The Panthers (3-1) outgained the Scarlet Knights (1-3) 379-164 and limited them to minus-3 yards rushing, only to stall repeatedly amid turnovers, penalties and wasted opportunities, in the BIG EAST opener for both teams.
Pitt's offense finally got into the end zone when Rod Rutherford found Lamar Slade on a 31-yard touchdown pass that made it 17-0 in the third quarter, but otherwise was ineffective despite repeatedly enjoying excellent field position.
Pitt's only other touchdown came on Marcus Furman's 6-yard run late in the game with backups in the game following Rutgers' third lost fumble -- one of the Scarlet Knights' five turnovers.
Before that, the Panthers started drives at the Rutgers' 33-, 45- and 14-yard lines in the first half, yet came away with no points even while outgaining the Knights 117-12 in the half.
Pitt also had a first-and-goal at the Rutgers 1 early in the second quarter following completions by Rutherford of 51 yards to Roosevelt Bynes and 25 to Larry Fitzgerald. But a false start penalty pushed Pitt back to the 6, and J.B. Gibboney subsequently kicked a 19-yard field goal to put Pitt up 3-0.
Hayes' touchdown came on Rutgers' first fumble of the season. On first-and-10 from the Rutgers 25, quarterback Ted Trump fumbled when hit by Claude Harriott and the ball started bouncing toward the goal line. Hayes scooped it up at the 8 and carried it in to score.
With Rutgers unable to get anything going, the touchdown was all Pitt needed. The Knights seriously threatened only once, settling for Ryan Sands' 20-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
Rutgers took over at the Pitt 41 following Lousaka Polite's fumble and Markis Facyson's 36-yard completion to L.J. Smith on a halfback pass put the ball at the 5. But, facing a fourth-and-goal at the 2, Rutgers chose to kick the field goal rather than gamble.
Trump was 18-of-45 for 131 yards and two interceptions, while Rutherford was 12-of-25 for 255 yards.
Pitt's kicking game was spotty again, with Gibboney missing a 38-yard field goal attempt that was partially blocked and David Abdul missing a 41-yarder. Gibboney also missed the conversion following Furman's touchdown, the fourth time Pitt has failed to convert an extra point in three games.
The Panthers are 3-1 for the third time in six seasons under coach Walt Harris -- they were 1-3 last year -- but none of their victories has been impressive. They also beat Ohio 27-14 and UAB 26-20.
NCAAF FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL --- --- --- --- ----- RUTGERS 0 0 3 0 3 PITTSBURGH 0 10 7 6 23 FINAL SCORING SUMMARY 1ST QUARTER: NONE 2ND QUARTER: PITTSBURGH - FG, J.B. GIBBONEY 19 YD, 3:20. PITTSBURGH 3-0 PITTSBURGH - TD, GERALD HAYES 8 YD FUMBLE RETURN (J.B. GIBBONEY KICK), 9:44. PITTSBURGH 10-0 3RD QUARTER: PITTSBURGH - TD, LAMAR SLADE 31 YD PASS FROM ROD RUTHERFORD (J.B. GIBBONEY KICK), 7:46. PITTSBURGH 17-0 RUTGERS - FG, RYAN SANDS 20 YD, 13:54. PITTSBURGH 17-3 4TH QUARTER: PITTSBURGH - TD, MARCUS FURMAN 6 YD RUN (PAT FAILED), 10:30. PITTSBURGH 23-3