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McCoy runs wild as Pitt stuns South Florida

Oct 3, 2008 - 5:07 AM TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- LeSean McCoy dashed any hopes 10th-ranked South Florida had of running the table in the Big East.

McCoy ran for 142 yards and two scores - including the game-winner with 4:43 left - as Pittsburgh stunned South Florida, 26-21, on Thursday.

Bill Stull completed 16-of-27 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers (4-1, 2-0 Big East), who won for the first time in three meetings with South Florida.

Matt Grothe struggled through his worst game of the season, completing 11-of-22 passes for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception for the Bulls, who could not hold onto a late lead.

Jessie Hester hauled in a TD pass for South Florida (5-1, 0-1 Big East), which dropped its conference opener and lost for the first time in nine regular-season games.

"Nobody has gone undefeated through the Big East since we have entered the league (in 2005), and we have to find a way to put this behind us, move forward and get ready to play," South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said.

McCoy played a big role in helping the Panthers improve to 3-0 in their last three games against ranked opponents. The 5-11, 210-pound sophomore, who carried 28 times, raced around the left side for the decisive score almost immediately after Grothe's 22-yard TD pass to Hester put the Bulls ahead.

"The coaches have been so patient with me," McCoy said. "It kind of took me a little bit to get going, I think. All the big-time players have got to keep swinging. Coach has been telling me that. I think I'll get better with the more carries I get."

McCoy's scamper capped a three-play, 60-yard drive that was aided by an illegal procedure penalty when South Florida's kickoff bounced out of bounds, giving Pitt the ball at its own 40.

"I really can't explain it, the character, the heart of these guys," Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said. "We just kept coming back and coming back. And then when they score and get the momentum, and then we get down and score in three plays.

"I told them in our locker room, the encouraging thing is, it's a great win, but we're going to play a couple games clean, and when that happens, we can improve. We've got a lot of room to get better."

Prior to McCoy's run, Grothe gave the Bulls a 21-20 lead with 9:40 remaining when he capped a nine-play, 86-yard drive with his toss to Hester.

The Panthers responded after benefiting from the errant kickoff. Stull, who tossed a 52-yard TD in the first half, hit Oderick Turner for 38 yards. McCoy followed with a 19-yard run and, one play later, pranced into the end zone for the game-winner.

Pittsburgh attempted the two-point conversion, but Stull had the ball slip out of his hands and had to fall on it. A good kickoff return gave South Florida the ball on its own 35, but it was forced to punt after Grothe was called for intentional grounding on 3rd-and-3.

McCoy converted a huge 3rd-and-9 with a 12-yard run, which forced South Florida to use its last timeout later in the drive. After a punt, the Bulls only had time for a "Hail Mary," which fell harmlessly to the ground at the 5-yard line.

"We had a little bit of momentum there, but in the end, we did not play very disciplined defense, and they outplayed us," Leavitt said. "We just did not get it done."

South Florida, which managed just 79 yards in the first half, took an early 7-0 lead when Charlton Sinclair returned a blocked punt 26 yards for a touchdown with 8:07 left in the first.

However, the Panthers jumped to a 14-7 lead behind a six-yard run by McCoy and Stull's toss to Jonathan Baldwin. Conor Lee's 35-yard field goal made it 17-7 at the half.

"We just made a lot of mistakes," Leavitt said. "We were fortunate to be in that game that close, to be quite honest with you, with all the mistakes we made in this game."