- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Instant analysis of the BBVA Compass Bowl, which Pittsburgh won 27-10 against Kentucky:
How the game was won: Despite the coaching turmoil swirling around the team for the past month, Pittsburgh came out focused and determined to play well in its final game. The Panthers were able to overpower the Kentucky defensive line with their running game, and their defense hung tough every time the Wildcats threatened. Kentucky, which suspended starting quarterback Mike Hartline for this game, was unable to generate many big plays behind sophomore signal caller Morgan Newton. Pitt, missing two key defensive starters and three coaches off its staff, showed plenty of mental and physical toughness in its best nonconference win of the season.
Turning point: Late in the second quarter, Andrew Taglianetti blocked a punt from Kentucky's Ryan Tydlacka that Kolby Gray recovered at the Wildcats' 10. Three plays later, the Panthers scored the game's first touchdown and took a 13-3 lead into halftime.
Player(s) of the game: Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. Playing in probably his final college game -- the draft-eligible sophomore is expected to go pro -- Lewis finished strong with 22 carries for 105 yards and a score. His backfield mate, Graham, had 90 yards on 17 carries.
Stat of the game: Pitt ran for 262 yards on 46 carries while passing for only 96 yards. The 262 yards was the third-highest rushing total by the Panthers this season. Kentucky had only 104 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
Unsung hero: Brandon Lindsey. The defensive end forced a fumble from Newton in the first half, made a fourth-down tackle for loss in the second half and helped Pitt make up for the loss of defensive player of the year Jabaal Sheard.
What it means: The victory brings a little bit of optimism to a program that hasn't had much reason to smile for the past nine days, and sends out the current staff -- especially defensive coordinator/interim head coach Phil Bennett -- on a high note. Pittsburgh (8-5) still has to hire a new head coach, and that will be more important than anything that happened on the field Saturday. But at least the team showed it has talent and potential to do good things with the right coach in place. The Big East, despite losing its top two bowl games, finished a very respectable 4-2 in the postseason and has now beaten an SEC team in Birmingham for the second straight year.