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Rutgers vs. Pitt score: Panthers defense fantastic in first half

Before a sparse crowd on a cold day at Heinz Field, the Pitt defense is quietly dominating a ranked Rutgers team, and the Panthers lead 21-0.

The first quarter featured one three-and-out after another, the kind of game where gaining a marginal edge in field position feels like a grand victory. Just before the end of the quarter, though, Tino Sunseri and company finally began to put some first downs together, culminating with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Mike Shanahan at the beginning of the second quarter.

As the second quarter continued, the Rutgers offense didn't improve, and Pitt gained a big advantage in the field position battle, giving the offense great field position. Finally, midway through the quarter, Justin Doerner made a poor punt from inside Rutgers' 10-yard line, and the Panthers ended up with the ball at Rutgers' 36. The Panthers fumbled near the goal line on a botched handoff, but they forced the Scarlet Knights to punt from inside their own 10 yet again, and Doerner didn't do any better. The Panthers got the ball back at Rutgers' 29, and soon, Ray Graham scored a one-yard touchdown to make it 14-0. Then, just before the end of the half, Sunseri completed a touchdown pass to Ed Tinker to put Pitt up three touchdowns.

Pitt's offense got the job done (and Sunseri was tremendous, throwing for 203 yards and two scores), but its defense's performance has been spectacular. It has held Rutgers to just 50 total yards, including 13 through the air. It has also stopped Rutgers on all eight third-down conversion opportunities. Rutgers certainly doesn't look like a team that has a BCS bowl berth on the line.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.