2013 BBVA Compass - Ole Miss 38, Pitt 17

Posted Jan 6, 2013

2012-2013 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2013 BBVA Compass

2013 BBVA Compass

Ole Miss 38, Pitt 17

- 2012-2013 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
46th Total Offense 60th
49th Total Defense 17th
49th Scoring Offense 71st
67th Scoring Defense 21st
54th Rushing Offense 90th
29th Run Defense 25th
47th Passing Offense 43rd
85th Passing Defense 24th
62nd Turnover Margin 13th
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
O   P
3.5 Quarterbacks 4
3 RBs 4.5
2.5 Receivers 3
2.5 O Line 2
4 D Line 3.5
3.5 Linebackers 4
2.5 Secondary 4
2.5 Spec Teams 3.5
4 Coaching 4
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Paul Chryst said his game plan didn't change without leading rusher Ray Graham.

Graham's hamstring injury just made it much more difficult for Pittsburgh to execute that plan.

A rare early interception by Tino Sunseri set up the first of three touchdown passes by Mississippi's Bo Wallace and the Rebels beat Pitt 38-17 in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday.

Graham, who had 1,042 yards rushing, suffered the hamstring injury in bowl practice. The injury was disclosed before the game.

The Panthers averaged only 2.2 yards per carry without Graham. Rushel Shell had 25 carries for 79 yards.

``Obviously, it was a tough one for us,'' Chryst said after completing his first season. ``Give Ole Miss credit. They beat us in almost every phase. They were clearly the better team today.''

Pitt (6-7) fell behind in the opening minutes after Sunseri threw his first interception since Sept. 15 and trailed the remainder of the game.

Wallace's 13-yard touchdown pass to Ja-Mess Logan gave the Rebels the 7-0 lead. Wallace added first-half touchdown passes to Randall Mackey, for 27 yards, and Vince Sanders, for 18 yards.

Sunseri completed 16 of 32 passes for 185 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Ole Miss led 24-10 at halftime and put the game away with the first two touchdowns of the second half.

Ole Miss (7-6) took a five-win improvement with first-year coach Hugh Freeze over its 2-10 finish in 2011.

``I've tried to learn not to make too much out of a single game either way, but no question this advances our journey a bit,'' Freeze said.

``To be where we're sitting here year one far surpasses certainly the prognosticators and whatever they had for us. Our guys really chose to buy in and determine we could be who we want to be. We don't have to have someone else determine that.''

Wallace, chosen the game's MVP, completed 22 of 32 passes for 151 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Freeze's no-huddle, up-tempo offense produced 38 first downs and 387 yards. Pitt was held to 266 yards, its second-lowest total of the season.

``We just couldn't get in a rhythm, probably because of their pressure,'' said Pitt wide receiver Mike Shanahan, who had a 16-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

``We just couldn't seem to get in good field position.''

Pitt stayed close early with Devin Street's 10-yard pass from Sunseri in the second quarter. That was Pitt's only touchdown until Sunseri's scoring pass to Shanahan with only 2:23 remaining.

Kevin Harper kicked a 47-yard field goal, his longest of the season, for Pitt in the second quarter.

Sunseri's streak of 271 passes without an interception, the nation's longest, ended on his second throw of the Panthers' opening drive. Senquez Golson's interception, returned 17 yards to the Pitt 23, set up Wallace's touchdown pass to Logan. It was only Sunseri's third interception of the season and his first since the team's third game against Virginia Tech.

Pitt had only one turnover in its last seven games of the regular season. It shared the nation's lead with only eight turnovers for the season.

Sunseri lost a fumble early in the second quarter for the Panthers' second turnover.

Pitt was making its third straight appearance in the bowl. The Panthers lost to SMU in last year's game.

The Panthers played their last game as a Big East team. They are moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Ole Miss backup quarterback Barry Brunetti had a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and freshman running back I'Tavius Mathers added a 62-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter to cap the rout.

Wallace completed his first eight passes, including two for touchdowns but his hot streak ended with two second-quarter interceptions.

Bryson Rose kicked a 31-yard field goal for Ole Miss and missed from 44 and 48 yards.

Mathers led the Rebels with 96 yards rushing on only six carries. Jaylen Walton had 10 carries for 56 yards. Freeze said a hamstring injury in the game limited Ole Miss starting running back Jeff Scott to five carries for 16 yards.

A strong turnout by Ole Miss fans within driving range of Birmingham pushed attendance to 59,135, easily a bowl record. The previous high was 42,610 for the 2010 game between South Carolina and Connecticut.

Pitt (6-6) vs. Ole Miss (6-6)
Jan. 5, ESPN

Here's The Deal … It's always fun when programs are on the rise, and while Pitt vs. Ole Miss might not stand out late in the bowl process, these two are happy to be here.

Pitt didn't lose head coach Paul Chryst to Wisconsin, or anyone else, and was able to overcome a rocky 2-4 and 4-6 beginning to win the final two games against Rutgers and South Florida by a combined score of 54-9 to get bowl eligible. It's been a hit-or-miss team this year with a ground game that ripped up Virginia Tech, but failed against just about everyone else with several close calls and lots of missed opportunities.

Good teams win the tight games, and it's not a plus to start the season with a 14-point loss to Youngstown State, but there were chances against Syracuse, Connecticut and in the three-overtime loss against Notre Dame to have a far stronger season. There's talent on defense and enough good parts to the offense to have a nice day, but the Panthers are dealing with a red-hot team looking to make a big statement.

Hugh Freeze came into a tough situation, needing to turn around a struggling Ole Miss program in the toughest division in college football, but he turned in a surprising first year to generate a good buzz. It helped that Arkansas and Auburn went into the tank, but the Rebels still did what the needed to do against those two, rolled through the awful teams in the non-conference slate – other than the better-than-the-score 66-31 loss to Texas – and then came up big in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State to get to a bowl game for the first time since beating Oklahoma State in the 2010 Cotton Bowl.

The offense has been good enough to get by, keeping up the pace in tough close losses to Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and LSU, while the defense is among the most aggressive and intense in the SEC ranking second in both sacks and tackles for loss. The special teams are a problem and the team overall has been a bit inconsistent – especially on the offensive line – but for a program that hasn't been a regular on the bowl circuit, this has still been a terrific year.

No, Ole Miss might not have done much in the post-season for a while, but few have been better in the bowls winning eight of the last nine going back the 1992 Liberty Bowl win over Air Force. To go way, way back, the program is 20-9 starting with a win over TCU in the 1956 Cotton Bowl. On the flip side, Pitt has won just two of its last six goals and has gone 5-10 since Dan Marino's classic touchdown pass to beat Georgia in the 1982 Sugar. And then there was last year's performance.

The BBVA Compass, formerly the PapaJohns.com, has been awful from the start with just one of the six games even remotely decent. Pitt has played in the last two, getting ripped up by SMU 28-6 last season and beating Kentucky 27-10 two years ago. The Big East has won five of the six, but the SEC and Ole Miss could use a decisive victory after a rocky bowl season.

Players to Watch: Pitt senior RB Ray Graham was on his way to a special 2011 before suffering a major knee injury. While he ran well early on this season, he ended up splitting time and didn't quite have the big season that everyone hoped for after running for 958 yard and nine scores in just over seven games in two years ago. Even so, the 5-9, 195-pounder was great down the stretch with 172 yards and a score against Notre Dame and 113 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers to finish with 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns. Very quick and very tough, he'll get the workload in his final game as the Panthers try to establish the run right away.

After a big fight for the starting quarterback job, Ole Miss found its guy in sophomore Bo Wallace, a 6-5, 210-pound JUCO transfer from East Mississippi who's coming of a NJCAA national title after bombing away for 4,604 yards and 53 scores. The former Elite 11 camper originally signed on with Arkansas State in 2010 when Freeze was the offensive coordinator, didn't play, and then took a year off to play at the lower level before moving to Ole Miss. While he's not a speed runner, he came up with 363 yards and eight scores on the ground to go along with 2,843 passing yards and 19 scores including five against Mississippi State. While he closed the season strong – throwing for 403 yards against Vanderbilt and 310 against LSU before beating the Bulldogs – he also threw five picks in the final two games and 15 on the season.

After shifting over to a more traditional 4-3 alignment, the Pitt defensive front needed a big year out of 6-0, 270-pound DT Aaron Donald after delivering an improbable breakout year in 2011. Despite starting just five games, the junior parlayed 47 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 11 sacks into a spot on the All-Big East Second Team, but he came up with just 5.5 sacks and 63 tackles this season. Reminiscent of current San Diego Charger Melvin Ingram, Donald lacks ideal size and length, but compensates with an explosive burst through the gap, and a terrific motor.

Ole Miss will win if … the run defense rises up and shuts down the Panther ground attack. Pitt beat Virginia Tech by rolling for 254 yards and two scores, and rolled at will on Temple and pushed the offense a bit against Notre Dame. However, the offensive line has had a big, big problem with decent pass rushing defenses – hello, Ole Miss – and has been stuffed way too often being held under 150 yards nine times. Helped by the aggressive defensive front, the Rebels came up with a nice year against the run and should attack Graham and the Pitt runners from the start. The Ole Miss coaching staff isn't afraid of coming up with a few big chances.

On the other side, Ole Miss has to get its own ground game moving. Helped by Wallace, the Rebels got production from several places on the way to a hot rushing start, scoring two times on the ground or more in every game but the UTEP layup over the first eight weeks, but Georgia and Vanderbilt stopped the Rebels cold in losses. Held under 200 yards rushing seven times, Ole Miss is 1-6 in those games going 5-0 when running for 200 or more. However …

Pitt will win if … the run defense works. The Panthers don't have a killer pass rush as it has been trying to adapt to the new style and new coaching staff all season long, but the defense as a whole has been great against the run. After struggling early on in losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati, every clicked outside of a five touchdown day from Louisville and 231 yards allowed to Notre Dame. Stopping the run hasn't meant a sure-thing win, but it has certainly helped the cause against Rutgers and South Florida, allowing a grand total of 58 yards in the two games.

Offensively, quarterback Tino Sunseri has to be able to handle the pressure. Ole Miss will bring the house to get to him, but he can't force anything. After throwing ten touchdown passes and 11 picks last year, he has been amazing throwing just two picks all season long – and none in the last nine games – with 19 touchdown passes. The senior isn't going to bomb away, but if the ground game isn't working, he has to pick up his game and be ready to overcome a few sacks to make something happen on the next play. He's been doing that all year.

What Will Happen: The Ole Miss defense will be the difference. Pitt has a good enough offense overall to rise up and come up with one big game, but the line is too lousy and the Rebel defensive front too good. Wallace will have an effective game as the fired up Rebels feed off the great game against Mississippi State and help out a struggling SEC.

CFN Prediction: Ole Miss 27 … Pitt 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Ole Miss -3.5 O/U: 53

PapaJohns.com/BBVA Compass Bowl History
2012 SMU 28, Pitt 6
2011 Pitt 27, Kentucky 10
2010 Connecticut 20, South Carolina 7
2008 Rutgers, 29, NC State 23
2007 Cincinnati 31, Southern Miss 21
2006 South Florida 24, East Carolina 7