Sure, it was only the second game, but Pitt's football team reached a turning point with its home…
Pitt 54, Buffalo 27
Stull looked nearly perfect, at times, as he teamed up Dickerson early and often. Stull was 21-for-30 for 172 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran in from three yards out to give the Panthers a 34-14 lead late in the second quarter. But it was his throws to Dickerson that were special.
"They're a well-disciplined defense, and we earned everything that we got today,'' Stull said. "It was just one of those days when the offense was clicking, and we felt really good about ourselves. If we put up points like that, we obviously increase our chance of winning the game.''
Dickerson finished with a career- and team-high 71 yards on eight receptions. His three receiving touchdowns were the most since wideout Greg Lee did it in a 2004 game against South Florida. Getting the ball to Dickerson wasn't the game plan heading into Buffalo.
However, the Panthers and Stull quickly learned to take advantage of Dickerson's matchups against the Bulls. His three scores matched his career totals. Dickerson also had a touchdown catch last week.
"I felt like the whole day they couldn't catch me,'' Dickerson said. "The pace of the game was slow for me, so I just went out there and made plays. We go over our plays all the time. He tells me what he's going to be doing and I tell him what I'm going to be doing. It's definitely good chemistry.''
Buffalo (1-1), playing its first home game since winning the Mid-American Conference title last season, got four touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Zach Maynard, who threw for 400 yards in his first home start.
Maynard completed 24 of 35 attempts and connected with wideout Naaman Roosevelt on scoring plays for 67 and 54 yards. He also had touchdowns for 24 yards to tight end Jesse Rack and 12 yards to running back Brandon Thermilus.
But four Buffalo turnovers led to 27 Pittsburgh points. Mario Henry fumbled twice, and Maynard lost the ball on a pitch, which Pitt redshirt sophomore strong-side linebacker Greg Williams returned 50 yards for a score.
"I was a little tired, so I kept looking back and forth,'' Williams said. "I was running for my life.''
Down 40-27 in the fourth, Maynard had the Bulls driving in hopes of a comeback. But on the Panthers' 14-yard line on second-and-four, Pitt sixth-year senior middle linebacker Adam Gunn sacked Maynard for a six-yard loss and his next two passes were incomplete.
"We were happy with the win, but we were very disappointed with the way we played,'' Gunn said. "We're a team that prides itself on being a strong defense and holding teams to very few points, and today we didn't do that.''
Maynard also was intercepted late in the fourth quarter by redshirt junior safety Elijah Fields, who returned the ball to the Buffalo 2. Freshman backup tailback Ray Graham scored on a two-yard run for Pitt's final points. Fields played extensively because starter Andrew Taglianetti, suffered a first-half left knee sprain. The severity is not known. An MRI will be done after Pitt returns home.
Though Buffalo had 500 yards of total offense, only 67 came on the ground, while the Panthers rushed for 209 yards. Pitt was a perfect 5-for-5 in the red zone, but also had 11 penalties for 119 yards that kept the game closer than it should have been.
Pitt's defensive struggles were in the secondary, where they left receivers open and were unable to make tackles. The Bulls had receiving touchdowns of 24, 54 and 67 yards from Maynard, and Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt praised his opposition for it.
"We missed some tackles, but I'm going to give them credit,'' he said. "No. 18 (Roosevelt) and No. 88 (Brett Hamlin), I'd love to have both those guys. They're both playmakers, winners have got ability.''
Roosevelt and Hamlin finished with 157 and 149 receiving yards, respectively.
The defense started to turn things around when Fields replaced sophomore Taglianetti late in the second. Junior safety Dom DeCicco led the Panthers defense with 12 tackles. He also forced one of three fumbles.
Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mick Williams forced one of the other fumbles in the third quarter, which Greg Williams returned for the score to give Pitt a 40-20 lead. Gunn was second on the Panthers with 11 tackles and three sacks.
"We can't come out there and play like that every week and expect to win games,'' said DeCicco, who missed a tackle on the 67-yard scoring play. "We definitely have some work to do in the secondary.''
With the win, the Panthers improve to 27-3 against MAC opponents, including a win against Buffalo last year at Heinz Field. The losses were at home to Bowling Green last year and on the road against Toledo and Ohio University.
"Overall it was a good win against a very good football team, on the road, and now we get ready for No. 3,'' Wannstedt said.
The Panthers take on Navy, a team they beat in Annapolis, Md. last year, Saturday at 6 p.m. at Heinz Field at home on Saturday.
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