PITTSBURGH (AP) -- With a victory at nationally ranked Virginia
Tech just behind them and Miami ahead, this was a perfect time for
a letdown by the Pitt Panthers.
Terrence Stubbs and Temple made life tough for Pitt, which pulled it out late.
A letdown, perhaps, but not a loss.
Claude Harriott scored the deciding touchdown on an 11-yard
fumble return early in the fourth quarter and Pittsburgh (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) set
up two other touchdowns with big defensive plays to hold off
stubborn Temple 29-22 Saturday.
Rod Rutherford threw for two touchdowns and ran for another even
as Pitt mounted only one sustained drive against a Temple defense
that held the Panthers to minus yards rushing until late in the
The Panthers (8-2, 5-0 in Big East), nationally ranked for the
first time in 11 years, overcame a 16-7 deficit, a 341-189 Temple
yardage advantage and five field goals by Cap Poklemba to win for
the 14th time in 16 games dating to last season.
Pitt is assured its first eight-win season since 1989 and has
won 22 games the last three seasons under coach Walt Harris -- the
most in a three-year span since 1987-89.
"The eighth win is exciting, but I don't think we're done,''
Harris said. "Nine wins look better, and that's the next step.''
Up next is a Nov. 21 game at No. 2 Miami that most likely will
decide the Big East championship, with rival West Virginia
following on Nov. 30.
"We were 2-9 my first year here (in 1998), so winning eight
games and playing for the Big East means a lot to me,'' said Brian
Beinecke, who tormented Temple all day by making 15 tackles -- seven
Temple (3-7, 1-4) threatened for the second time in three games
to upset a ranked opponent -- the Owls lost 20-10 to Virginia Tech
on Oct. 26 -- but couldn't score coax another touchdown out of its
no-huddle spread offense after Tanardo Sharps' 5-yard run on its
The Owls committed four turnovers, all in the second half.
"We executed well, but we need to find ways to win,'' Temple
coach Bobby Wallace said. "The turnovers were the biggest
difference in the game and we didn't recover the fumbles.''
As well as Temple's defense played in limiting Rutherford, the
Big East total yardage leader, to 125 yards passing and 24 rushing,
the Owls couldn't overcome a succession of mistakes.
The first came when Shawntae Spencer partially blocked Garvin
Ringwelski's punt, which traveled only 16 yards to give Pitt
excellent field position at the Temple 32. Rutherford then hit
Larry Fitzgerald for 18 yards and tight end Kris Wilson for 14
yards on successive plays to tie it at 7.
Still, Pitt didn't take the lead until Rutherford's 1-yard sneak
and his 2-point conversion pass to Kris Wilson midway through the
third quarter made it 22-19. Vince Crochunis scooped up a Mike
McGann fumble caused by Beinecke and returned it to the Temple 11
ahead of the score.
Poklemba's fifth field goal tied it at 22, but McGann fumbled
again under a heavy rush and Harriott carried it into the end zone
with 12:32 remaining. Harriott has forced seven fumbles this
season, but the touchdown return was his first.
"I came clean up the middle and I tried to tomahawk the ball,''
said linebacker Brian Guzek, who forced the fumble. "I started
cheering when Claude picked it up because I knew he would score.''
Pitt forced two more turnovers later in the quarter, a fumble
and a McGann interception as Temple's record against ranked
opponents dropped to 1-39 since the Big East football play began in
Poklemba, who set a Big East record with his five field goals,
put Temple up 16-7 with kicks of 41, 23, and 33 yards after the
Sharps touchdown. But Pitt's offense responded with its only
sustained drive as Rutherford hit Roosevelt Bynes for 30 yards and
Lamar Slade for 20 ahead of a 4-yard score to Fitzgerald, who made
a leaping catch over defensive back Terrance Leftwich on a fade
The scoring catch was the fourth in two games for Fitzgerald,
who made three in a 28-22 upset of then-No. 3 Virginia Tech last
Pitt is 5-0 in the Big East for the first time and has won nine
straight in the conference since a 45-7 loss to Boston College last
During the game, Pitt honored former star Dan Marino for his
election to college football's Hall of Fame.