College Bowl Game: Pittsburgh 27, Kentucky 10
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ó Pittsburgh players dumped the cooler full of sports drink on Phil Bennett.
They hoped Dave Wannstedt, watching on TV in Naples, Fla., also felt an affectionate chill.
Pittsburgh scored touchdowns off two mistakes by Kentuckyís punting team and the Panthers, playing for their former coach, beat the Wildcats 27-10 in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday.
Pittsburgh players dedicated the win to Wannstedt, who was forced to resign following a disappointing regular season.
ěWe knew coach Wannstedt was watching,î safety Dom DeCicco said. ěIt was special to come out here and play the way we did and get this win after all the adversity weíve been through.î
Bennett, the defensive coordinator, was the acting head coach in his final game with Pittsburgh. Bennett was hired Friday as Baylorís defensive coordinator.
Pitt hired Miami of Ohio coach Mike Haywood to replace Wannstedt, but Haywood was fired less than three weeks later after he was jailed in Indiana on a domestic violence charge. The school has yet to hire another head coach.
Pittsburghís players were not overwhelmed by the turmoil.
ěWeíve got good kids,î said Bennett, who was soaked with about 1:30 remaining. ěTheyíve been through a lot. Iím just proud of them and I know Dave Wannstedt is.î
Bennett said the players felt responsible for Wannstedtís forced exit.
ěWhether we want to admit it or not, donít kid yourself. They thought that maybe they were the problem of why our coach was released, and they went out and wanted to play well,î Bennett said. ěIt was obvious that there was a focus, and they went out and executed and played well.î
Andrew Taglianetti blocked a punt to set up Pittsburghís first touchdown late in the first half. An incomplete pass on Kentuckyís fake punt early in the second half set up Tino Sunseriís 13-yard touchdown pass to Brock DeCicco. Sunseri also ran for a touchdown.
The Panthers (8-5) protected the lead with their running game. Dion Lewis ran for 105 yards and a touchdown, and Ray Graham added 90 yards rushing as the Panthers outgained Kentucky 261-104 on the ground.
ěThey looked like an SEC team the way they run the ball,î said Kentucky defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin.
Sunseri completed 9 of 19 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Kentucky (6-7), playing without suspended quarterback Mike Hartline, fell far below its average of 33 points per game. Morgan Newton making his first start since his 2009 freshman season, was 21 of 36 passing for 211 yards.
ěI thought Morgan made much improvement,î said Kentucky coach Joker Phillips. ěIt wasnít enough to win the game, though.î
Phillips said Kentucky ědidnít play with a lot of confidence or poise.î
Pitt led 20-3 before the Wildcatsí only touchdown, a 1-yard run by Moncell Allen late in the third quarter. The Panthers answered with a long drive and 2-yard touchdown run by Lewis.
Randall Cobb set the Southeastern Conferenceís single-season record for all-purpose yards, but the versatile junior couldnít help the Wildcats overcome their special teams mistakes.
Pittsburgh led 6-3 on two field goals by Dan Hutchins before Taglianetti blocked Ryan Tydlackaís punt late in the first half. Tydlacka appeared to take an extra step before attempting a rugby style punt.
Pittís Kolby Gray recovered at the Kentucky 10, setting up Sunseriís 1-yard scoring run for a 13-3 lead with only 34 seconds remaining in the half.
Kentuckyís first possession of the second half ended with another key mistake by its punting team. Matt Roark took the snap on the apparent punt but he didnít have time to make his planned pass. He was ruled down on the Kentucky 35 before throwing an incomplete pass.
ěOur operation wasnít as clean as it needed to be,î said Phillips of the unsuccessful fake punt. ěSpecial teams definitely hurt us today.î
Following a 21-yard run by Graham, Sunseriís touchdown pass to DeCicco gave the Panthers a 20-3 lead.
Craig McIntosh gave Kentucky a 3-0 lead with a 50-yard field goal, matching the longest of the sophomoreís career, in the first quarter. The kick also was the longest in the five-year history of the bowl.
McIntosh missed from 41 yards in the fourth quarter.
There were offsetting personal fouls when players traded punches in the second quarter. Tempers flared when Pittsburgh was called for a false start and a Kentucky player hit Sunseri as officials attempted to stop the play. Pittsburghís Jason Pinkston responded with a shove to set off the brawl.
Coaches from each team were successful in keeping players on the sidelines.
Cobb passed former Arkansas running back Darren McFaddenís 2007 SEC record of 2,310 all-purpose yards. Cobb entered the game 119 yards behind McFaddenís mark.
Cobb, who had three carries for 23 yards and five catches for 62 yards, added 119 yards on returns for 204 all-purpose yards. The junior said heíll make a decision on entering the NFL draft within a week.
The Associated Press