PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Miami took Larry Fitzgerald out of the game
from the start. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh quickly followed.
Tyrone Moss and Jarrett Payton became the latest running backs
to exploit No. 20 Pitt's weak rush defense, running for more than
100 yards each, and No. 10 Miami locked up a share of its eighth
Big East title and a BCS bowl with a 28-14 victory Saturday night.
Miami (10-2, 6-1) exited the Big East for the ACC the same
dominating way it entered in 1992 -- on top, with everybody else
playing catchup. The Hurricanes officially share the conference
title with West Virginia (8-4, 6-1), but it's Miami that's heading
to a big bowl -- almost certainly the hometown Orange Bowl, where
they last played during the 1994 season.
Moss ran for touchdowns of 30 and 6 yards and Payton had a
1-yard touchdown run as Miami scored on three consecutive
first-half possessions to turn a 7-0 deficit into a 21-7 lead.
Pitt's rushing defense -- 80th among the nation's 117 Division I-A
schools -- now has allowed seven 100-yard rushers.
Pittsburgh (8-4, 5-2) was playing its biggest game since the
1982 season, when it last appeared in a major New Year's Day bowl,
but the Panthers did almost nothing after driving 74 yards on their
first possession for Rod Rutherford's 2-yard touchdown pass to Kris
Nothing new there -- Miami has outscored Pitt 205-76 in winning
their last six matchups, and is 10-1 against the Panthers in Big
The Panthers, in the Top 10 earlier this season, will settle for
a Continental Tire Bowl matchup against Virginia in what
will be regarded as a disappointing season for a team that never
did figure out how to stop the run. In its last five games, Pitt
has allowed two 200-yard rushers and three 100-yard rushers.
On this night, the Panthers also forgot how to do what they do
best: get the ball to Fitzgerald, who was enjoying one of the best
seasons ever by a major college receiver until being limited to
three catches for 26 yards.
Fitzgerald extended his NCAA record to 18 consecutive games with
at least one touchdown reception, on an 18-yarder with 2:45
remaining, his 22nd touchdown of the season. Not that it mattered
Miami double-teamed Fitzgerald on nearly every play, with
cornerback Antrel Rolle often pressuring him coming off the line of
scrimmage. Pitt was already down 21-7 when Fitzgerald made his
first catch with 13:34 left in the third quarter.
Rutherford was sacked nine times while going 17-for-30 for 206
yards and three interceptions.
With Miami quarterback Brock Berlin coming off consecutive poor
games, the Hurricanes understandably did what nearly every team has
done against Pitt by running it early and often.
Moss, who began the season as a third-team running back, ran
four times for all of Miami's 48 yards on its first scoring drive
late in the first quarter, finishing it off with a 30-yard
Moss then carried eight more times for 41 yards, including his
6-yard scoring run, on the first of consecutive 80-yard Miami
scoring drives. The long drives turned the momentum and quieted a
chilly crowd of 60,486 that withstood a gametime wind chill factor
of 20 to watch the final Big East game with the league's current
Payton had 17 carries for 131 yards and Moss carried 21 times
for 115 yards.
The game's biggest play came on the second of those 80-yard
drives. With Pitt looking for Miami to throw to the strong side on
third-and-9 from its 21, Jason Geathers caught a screen pass from
Berlin behind three blockers and turned it into a 78-yard gain to
the 1. Payton scored a play later and, with 3:59 still left in the
first half, some fans already could be spotted heading for their
Right about then, the scoreboard and clock went out and stayed
off the rest of the game, depriving the Hurricanes of a visible
reminder of how in command they were.
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