by CFP Staff
January 5, 2013
Ole Miss won its 5th straight bowl and improved to 22-12 overall with a 38-17 win in the BBVA Compass Bowl over Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon at Legion Field in Birmingham.
The game was never really that close as the Rebels seemed to have their way with the Panthers throughout the contest. Mississippi staked out a quick 7-0 lead by intercepting a Tino Sunseri pass on Pitt's first possession and converting that into a 14-yard TD strike from Bo Wallace to Ja-Mes Logan. Sunseri came into the game with 19 TD passes and just 2 INT's, and he had thrown 271 passes without an INT since the Virginia Tech game on September 15.
The Rebels then held Pitt to a 3-and-out and marched 85 yards for a 14-0 lead on a 27-yard pass from Wallace to Randall Mackey.
An interception of Wallace set up a Pitt score that made it 14-7, but Mississippi went back ahead by 14 just five plays later on Wallace's 19-yard TD pass to Vince Sanders. An exchange of field goals gave Ole Miss a 21-10 lead at the break.
The second half was all Ole Miss. A 1-yard run by backup QB Barry Brunetti at the end of the 3rd made it 31-10 and, after Pitt turned the ball over on downs on its next series, a 62-yard by I'Tavius Mathers on the very next play put the game out of the reach.
Three of Pitt's 17 first downs, and 70 if its 265 yards, came on a late, meaningless drive that provided the final 38-17 margin on a 16-yard pass from Sunseri to Mike Shanahan.
The Ole Miss defense sacked Sunseri 4 times and had 11 tackles for losses, paced by Mike Marry with 4. It forced 3 turnovers from a Panther team that had just one over its last 7 games and led the nation with 8 for the entire regular season.
Pitt leading rusher Ray Graham sat out with a hamstring injury.
Both teams played under first-year head coaches. Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss finished the season 7-6 while Paul Chryst and Pitt went 6-7. Both teams were a bit of an enigma during the season. The Rebels didn't beat anyone worth writing home about until knocking off rival Mississippi State in the final game of the regular season to become bowl eligible. Pitt, on the other hand, defeated Virginia Tech and Rutgers, and took to Notre Dame to 3 overtimes before losing. But the Panthers also lost to Youngstown State and UConn.
2012 marked the first season since 2009 that Pitt opened and closed a season with the same head coach. Chryst is its sixth head coach since late 2010. The former Wisconsin offensive coordinator was announced on December 22, 2011 as the replacement for Todd Graham who left for Arizona State after just one season. The school's head coaching upheaval began after the 2010 season when Dave Wannstedt was forced to resign. His assistant and former SMU head coach Phil Bennett was acting head coach in Pitt's bowl game that year. Michael Haywood was then hired December 16, 2010 but was fired 16 days later after he was arrested and jailed on New Year's Eve on a domestic violence charge. Graham was hired on January 14, 2011 but when he left after the final regular season game that year, and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson was interim head coach in the 2011 bowl game.
Pitt has played in the BBVA Compass Bowl each of the last three years, and each of the last two appearances resulted in losses that caused the team to finish its regular season at 6-7.
The Panthers dropped to 12-17 all-time in bowl games.
Mississippi's 22-12 bowl record ranks 3rd-best in winning percentage among schools with a minimum 20 bowl appearances. The 5 consecutive bowl wins, since a 2000 season loss to West Virginia in the Music City Bowl, tie the school with Auburn and Florida State for the longest current streak in the nation.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com projected Pitt as a 4-point winner.