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(Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)
Conner ran the ball 25 times and gained 92 yards
PITTSBURGH (PittsburghPanthers.com and AP) - Conor Hundley gaining 148 yards on 19 carries as Akron defeated Pittsburgh 21-10 on Saturday.
Kyle Pohl passed for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception and defensive lineman Cody Grice - moonlighting at fullback - put together a pair of short scoring runs as the Zips (2-2) beat a team from a power conference for the first time in six years.
Akron outgained the Panthers 382-349 and kept Pitt sophomore running back James Conner in check to give coach Terry Bowden the biggest victory of his three-year tenure.
Conner came in with 699 yards but was held to 92 yards on 25 carries as the Panthers (3-2) lost their second straight. Chad Voytik completed 20 of 34 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The Panthers saw their early season momentum slowed in a tough loss to Iowa last week. It came to a complete stop as the Zips - sporting gold chrome helmets that reflected brilliantly at sun-splashed Heinz Field - dominated.
This was no last-second stunner. Akron controlled the second half, taking the lead for good early in the third quarter when a 42-yard sprint by Hundley set up a 1-yard plunge by the 283-pound Grice to make it 14-7 early in the third quarter.
The Panthers responded by driving to the Akron 6 and appeared to tie the score when Voytik hit Tyler Boyd for a touchdown. A holding penalty, however, wiped out the score and when Voytik's fade to the corner of the end zone glanced off Kevin Weatherspoon's fingertips, Pitt had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt that made it 14-10.
Akron, which had been outscored 69-20 in losses to Penn State and Marshall, simply kept coming. With Pohl's steady hand leading the way, the Zips moved 70 yards in 10 plays, the last two with Grice bulling his way across the goal line.
Pitt's last legitimate threat ended when Akron's DeAndre Scott picked off Voytik deep in Zips' territory midway through the fourth quarter.
Conner ran the ball 25 times and gained 92 yards.
The victory marked a significant step in Bowden's rebuilding project. The Zips went 1-11 during his first season in 2012 and upped that mark to 5-7 last season, though the Zips showed little signs of a breakout while getting worked over at home last week against Marshall.
Akron gave up 284 yards on the ground to the Thundering Herd. The Zips were determined not to let Pitt do the same.
Stacking eight or nine defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop Conner, Akron dared Voytik to beat them. The sophomore struggled with the task.
Pitt punted on its first five possessions as Conner struggled slogging through a seemingly endless wave of guys in white jerseys. The Panthers eventually took a 7-0 lead on an 8-yard pass from Voytik to Manasseh Garner with 4:28 left in the first half.
The edge lasted less than a minute. Pohl - benched briefly earlier in the half after throwing an interception in the end zone - threw a jump ball to Mykel Traylor-Bennett, who hauled it in with ease then trotted the rest of the way for a 52-yard score that left the Panthers stunned and the Zips emboldened