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Pitt crushes No. 21 Rutgers 27-6

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Pitt crushes No. 21 Rutgers 27-6

PITTSBURGH (AP) Tino Sunseri passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns in his final home game as Pittsburgh overwhelmed No. 21 Rutgers 27-6 on Saturday.

Ray Graham ran for 113 yards and a score for the Panthers (5-6, 2-4 Big East), who kept their hopes for bowl eligibility alive while drumming the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers (9-2, 5-1) will still play No. 19 Louisville on Thursday with a Bowl Championship Series berth on the line, though the Scarlet Knights head home with little momentum after the Panthers dominated in their last game Heinz Field as a member of the Big East, racing to a 21-0 halftime lead and coasting.

Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova passed for 157 yards with a touchdown and an interception but the Scarlet Knights were never in it on a day the Panthers played like the team with everything on the line.

The Scarlet Knights came in the Big East's biggest surprise, rising to the cusp of the school's first Big East title despite losing program architect Greg Schiano to the NFL last winter. First-year coach Kyle Flood stressed his team would not be distracted by an eventful week in which the program announced it was heading to the Big Ten in 2014.

The Scarlet Knights certainly appeared to have their minds on other things on a raw, windy day that made passing hazardous, at least for Rutgers.

Nova was under duress most of the afternoon and left briefly in the first half after getting slammed onto his right (throwing) shoulder. He returned to complete 18 of 37 passes, most of them coming in the second half with the Scarlet Knights in full-out desperation mode.

There were no such problems for the Panthers, who have been an enigma in coach Paul Chryst's first season, haphazardly alternating good and bad performances regardless of the quality of the opponent.

Pitt outgained Rutgers 365-206 and did whatever it wanted against one of the nation's best defenses to beat a ranked opponent for the second time this season.

The Panthers have alternated two-game losing streaks and two-game winning streaks all fall, leading Chryst to joke he hoped the pattern would continue over the final two weeks, allowing the Panthers to become bowl eligible for a fifth straight season.

It shouldn't be an issue if Pitt can take the intensity it showed during an emotional Senior Day to South Florida next week.

Chryst began the afternoon hugging each of the 18 seniors during pregame introductions, a sign how of hard he's worked to restore a sense of trust between the players and the program after Pitt went through four coaches in a span of 14 months, culminating with Chryst's hiring in January.

The seniors believe Pitt is heading in the right direction, and then went out and showed it by having little trouble with the Scarlet Knights in the final game between the two teams for the foreseeable future with Pitt heading to the ACC next fall.

The Panthers took control during a dominant second quarter. Sunseri hit Mike Shanahan for a 16-yard touchdown to give Pitt the lead, and Rutgers never responded.

The Scarlet Knights had the ball eight times in the first half, and punted eight times. Nova never got comfortable in the blustery conditions and Pitt swarmed whichever Rutgers back happened to carry the ball.

Pitt moved in front 14-0 on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Graham before the Panthers showed just how far they've come under Chryst's direction during a flawless 2-minute drill late in the half.

Taking over at the Pitt 45 with 1:19 to go, Sunseri directed the Panthers 55 yards in nine plays, the final one a perfect strike to Ed Tinker from 13 yards out that put the Panthers up 21-0 at the break.

Kevin Harper tacked on a 39-yard field goal early in the third quarter to make it 24-0. Rutgers finally got on board on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Nova to Brandon Coleman late in the third quarter but the 2-point conversion failed and Rutgers never threatened to make it interesting.

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

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Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.