2009/12/26

Pitt Football... We're Back Baby

The Pittsburgh Panthers finished their season at 10-3 on the year, with a victory in the Meineke Car Care Bowl over the North Carolina Tar Heels. A Panthers 33 yard field goal with 52 seconds left gave Pitt the 19-17 lead. Pitt came into this this game ranked 17th in the nation, and will finish right around there, maybe move up a couple spots.

The game was played in Charlotte, which created somewhat of a home atmosphere for UNC, but I was surprised and pleased with how many Pitt fans were at the game. It was close the whole game, and both teams made at least 1 costly mistake. Dion Lewis, the Panthers star freshman running back rushed for 159 yards in this game and a TD. He finished the season with 1,799 rushing yards, breaking the Pitt records this season of Ironhead Heyward, LeSean McCoy, Curtis Martin, and Tony Dorsett. Not a bad list. I was very concerned coming into this season, as I figured we would miss Shady McCoy a lot, as McCoy was basically the only weapon on offense the past 2 years.

It was a very successful season for Pitt, and Dave Wannstedt is finally putting his stamp on this team, and bringing Pitt back into national prominence. Wannstedt said after the game when asked why a 10 win season is important that everyone knows that Pitt football is back. Dion Lewis agreed, "It's back," Lewis said regarding Pitt football. We're not satisfied with just 10 wins. We want to get more next year." Lewis was named game MVP. This Panthers team is stacked with solid freshman and sophomores, including Lewis, Raymond Graham, Jonathan Baldwin, Dan Mason, and Mike Shanahan to name a few.

As far as the actual game goes, the Panthers had a tough time getting into the end zone, and settled for 4 field goals, the final one being the difference. The Panthers also missed a field goal, and missed a touchdown opportunity, when Lewis was trying to reach for the end zone, fumbled, and the ball went out of bounds in the end zone, giving the ball to UNC for a touchback. UNC also had some costly mistakes, throwing an interception inside the Pitt 5 yard line, and also going offsides on the final drive, as Pitt was going to attempt a 47 yard field goal.

The final Pitt Panthers drive was very impressive, and was exactly how Pitt wants to play offensively. Anyone who is a fan of running the ball had to appreciate the last drive. The drive started at the Panthers own 5 yard line, and went to the UNC 16. The drive took 8:47 off the clock, lasted 17 plays, which included 14 Dion Lewis runs, 1 Bill Stull run, and 2 pass attempts. It resulted in the game winning field goal.

Obviously, Pitt would have liked to be in a better Bowl game, and I am not trying to say that a bowl win over UNC is anything real special, but it was still a positive note to go into next season on. This was important, considering the way Pitt ended the season with 2 straight heartbreaking losses to West Virginia and Cincinnati. A 10-3 season is successful, and Pitt should be ranked very high going into next season.