No. 24 Pittsburgh Downs Oregon State, 38-13
Dec 26, 2002
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX - Oregon State's Steven Jackson got the pregame attention. Pittsburgh's Brandon Miree got the MVP award - and the victory.
Miree rushed for 113 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run, as the 24th-ranked Panthers beat the Beavers 38-13 Thursday night in the Insight Bowl.
Jackson, the Pac-10's leading rusher and No. 4 nationally with 1,656 yards, managed a season-low 34 yards in 19 carries. Overall, Oregon State gained just 8 yards on the ground.
'Him being such a great running back and with the great line they had, we just came out and met the challenge,' said Pitt defensive end Claude Harriott, who had two sacks and four tackles for loss.
The game matched the country's No. 10 defense (Oregon State) and No. 11 (Pittsburgh). But the night belonged to the Panthers.
Jackson had gained fewer than 100 yards in just three games all season, but broke loose only once against Pittsburgh, a 60-yard gain that was called back by a holding penalty. Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson admitted he was surprised at how ineffective the running game was.
'They played very physical against us,' Erickson said. 'It did surprise me, because I thought we could run the football against most people, and we couldn't tonight.'
Pitt eventually just overpowered the Beavers.
'We knew they were a tough defense, No. 10 in the nation coming in,' Miree said. 'But we felt we were a physical football team. We've been physical with all the teams that we played this year.'
Shawn Robinson became the first Pitt player to return a punt for a touchdown in the school's 22 bowl appearances as the Panthers won nine games in a season for the first time in 20 years.
The victory made the Big East 2-0 on the day. Boston College routed Toledo 51-25 in the Motor City Bowl.
'I think people cannot ever refer to it as the Big Easy anymore,' Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said.
The Panthers (9-4) broke a 10-10 tie with a pair of TDs in the third quarter. Tez Morris' interception set up the go-ahead touchdown on Rod Rutherford's 1-yard run, then Robinson broke a pair of tackles en route to his 66-yard punt return to make it 24-10 with 3:26 to go in the third quarter.
'That was the turning point,' Harris said, 'that and the field goal at the end of the half.'
Pittsburgh added two more touchdowns in the fourth.
Derek Anderson completed 21 of 44 passes for 318 yards for Oregon State (8-5). James Newson caught 10 for 165 yards for the Beavers, including a remarkable 65-yard touchdown play.
Rutherford was 13-for-26 for 183 yards. Larry Fitzgerald made a diving grab of Rutherford's 40-yard pass for the game's first touchdown.
With the game tied at 10 early in the third quarter, Anderson handed off to Jackson, who pitched it back to Anderson on a flea-flicker play. Anderson's hurried throw was picked off by Morris, who returned it 37 yards to the Beavers' 23.
'I think his arm got hit as he threw,' Erickson said.
Rutherford threw 22 yards to Fitzgerald, then ran it in from the 1 to make it 17-10 with 12:08 to go in the third.
After Fitzgerald's touchdown grab on Pitt's first possession, the Beavers scored in equally spectacular fashion.
Newson caught Anderson's pass near midfield and was hit by defenders Torrie Cox and Brian Beinecke. Newson went down, but caught himself with his right hand and his knee never touched the ground.
The Oregon State receiver scampered to his feet and ran to the end zone on a 65-yard scoring play to tie it at 7 with 9:52 to go in the first quarter.
The Beavers took a 10-7 lead on Kirk Yliniemi's Insight Bowl record 50-yard field goal, then Pittsburgh tied it at 10 on David Abdul's 45-yarder as the half ended.
Yliniemi also kicked a 34-yarder with 34 seconds left in the third quarter, his 15th consecutive made field goal to tie a school record.
Trailing 24-13, Oregon State went for it on fourth-and-4 from the 50 with 9:14 remaining and Anderson completed it to Cole Clasen for what would have been a first down, but the play was called back for an illegal formation.
The Beavers went for it again on fourth-and-9 but Anderson had to throw it away.
Pittsburgh drove for another score, aided by a personal foul, with Miree scoring on a 7-yard run to put the Panthers up 31-13 with 5:38 remaining.
It was Pittsburgh's second trip in three years to the Insight Bowl, played in Bank One Ballpark, home of baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks. The Panthers were beaten by Iowa State in the then-Insight.com Bowl two years ago.