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Panthers Drop Heartbreaker at Iowa, 31-27

Devin Street celebrates a touchdown reception. (AP Photo)

Devin Street celebrates a touchdown reception. (AP Photo)

Sept. 17, 2011

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg engineered the biggest comeback in Hawkeyes' history Saturday in a 31-27 defeat of Pittsburgh.

Vandenberg threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to rally from a 17-point deficit with just over 12 minutes left. He passed for 399 yards--including 162 in the fourth quarter, and completed the Hawkeyes' rally with a 22-yard TD pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley with 2:51 left.

Iowa (2-1) trailed 27-10 early in the fourth quarter. But Vandenberg threw TD strikes of 14 yards to Keenan Davis and 25 yards to Martin-Manley to bring the Hawkeyes within three, then found a leaping Martin-Manley for the go-ahead score.

Tino Sunseri had 255 yards passing for the Panthers (2-1).

The Panthers led by as much as 24-3 on Sunseri's 4-yard TD pass to Drew Carswell with 3:11 left in the third quarter. Vandenberg moved the Hawkeyes 60 yards in under two minutes and scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 24-10--but Pitt answered with a long drive capped by Kevin Harper's 24-yard field goal with 12:09 to go, putting Iowa three scores behind again.

But Vandenberg cut Pitt's lead to 27-17 with 9:55 left, finding Davis for a 14-yard score. The Panthers moved to Iowa's 36-yard line but were stopped on fourth down, leaving the door open for Vandenberg to lead the Hawkeyes right back down the field.

Iowa caught a break when Pittsburgh's Buddy Jackson was called for pass interference on a key third down. Two plays later, Vandenberg hit Martin-Manley from 25 yards out to make it 27-24 with 6:19 left.

The Hawkeyes forced another quick punt, and Vandenberg drove the Hawkeyes 64 yards in just 1:31 before capping the comeback with a 22-yard TD toss to Martin-Manley.

 

 

Davis had 10 catches for 129 yards and Marvin McNutt added 112 yards receiving for Iowa, whose 21-point rally topped its 18-point comeback against Oregon in 1949.

For most of the afternoon, it looked as Pitt had little to worry about.

The Panthers opened the second half up 10-3, and used some trickery to extend the lead.

Ray Graham took a handoff and gave it to receiver Ronald Jones on a reverse. Jones did the rest, floating it out to an open Cameron Saddler for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 17-3 lead.

Pitt made it 24-3 just three minutes later, and some Iowa fans headed for the exits certain Iowa would be 1-2 for the first time since 2000.

The ones who stayed rushed the field at the final whistle, as the Hawkeyes bounced back from a 44-41 triple-overtime loss at Iowa State in a manner few thought possible.

Devin Street had seven catches for 138 yards and Ray Graham rushed for 97 yards for the Panthers.