It didn't take long for Pittsburgh to silence most of the 21,870 in attendance Saturday. A sea of blue and white before the game, by the time tailback Dion Lewis flew by the University at Buffalo defense for an 85-yard touchdown, most of the fans had already departed.
Pitt ruined the home opener for the reigning Mid-American Conference champions, cashing in on UB turnovers en route to a 54-27 victory in front of the fifth-largest crowd ever at UB Stadium.
Apparently, the Panthers learned something from their narrow victory over the Bulls last year in Pittsburgh. There was little chance of Pitt overlooking UB, not after last year's 27-16 game that wasn't decided until well into the fourth quarter. But this one was determined long before people started heading for the exits.
Lewis, a true freshman from Albany, cut through the Bulls defense for 190 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Dorin Dickerson added eight receptions for 71 yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers spoiled huge offensive days for Zach Maynard, Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin.
Maynard, the sophomore quarterback, finished with a career-high 400 yards passing -- the most since UB became a Football Bowl Subdivision program in 1999 -- and four touchdowns, which tied the school's FBS record for most in a game.
Roosevelt, the senior wideout out of St. Joe's, had six receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns, which covered 54 and 67 yards. It was Roosevelt's 10th 100-plus yards receiving game of his career.
Hamlin, a senior, led all receivers with 12 receptions -- one shy of the school record -- for 149 yards.
But the Bulls committed four turnovers that the Panthers turned into 27 points. Before the offense even took the field, UB was down, 14-0. That made for a long day in a game where the Bulls were clearly under the spotlight, hoping to shock the Panthers from the Big East.
Pitt (2-0) is the lone Bowl Championship Series program on the Bulls' schedule and a win over the Panthers could have propelled the program closer to the Top 25. Instead, with the spotlight glaring, the Bulls (1-1) forgot their lines.
"It hurts, it really hurts because we thought we had a shot to go out here and beat a BCS school and that was one of our goals this year," said senior free safety Mike Newton, who led the Bulls with 10 tackles. "We have to come back and rebound from this."
Pitt struck quickly. Quarterback Bill Stull tried to go deep to wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin on the first play of the game down the right sideline and the ball appeared to be intercepted by UB cornerback Domonic Cook, but Cook dropped the pass. That's when the Panthers decided to give UB a taste of Lewis, who ran five times for 26 yards on the drive, culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass to Dickerson.
On the ensuing kickoff, UB's Mario Henry fumbled on the Bulls' 23 and Stull hit a wide-open Dickerson for a touchdown pass on the next play and UB trailed, 14-0.
"You try and eliminate the scoreboard," UB coach Turner Gill said. "There was lots of time left in the game. Don't panic, just respond. We reacted in a pretty good way, I thought."
The Bulls trailed, 34-20, in the third quarter with third-and-3 from the Pitt 40. From a triple option set Maynard tried to pitch to tailback Brandon Thermilus but Pitt snuffed out the play and defensive tackle Mick Williams forced a fumble. The ball was scooped up by linebacker Greg Williams at the 50-yard line and returned for a touchdown.
"I do regret [the pitch] somewhat," Maynard said. "I wish I would have held onto the ball and had another down. It hurt that he picked it up and scored a touchdown. They came up the field and blew right through us."
Gill said Pitt read the play quickly, causing everything to blow up.
"It wasn't necessarily Zach's fault, our offensive line let them get penetration," he said. "You have to give credit to Pittsburgh."
But UB could have cut the deficit to six points with just over eight minutes remaining. The Bulls went for it on fourth-and-10 from the Pitt 20 but Maynard's pass in the end zone intended for Terrell Jackson sailed over his head. Two plays later, Lewis broke free for the 85-yard touchdown with 4:44 remaining. By that time the vast majority of the crowd already departed to beat traffic.
"They were the better team," Maynard said. "We have to come back next week ready to play."