following the Dixon score, Stull shook off the effects of tossing the TD toss to the wrong team as he led his troops downfield, eventually finding Jonathan Baldwin with a 26-yard strike for the score. Hutchins’ kick made it UConn 21, Pitt 13, but the Panthers weren’t finished.

Still trailing by eight points, the Panthers took over on their own 32. Ten plays later, Stull found Dorin Dickerson open and hit him with a 27-yard TD pass.

Two big plays on the march were a 21-yard reception by Nate Byham (Franklin Area) who later caught a 7-yard pass from Stull on a fourth-and-3 to give the Panthers a first down at the 27.

“How they were playing their coverage, we kept running draws on them,” explained Byham. “They kept splitting and dropping (into coverage), we saw the weakness in the middle of their defense that opened like a window and we were able to take advantage of it.”

On the next play following Byham‘s second catch, Stull hit Dickerson with the big aerial connection.

Electing to go for the tie, Stull was again on target with Cedric McGee for the 2-point conversion and that led to the dramatic finish by the Panthers.

Following another strong stand by the Pitt defense, the Panthers marched downfield until they were faced with a fourth-and-goal from the Husky 3-yard line. That is when Wannstedt called on Hutchins and the Panther junior responded with an 18-yard field goal to set the final.

“We know it starts up front (with the offensive line) and we can’t win a game without the line moving people out so that we can run the ball,” Byham said. “If we don’t do that today, we don’t have an opportunity to win the game. It was “gut” check time for us and we didn’t want to lose this one. We know we can play a whole lot better than we did tonight, but the important thing is that we got the win.”

Wannstedt agreed with Byham about the line play down the stretch.

“I thought in the second half we came back out and reestablished our identity from the standpoint that we played physical on the offensive line,” he said. “With that, we started running the ball with good success and defensively, we stepped up and made some big plays. The disappointing thing is that we have not played as good as we can for a whole game. We gave up a score on a defensive mistake, we got faked out on a play and we left a couple of touchdowns on the field of our own. But with a great effort from our guys, we were able to overcome that and win the game.”

With the win, the Panthers improve to 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big East, while the loss drops the Huskies to 3-2 against all foes, 0-1 in conference play.

Game Notes: The 15-point comeback was the largest comeback under head coach Wannstedt…..Pitt’s 489 yards of total offense was a season high. The previous high was last week with 404 yards in the win over Louisville…..With 158 rushing yards, freshman tailback Dion Lewis registered his third 100-yard rushing game of the season. Lewis had run for 129 against the Youngstown Penguins and for 190 against Buffalo…..Wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin caught eight balls for 104 yards and one touchdown, giving him his third 100-yard receiving game of the season. His eight receptions also marked a career high for the sophomore wideout.

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