Pitt pulls out 19-17 win over UNC in Meineke Bowl

Marshall holds off Ohio in Little Caesars Bowl, 21-17

December 27, 2009|By From Sun news services

Pittsburgh hasn't won this many games since Dan Marino was the quarterback. The only player in school history to rush for more yards in a season than freshman sensation Dion Lewis is somebody named Tony Dorsett.

Thanks to a late-game rally in front of a hostile crowd, the Panthers made a strong case they've returned to prominence.

Lewis rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown to move up in the record book and Dan Hutchins kicked a 33-yard field goal with 52 seconds left, giving 17th-ranked Pitt a 19-17 victory over North Carolina in the Meineke Bowl on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.

Winning 10 games for the first time since the Marino era in 1981, Pitt (10-3) overcame a disappointing loss to Cincinnati three weeks ago that cost it a spot in a BCS bowl.

"It's back," Lewis said of Pitt football, moments after he was voted bowl Most Valuable Player. "We're not satisfied with just 10 wins. We want to get more next year."

The last win in 2009 required a remarkable 17-play drive that lasted nearly nine minutes, included a key fourth-down conversion, a costly penalty against North Carolina and 13 runs by the dynamic Lewis.

Eclipsing Dorsett's freshman rushing record of 1,686 yards in the first quarter, Lewis also moved past Craig Heyward into second on the school's single-season list with 1,799 yards. Dorsett rushed for 2,150 yards in 1976 when he won the Heisman Trophy and Pitt won its last national title.

"It's tough to describe what Dion has accomplished," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He's special."

T.J. Yates threw two touchdown passes to Greg Little, but his incomplete pass on fourth-and-10 from his own 49-yard line with six seconds left sent the Tar Heels (8-5) to their second straight loss.

Yates was 19 of 32 for 183 yards and an interception, while Little caught seven passes for 87 yards and Ryan Houston rushed for 83 yards.

But North Carolina's defense, which came in sixth in the nation overall and ninth against the run, struggled to contain the shifty Lewis and continued a trend of struggling to close out games over the past two seasons under coach Butch Davis.

"I don't think we played as smart as we needed to," Davis said.

It took Wannstedt's big gamble to lift Pitt after North Carolina took a 17-16 lead late in the third quarter on Yates' 14-yard touchdown pass to Little.

Facing a fourth-and-1 from his own 30 with 6:36 left, senior Bill Stull got 3 yards on a quarterback keeper.

Lewis was later stuffed on third down, leaving Wannstedt with another decision on fourth-and-2 from the North Carolina 30 with 1:30 left. He brought out the field-goal unit, but Pitt used a hard count and North Carolina's Cam Thomas jumped offside, giving Pitt a first down.

"We were definitely trying to draw them offside," Wannstedt said. "But we were going to kick it. ... But that extra 20 yards sure helped."

Lewis got 13 yards on the next play, and his 6-yard run into the middle of the field on his 28th carry set up Hutchins' fourth field goal.

Emerald Bowl: Matt Barkley threw touchdown passes to Stanley Havili on Southern California's first two possessions and added a touchdown run in the fourth quarter to help the Trojans beat Boston College, 24-13, in San Francisco.

The victory was far from impressive, but it did put a positive ending on a disappointing season for USC (9-4). The Trojans lost three of their final five regular-season games to fall out of the national rankings for the first time since Pete Carroll's first season as coach in 2001.

That left USC in an unfamiliar bowl setting after making it to the Bowl Championship Series the past seven years, including four straight Rose Bowl bids. But the Trojans made the most of it, handing Boston College (8-5) its second straight bowl loss after an eight-year bowl winning streak.

Damian Williams caught 12 passes for 189 yards in what could be his final game for the Trojans, grabbing long passes to set up Havili's second score and Barkley's 1-yard sneak that gave USC a 24-13 lead with 11:53 remaining. Williams is expected to skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Martin Ward ran for two touchdowns in the first half and Marshall held off Ohio, 21-17, in Detroit.

DeQuan Bembry's interception with 40 seconds left sealed the victory for the Thundering Herd (7-6), which led by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter.

The Bobcats (9-5) rallied with Shannon Ballard's 75-yard return off a fumble in the second quarter, Terrence McCrae's touchdown catch and Matt Weller's field goal. Ohio had chances to complete the comeback but was stunted on the drive before its final possession.

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