BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (KDKA/AP) — For the second straight year, the Pitt Panthers finished their season at the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
Just like last year, they had an interim coach at the helm; but unlike the win they came home with in 2011, this time around the Panthers got trampled by the SMU Mustangs 28-6.
Kevin Harper kicked field goals of 32 and 34 yards, but Pitt (6-7) was held without a first down and fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter.
The Panthers were coached by defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, who took over after Todd Graham left last month to coach at Arizona State.
Pitt’s newly hired coach, former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, flew into Birmingham on Saturday and watched the game from the press box level.
Chryst visited with Pitt alumni and fans before the game. He said he wanted to maintain a respectful distance from the team until the game ended, signaling the start of his era.
For SMU, J.J. McDermott ran and threw for first quarter touchdowns in the win. Rishaad Wimbley ran for two scores for the Mustangs (8-5), which tied a school record by playing in its third straight bowl under coach June Jones.
McDermott completed 16 of 26 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown, to Darius Johnson early in the first.
McDermott beat Pitt’s blitz when lobbed a 50-yard touchdown pass to Darius Johnson for the Mustangs’ first touchdown.
Johnson had seven catches for 120 yards. The 50-yard catch was the longest in the six-year history of the bowl.
After McDermott’s 1-yard run capped an eight-play drive to push the lead to 14-0, Ja’Gared Davis hit Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Taylor Reed at the Panthers’ 27.
McDermott’s 19-yard pass to Cole Beasley set up Wimbley’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Wimbley added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
A series of key plays went against Pitt in the second quarter. Following the field goal, Pitt recovered an onside kick, but the officials said there was an inadvertent whistle before the ball was recovered. Pitt fans booed as the officials said another kickoff was necessary.
With SMU still leading 21-3 later in the quarter, Pitt drove from its 16 to a first and goal at the Mustangs’ 10. On third down from the 5, Sunseri’s pass bounced off tailback Isaac Bennett. The deflection was caught by SMU linebacker Stephon Sanders for an interception.
The half ended with Pitt again coming away with no points at the end of a long drive. Harper’s 47-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright to end a 14-play drive.
SMU running back Jared Williams appeared to hurt his leg and was carted off the field with 13:57 remaining in the game. Williams’ left leg was placed in a brace before he was placed on a stretcher.
Williams led the Mustangs with 11 carries for 40 yards before the injury.
Sunseri was 19 of 28 passing for 183 yards with an interception.
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