Pitt (6-7) ended the 2012 season on a negative note at this year's BBVA Compass Bowl as Mississippi (7-6) sprinted past the Panthers 38-17 on Saturday afternoon in front of a bowl-record 59,135 mostly Mississippi fans. Ole Miss was a step (or more) faster on both sides of the ball throughout the afternoon.
Ole Miss raced past Pitt in Saturday's Compass Bowl
"Give Ole Miss credit. They beat us in every phase. Certainly, their speed was there," Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said. "They were clearly the better team today. They out-executed us and made some plays."
Ole Miss tore off 387 yards of offense. Quarterback Bo Wallace ran the up-tempo attack with precision by completing 22 passes on 32 attempts for 151 yards and three touchdowns. He also had eight rushes for 28 yards and earned the game's MVP honors.
"I played ok," Wallace said. "Nothing crazy."
On defense, Mississippi forced three turnovers (two fumbles and an interception) against a Pitt team that led the country by turning the ball over only eight times all season.
The Panthers played without starting running back Ray Graham who suffered a pulled hamstring during practice leading up to the bowl game. They were also without starting middle linebacker Shane Gordon and suffered injuries to other key positions, including offensive line, as the game wore on.
Rushel Shell started in place of Graham and rushed for 78 yards on 25 carries.
Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri entered the game holding the record for consecutive passes without an interception. After not being picked off since September 15, he was picked off early in the first quarter by Senquez Golson and Ole Miss took advantage of the short field starting at Pitt's 23 yard line.
Wallace hit Ja-mess Logan for a 13-yard touchdown less than four minutes into the game and the Panthers never caught up. Wallace hit Randall Mackey for a 27-yard touchdown later in the first quarter and Pitt was down 14-0.
Midway through the second quarter, Pitt found some life as Sunseri hit Devin Street for a 10-yard touchdown and the Panthers trailed 14-7. Less than two minutes later, though, Ole Miss responded as Wallace stayed hot and hit Vince Sanders for a 19-yard touchdown and the lead was back up to 14 points.
Both teams traded field goals before the break as Pitt's Kevin Harper hit a 47-yarder (his longest of the season) and Mississippi's Bryson Rose hit a 31-yarder and Ole Miss led 24-10 at the half.
"Ole Miss did a great job," Pitt defensive back Jarred Holley said. "Give them credit."
Things got worse for the Panthers in the second half. Barry Brunetti banged in to the endzone from one yard out in the third quarter and I'Tavius Mathers broke through the middle with no Pitt defender in sight and dashed for a 62-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter and Ole Miss led 38-10. Mathers led all rushers with 96 yards on six carries.
Pitt managed a token scoring drive late in the game and Sunseri hit Mike Shanahan for a 16-yard touchdown to complete the scoring at 38-17. Shanahan caught four passes on the day for 58 yards.
Sunseri finished the day by completing 16 passes on 32 attempts for 186 yards including two touchdowns and an interception. His favorite target was Devin Street who caught seven passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
"We were never able to get into a rhythm," Shanhan said. "Ole Miss' defense made it tough for us and we didn't do enough to be successful."
The Panthers will now put the 2012 season, and the Big East Conference behind them and start planning for spring practice in early 2013 as a member of the ACC.