NCF Nation: 2011 compass bowl analysis

Instant analysis: Pitt 27, Kentucky 10

January, 8, 2011
Pittsburgh took control early and pulled away from Kentucky for a 27-10 victory Saturday in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Here's an instant analysis of the game:

How the game was won: Kentucky committed two huge special teams blunders and never got going offensively, often times doing things to kill drives, and Pittsburgh handed Kentucky its worst loss in 15 bowl appearances. The Panthers jumped out to a 20-3 lead in the early minutes of the third quarter and were never really threatened again. Kentucky couldn't stop Pittsburgh's running game. The Panthers finished with 261 rushing yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

Turning point: Kentucky was trailing 6-3 late in the second quarter when Ryan Tydlacka had his punt blocked by Pitt's Adam Taglianetti. The Panthers recovered on the Wildcats' 10-yard line and went ahead 13-3 on Tino Sunseri's 1-yard touchdown run with 34 seconds to play in the half. Kentucky never really recovered from what was the first of two special teams breakdowns. The Wildcats also botched a fake punt attempt early in the third quarter, leading to another Pitt touchdown.

Star of the game: Randall Cobb, playing in what might have been his final game in a Kentucky uniform, finished with 204 all-purpose yards.

Record performance: Cobb broke Darren McFadden's SEC single-season record for all-purpose yardage, finishing the season with 2,396 yards. McFadden had 2,310 all-purpose yards in 2007.

Stat of the game: Kentucky finished with just 104 rushing yards.

What it means: The Wildcats (6-7) suffered through their first losing season since 2005, putting the wraps on what was an extremely disappointing end to the season. The comeback win over South Carolina was the high point, but there wasn't much to cheer about after that. Losing quarterback Mike Hartline to the suspension was a killer, and his replacement, Morgan Newton, had trouble getting anything going consistently Saturday against the Panthers. If Cobb does decide to turn pro, Joker Phillips faces what will be a significant rebuilding job next season.
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.