Big Lead Sports Bar

12/26/2009

IT'S A WANNYFUL LIFE

2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl
Charlotte, NC

PITT (10-3) 19

NORTH CAROLINA (8-5) 17



As I watched a sure touchdown pass bounce off the hands of Dorin Dickerson, and later saw Dion Lewis fumble a second sure Pitt touchdown into the UNC end zone, I wondered if the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl would be a disappointing finale to the Pitt Panthers' roller-coaster season. Nothing like whiffing on 14 points to make life difficult. Luckily for the blue and gold, they overcame their early miscues and were able to deliver a belated Christmas present to the school: a last-minute win in the bowl game, capping off the first 10-win season the program has had since the Dan Marino days of 1981.

The recipe for Panther success followed a familiar path: hand the ball to Dion Lewis and watch in amazement. Aside from the fumbled touchdown, Lewis had another great game, with 159 yards and a score on 28 carries. It was the 10th 100+ yard game for Lewis in 2009, breaking Tony Dorsett's 1973 record for rushing yards in a season by a Panther freshman (1,686). Lewis would go on to finish with a whopping 1,799 for the year, to nicely pair with 18 touchdowns. And to think that the position of running back was a question mark after the loss of Shady McCoy to the riches of the NFL.

The Pitt season climaxed on an epic 17-play drive lasting nearly nine minutes, featuring a fourth-down conversion, 13 Lewis runs, a huge fourth-and-two offsides call against the Tar Heels, and finally, a 33-yard field goal by Dan Hutchins, his fourth and most important of the night.

The win was sweet for Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, who bested former co-worker Butch Davis in their first head-to-head meeting as college coaches. As noted earlier in the week (with a fantastic photo, I must add), Davis and Wannstedt worked on Jimmy Johnson's staffs at Oklahoma State and Miami in the college ranks, and with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. The coaching duo not only experienced a national title with the 'Canes in 1987, but a Super Bowl victory with the Cowboys in 1992.

The only bad part of the game is that it was the final appearance for several key players in a Pitt uniform. QB Bill Stull, who redeemed himself for a lackluster performance in last season's 3-0 Sun Bowl loss, heads the list. Stull is projected as the #9 quarterback in the NFL draft by ESPN. The Panthers will also lose TE Dorin Dickerson, who is ranked as the #1 fullback going into the draft, and should translate well to the pro game. Also moving on: DL Mick Williams, WR Oderick Turner, TE Nate Byham (or as Wanny inexplicably calls him, "Nate Bynam"), DB Aaron Berry, DB Jovani Chappel, DL Tommie Duhart, LB Adam Gunn, OL John Malecki, WR Cedric McGee, LB Shane Murray, DL Gus Mustakas, and WR TJ Porter. Whew. That's quite a list.

Luckily, the cupboard is not bare. The Panthers will return a Heisman candidate in Lewis, one of the nation's top receivers in Jonathan Baldwin, and many key components of a highly-regarded defense (as well as a likable head coach with immaculate facial hair).

And for those interested in planning ahead, here's an early look at who the Panthers will play in the 2009-10 season. An out-of-conference schedule featuring Utah, Notre Dame, and "The U" , as well as many quality returnees, will ensure a very interesting season, to say the least.

9-4-10 NEW HAMPSHIRE
9-11-10 at Utah
9-25-10 MIAMI FL
10-2-10 FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
10-9-10 at Notre Dame
TBA LOUISVILLE
TBA RUTGERS
TBA WEST VIRGINIA
TBA at Connecticut
TBA at South Florida
TBA at Syracuse
TBA at Cincinnati

But for now, let's take our hats off to the Panthers for a nice ending to an incredibly exciting 2009 campaign. As tough as it was to experience, there are a lot things worse for a college football fan base than being one point short of a BCS appearance. Better to at least have a shot at winning the conference than to never have a shot at all.

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5 comments:

johnny said...

Don,

I think you can delete Tommy Duhart and TJ Porter from that list. That said, I wish the seniors all the best at whatever the next level holds.

John said...

Do you want more interesting?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not contacted former NFL Draft coach Bill Cowher about possibly coaching the team in 2010, according to a source close to the team's owners.
An NFL Draft.com report said team officials contacted Cowher.
"That's not true," a source with knowledge of the Glazer family's intentions told the Tampa Tribune. "That's just people speculating."
According to a story by An NFL Draft.com reporter Jason La Canfora, Bucs officials reached out to Cowher to gauge his interest in possibly coaching the team in 2010. The story cited "a source with knowledge of the situation."

Adam said...

Way to rain on Pitt's small parade

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

@ Adam,

That parade was rained on when the Trophy Presentation was preempted in lieu of breaking news of Urban Meyer's Brett Favre-like decision making.

People can make fun, but 10 wins and a bowl victory is a good season. Not what some of us would have liked, but a good finish against one of the nation's top defenses.

BURGH08 said...

Nothing tops Nittany Lion volleyball.