At one point during the second half, Bill Stull completed 11 straight passes to finish 22-for-33 for 241 yards. His only interception was on a desperation play at the end of the first half. Sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy also had a big second half and had 93 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Pittsburgh.
"Billy was better, and I thought the protection was better,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Our receivers played with more energy than they did last week, and we were more precise. But let's not kid ourselves. We've still got a lot of work to do. Normally, I'm not excited about bye weeks this early in the year, but I'm excited about this bye week.''
Pitt (1-1) does not play again until a Sept. 20 game with Iowa at Heinz Field. The time will be determined sometime Monday. Until then, the Panthers will work on fundamentals, Wannstedt said.
"We have to go out and practice and get better as a team,'' Wannstedt said.
Offensively, Pitt mixed things up much better this week and tallied 352 total yards. Stull hit seven different receivers, including junior T.J. Porter six times for 57 yards after he didn't have any catches last week. Oderick Turner added five catches for 69 yards with a 36-yarder that set up a score.
"Coach Cav called a great game, and we executed much better,'' Stull said. "And our offensive line, what a great job they did. There wasn't a lot of pressure, and we were able to move the ball around quite a bit. The receivers ran solid routes and held onto the ball.''
Stull's precision was never more evident than in the early part of the second half. Leading 10-9 at halftime, Stull drove Pitt to touchdown drives on two of its first three second-half possessions. He connected with Turner for 15 yards and McCoy for 24. Tight end Nate Byham hauled in a five-yard pass and plowed ahead for a first down on third-and-five to the 6. McCoy scored two runs later.
A sack stopped the second drive, but Stull and Pitt came right back after that -- and after a Buffalo score had cut the Panthers lead to 17-16 -- with a 10-play, 74-yard drive in 4:39. Cedric McGee made a spectacular one-handed grab for 10 yards. McCoy ran for 18 and 11 yards to the 2 and capped the drive with his third touchdown run. But McGee's catch was unbelievable, as Stull threw it high, wide and behind him. McGee still pulled it in.
"We talked about it after the game,'' McGee said. "We want to hurry home to see if it made ESPN's Sports Center. Maybe it'll be on.''
Pitt had another excellent drive, as Stull hit Turner for a 36-yard gain, and Dorin Dickerson ran for nine yards on a reverse and caught a short pass for seven yards. But two incomplete passes on second-and-short forced Conor Lee to kick a 42-yard field goal with 3:31 remaining to set the final score.
Gus Mustakas sacked Buffalo quarterback Drew Willy to force a third-and-long play, and Eric Thatcher intercepted Willy to end the Bulls' final threat. Willy had an NCAA-best 284 straight attempts without throwing a pick before that.
The Pitt offense couldn't find a rhythm in the first half and actually trailed 6-0 after one quarter. Buffalo had a 44-yard field goal attempt blocked by Tommie Duhart at the end of its first series, but drove 73 yards in 15 plays and 6:54 during its second possession.
Running back James Starks carried seven times for 30 yards and finished with 97 on 20 carries. Willy connected with Ernest Jackson for 11 to keep things going and rammed ahead for a first down on fourth-and-one. On first-and-goal from the 1, Brandon Thermilus plowed in for the score.
Pitt took advantage of a personal foul penalty to keep its ensuing possession alive. Stull then connected with McGee for nine yards, Derek Kinder for 15 and Byham for 15 to get to the 3. McCoy capped the eight-play, 67-yard drive with a three-yard scoring run. The possession lasted 3:29.
The Panthers followed that with an even longer drive, 14 plays and 69 yards in 6:08, but a false start penalty thwarted the drive after Pitt had a first down at the 7. LaRod Stephens-Howling was in the entire series, but it was Stull's passing -- 14 yards twice to Porter -- and his 11-yard scramble to the 7 to get Pitt close. However, two incompletions and a short pass left the Panthers with a fourth down at the 4. And Lee kicked a 21-yard field goal.
Notes: Mick Williams (left ankle sprain) played sparingly, but Gus Mustakas had more snaps than last week and played pretty well. ... Scott McKillop led Pitt with 15 tackles, including nine solo. ... The attendance was 42,494.