SALT LAKE CITY (Sports Network) - Joe Phillips kicked a 21-yard field goal in overtime, as the Utah Utes edged the 15th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers, 27-24, in a non-conference showdown at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
After Pittsburgh (0-1) rallied to send the game into overtime, the Panthers got the ball first in extra time. On the first play, Tino Sunseri was picked off by Brian Blechen.
Needing just a field goal to win, Utah (1-0) took its turn with the ball in OT. Following six rushing plays, the Utes were set up at the four. Phillips split the uprights to give Utah its 18th consecutive victory at home.
"I think everyone got their money's worth. I'm proud of how our defense played in some bad situations. They gave up a few things but were able to recover and get the win," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We made mistakes, like three turnovers, a blocked punt which is like a turnover, plus inefficiency in the red zone. So we will be able to use the film as an effective teaching tool."
Jordan Wynn completed 21-of-36 passes for 283 yards, three touchdowns, and a pick for the Utes, who are coming off a 10-3 season in 2009.
DeVonte Christopher hauled in eight passes for 155 yards and one score. Jereme Brooks caught five passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
Sunseri connected on 16-of-28 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown for the Panthers, who went 10-3 last year.
Dion Lewis carried the ball 25 times for 75 yards and a touchdown. Jon Baldwin caught four passes for 71 yards and a score in defeat.
Trailing 17-7 midway through the third quarter, Pittsburgh blocked a punt and recovered the ball at the eight. The Panthers, though, lost five yards on three plays before settling for a 37-yard Dan Hutchins field goal.
Pittsburgh bridged the third and fourth frames with an impressive 15-play drive. Faced with a 4th-and-1 from the Utah five, Sunseri picked up the first down on a QB sneak. Lewis lost two yards on first down and an incomplete pass led to a 3rd-and-goal from the six. The intensity of the crowd led to a delay of game call on the Panthers. Heavy pressure led to Sunseri being tackled for no gain. Hutchins connected on a 28-yarder to make it 17-13 with under 10 minutes remaining.
Utah responded with a quick four-play drive, which Christopher capped off with a 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown to make it 24-13.
The Panthers showed some quick strike ability on their ensuing possession. On the third play, Baldwin beat his man down the right side of the field and Sunseri hit him for a 44-yard TD. A successful two-point conversion cut the gap to 24-21 with over seven minutes to go.
Pittsburgh's defense did its job and gave the offense the ball back at the 50 with 2:39 to play. A 19-yard reception by Mike Shanahan helped the Panthers get into field goal range.
Hutchins came on the field to attempt the game-tying field goal. His kick went through the uprights, but Whittingham called time just before the snap. Hutchins missed wide left on his second attempt, which seemed to end the game. However, Whittingham called time prior to the kick to force a third try. Hutchins was on target from 30 yards out to send the game into overtime.
"As tough as it was to lose that game by that score, we didn't play well enough to win," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "(We made) too many mistakes. Our guys will fight hard. We just need to play more consistent."
The Utes fumbled on their first possession of the game. Shaky Smithson caught a five-yard pass before coughing up the ball at the Utah 38. Pittsburgh failed to take advantage with Hutchins missing a 42-yard field goal.
Following a scoreless first quarter, the Panthers punted the ball away to start the second. Smithson, though, muffed the punt and Pittsburgh recovered the ball at the Utah 28. Lewis capped a five-play drive with a three-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead.
The Utes fought right back with an 11-play, 80-yard scoring march. Wynn found Brooks wide open in the middle of the end zone for a 19-yard score.
The Panthers fumbled the ball away on the ensuing kickoff. Utah took advantage with Brooks' three-yard TD catch for a 14-7 margin with about 5 1/2 minutes to go until half.
After Pittsburgh went three-and-out, Utah drove down the field in hopes of extending its lead. Faced with a 3rd-and-goal from the seven, Wynn was picked off in the end zone by Jarred Holley. The score remained 14-7 heading into the locker room.
Utah marched down the field with its opening possession of the second half. On the 10th play of the march, Phillips made a 26-yard field goal to give the Utes a 17-7 margin.