BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Pittsburgh scored touchdowns off two mistakes by Kentucky’s punting team and the Panthers, playing for their former coach, beat the Wildcats 27-10 in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday.
Andrew Taglianetti blocked a punt to set up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown late in the first half. An incomplete pass on Kentucky’s fake punt early in the second half set up Tino Sunseri’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Brock DeCicco. Sunseri also ran for a touchdown.
The Panthers (8-5) protected the lead with their running game in a win players dedicated to former coach Dave Wannstedt, who was forced to resign after a disappointing regular season.
“We knew Coach Wannstedt was watching,” safety Dom DeCicco said. “It was special to come out here and play the way we did and get this win after all the adversity we’ve been through.”
Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, Pittsburgh’s acting head coach for the bowl game, was hired Friday to be defensive coordinator at Baylor.
Bennett was soaked with a cooler with a little more than 1 minute remaining.
“We’ve got good kids,” Bennett said. “They’ve been through a lot. I’m just proud of them and I know Dave Wannstedt is.”
Sunseri completed 9 of 19 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Dion Lewis ran for 105 yards and a touchdown, and Ray Graham added 90 yards rushing as the Panthers outgained Kentucky 261-104 on the ground.
Kentucky (6-7), playing without suspended quarterback Mike Hartline, fell far below its average of 33 points per game. Morgan Newton, making his first start of the season, was 21 of 36 passing for 211 yards.
Pitt led 20-3 before the Wildcats’ only touchdown, a 1-yard run by Moncell Allen late in the third quarter. The Panthers answered with a long drive and 2-yard touchdown run by Lewis.
Randall Cobb set the Southeastern Conference’s single-season record for all-purpose yards, but the versatile junior wasn’t enough for the Wildcats to overcome their mistakes.
Cobb passed former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden’s 2007 SEC record of 2,310 all-purpose yards. Cobb entered the game 119 yards behind McFadden’s mark.