Kevin Jones easily won the matchup of the Big East’s two premier offensive players. Larry Fitzgerald won what counted: the game.
Lousaka Polite finished a score-or-else 70-yard Pittsburgh drive -- highlighted by Fitzgerald’s three catches -- with a two-yard touchdown run with 47 seconds remaining, rallying the No. 25 Panthers past No. 5 Virginia Tech, 31-28, Saturday night in a Big East Conference game at Pittsburgh.
Playing its first ranked opponent, Pitt defeated the No. 5 Hokies a year after upsetting them, 28-21, in Blacksburg, Va., when they were ranked third and unbeaten.
“I’m thankful we have a lot of great football players who wouldn’t quit when things got bleak,” Panther Coach Walt Harris said.
Pitt, which also beat the Hokies two years ago in Pittsburgh, led 24-14 late in the third quarter, only to fall behind, 28-24, as Jones scored on runs of 80 and 13 yards barely two minutes apart. Jones scored all four Tech touchdowns and ran for a school-record 241 yards.
With the Hokies (7-2, 3-2 Big East) in position to close it out, Marcus Vick threw incomplete on fourth and four from the Panther 30 with 4:10 remaining.
Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford, who was 24 of 31 for 303 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score, then directed the winning drive that kept the Panthers (7-2, 4-0) as the only unbeaten team in Big East play. Rutherford’s 12-yard scramble to the 18 might have been the biggest play on the drive.
“They had big time players who made big time plays on that final drive,” Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said.
Fitzgerald, quiet most of the second half, made three catches for 49 yards on the drive. Fitzgerald finished with eight catches for 108 yards and a 5-yard touchdown that extended his NCAA record to 15 consecutive games with a scoring reception.
In other games involving Big East teams:
Backup quarterback Charles Hales threw three touchdown passes, Adam Jones scored on two returns and West Virginia (5-4, 3-1) rallied from a 14-0 deficit to score a 35-28 victory over Boston College (5-5, 1-4) at Boston.... Cornell Brockington scored from a yard out with 26 seconds left to lift Connecticut (8-3) to a 38-31 nonconference victory over Rutgers (4-5) at East Hartford, Conn.... R.J. Anderson ran for one touchdown and threw for another and Walter Reyes scored twice on short runs to lead Syracuse (5-2, 2-2) past Temple, 41-17, at Syracuse, N.Y. The Owls are 1-8, 0-4.
Ronnie McGill ran for 244 yards and three touchdowns to help North Carolina (2-8, 1-5) snap a school-record 10-game home losing streak with a 42-34 victory over Wake Forest (5-5, 3-4) at Chapel Hill, N.C.... Chris Douglas ran for a career-high 218 yards and two scores as Duke (3-7, 1-5) ended a four-year ACC losing streak with a 41-17 victory over Georgia Tech (5-4, 3-3) at Durham, N.C.
Michael Turner ran for 163 yards and Josh Haldi threw three touchdown passes, leading No. 23 Northern Illinois (9-1, 5-1 Mid-American Conference) to a 40-9 victory over Buffalo (1-10, 1-6) at Amherst, N.Y.... North Texas (7-3, 5-0 Sun Belt) held off a Louisiana Monroe (1-9, 1-4) rally and defeated the Indians, 28-26, at Monroe, La.... J.P. Losman threw three touchdown passes as Tulane (4-6, 2-4 Conference USA) rolled to a 38-24 victory over Alabama Birmingham (4-6, 3-3) at Birmingham, Ala.
Tulsa (6-4, 4-2) became bowl eligible with a 31-28 victory over Rice (2-7, 2-3) at Houston.... Dustin Almond threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns as Southern Mississippi (6-3, 5-0 Conference USA) defeated Houston, 31-10, at Houston. The Cougars are 5-4, 2-3.
Joey Ashcroft hit three field goals and Marchello Graddy recovered three fumbles, leading Air Force (7-3) to a 31-3 victory over Army (0-10) at Air Force, Academy, Colo.... Paul Pinegar passed for 184 yards and a touchdown as Fresno State (6-4, 4-2 Western Athletic) rolled to a 27-10 victory over Nevada (5-5, 3-3) at Reno.... Quarterback Adam Hall threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter to lead San Diego State (5-5, 2-3 Mountain West) past Nevada Las Vegas, 7-0, at Las Vegas. The Rebels are 5-5, 1-4.... Quarterback Chris Peterson threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Joey Warren in the third quarter to help rally Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (6-3) to an 18-14 victory over UC Davis (5-3) at Davis, Calif.