CFN Bowl Analysis ... BBVA
Pitt 27 ... Kentucky 10
It wasn't exactly a win over Auburn, and it wasn't exactly winning the
Sugar Bowl, but Dave Wannstedt's team came up with a victory over an SEC
While Pitt is still a program in transition, it's a plus for the new
head man, whomever that might be, will inherit a team that's accountable
for its own actions and its own team. Phil Bennett, not exactly a
newbie, did a good job of preparing the team and getting the defense and
special teams ready, but make no mistake about it, unlike West Virginia,
Nebraska, and a few other teams, the Panther players were trying and
they were looking to make the most out of their bowl game.
Now, they didn't play all that well, and the passing game was sad, but
the ground game worked and the special teams play came up with the key
moments to change the game around. That's not to say Kentucky didn't
try, it appeared to be doing what it could without a starting
quarterback, but Pitt could've easily have packed it in, and didn't.
And now the Big East has some bragging rights, and don't think this
Conferences and teams always like to use bowl games for the résumé, and
the Big East now has the win over an SEC team, future member TCU winning
the Rose Bowl, South Florida beating an ACC team (Clemson) and Syracuse
beating a Big 12 team (Kansas State). In a year when the league was much
maligned, this was a positive. In an post-season of turmoil for Pitt,
this was a major positive.
- There are only a few college football games left and I enjoyed having
a game on Saturday, but it's Wild Card Weekend. College football,
there's no reason to not end the season four days ago when the rest of
the world cares.
- The loss can't be pinned on Morgan Newton. The talented Wildcat
quarterback might not have moved the chains well enough, but he spread
the ball around well, avoided mistakes, and held up well against the
Panther pass rush.
- Pitt needs better quarterback play. The new head coach has to have an
eye on upgrading the passing game. Tino Sunsieri couldn't get anything
moving down the field.
Maybe the role of a head coach in a bowl game is a little overrated after all.
Have you noticed a trend this postseason with regard to interim or lame duck coaches? It's been tough to ignore. Tom Matukewicz at Northern Illinois, Lance Guidry of Miami U., and now Pitt's Phil Bennett won bowl games in an interim role. Outgoing Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen beat East Carolina in the Military Bowl. And Urban Meyer took home the Outback Bowl in his swan song at Florida. In each case, you'd assume the coaching instability would be a distraction. In each instance, however, you'd have been incorrect. Bennett's situation was especially daunting, taking over late in the process after deposed head coach Dave Wannstedt opted not to coach the BBVA Compass Bowl. It mattered not for the Panthers in a comfortable 27-10 win over Kentucky.
- Enjoy this victory for as long as you can, Pitt. The heavy lifting resumes again tomorrow. The Panther program has been in disarray ever since Dave Wannstedt was fired a month ago, hiring and ultimately firing Mike Haywood and hearing calls for the ousting of AD Steve Pederson. With no slam dunk candidates waiting in wings, whoever takes the job will arrive with a fair amount of doubt and a lot to prove.
- Although injuries have impacted his senior year, Kentucky RB Derrick Locke isn't done with his football career. The Oklahoma kid who had to leave the state to get an offer runs with tremendous vision and purpose.
- Kentucky WR Randall Cobb has proven all he can at this level. One of the most versatile players at this level in years, he'd be wise to forego his final year of eligibility, especially with QB Morgan Newton likely to experience growing pains in his debut as the starter.
By Matt Zemek
The Pittsburgh Panthers, still without a permanent head coach on January 8, 2011, did not play all that well in the BBVA Compass Bowl. They barely did anything on offense in the first half and were bailed out on a clearly bad replay ruling in which a lateral was somehow viewed to be a forward pass. (The ACC is always there to provide a bad set of on- and off-field officials.) Pittsburgh didn't start playing well until the second half, as one of the season's most disappointing teams did little to truly change national perceptions.
And yet, the Panthers won by 10 points over the Kentucky Wildcats in a game whose outcome had been decided midway through the fourth quarter.
That remarkable fact really tells you all you need to know about this bowl game, whose previous incarnation – the 2010 PapaJohns.com Bowl – also featured a Big East team giving an SEC East foe a supreme smackdown at Legion Field in Birmingham. (Connecticut crushed South Carolina last year.)
Clearly, this contest in one of college football's cathedrals showed that while the Big East saved face to a small extent, the headlines must focus on the other side of the tracks in the Southeastern Conference. As legitimately good as the SEC West was in 2010, the SEC East proved to be awful on a similar scale. If Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin hadn't become the quarterback the Florida Gators were looking for all season long, the East would have eaten an 0-5 donut against a list of less-than-imposing opponents, save for the resurgent Florida State Seminoles. It's not really accurate to tout or tear down the SEC as a whole, because the league was split into two distinctly different personalities. Kentucky, unfortunately, inhabited the wrong one. The Cats join Georgia and Tennessee as a 6-7 team following a postseason loss. Yes, this is what happens when 70 of 120 FBS schools are given entry into BowlWorld.
-- While Pittsburgh's athletic program is mired in clumsiness, thanks to the professional incompetence of (appropriately) embattled athletic director Steve Pederson, the people who have the leverage to create change in the Steel City might want to keep their eye out for not just a new athletic director, but a coach who can teach the passing game. It's clear that Pitt's football culture is linked to running the ball. As soon as this school – well-versed in the smashmouth arts and sciences – can get an elite quarterback with a coach and/or offensive coordinator who know how to use him, the Panthers will compete with TCU in the post-2011 Big East. That's a very big "if," though.
--Kentucky is, simply, still Kentucky. This was the year to beat Tennessee. This was the year to reach second place in the East. Big Blue failed on both counts. No, Joker Phillips's seat shouldn't be hot; we all saw how Mitch Barnhart's patience with Rich Brooks was rewarded. However, this decisive loss shows Kentucky just how far it needs to go in order to meet some long-unfulfilled goals.