Birmingham, Alabama has turned into the home away from home for the Pitt Panthers football team.
Unfortunately that home hasn’t been very kind to them the past two years.
Making their third consecutive appearance in the BBVA Compass Bowl, the Panthers were crushed by Ole Miss 38-17, one year after losing 28-6 to SMU.
Pitt (6-7) struggled on offense all afternoon as leading rusher Ray Graham was held out with a hamstring injury he suffered in bowl practice. The Panthers fell behind in the opening minutes after quarterback Tino Sunseri threw his first interception since Sept. 15 and trailed the remainder of the game.
It was the story of Sunseri’s career as in three years he still hasn’t won a big game under center for the Panthers and Saturday afternoon was no exception.
Ole Miss turned the Sunseri pick into an easy 14-yard touchdown pass from Bo Wallace to Ja-Mess Logan. The Rebels were clicking right out of the gate and went up 14-0 when Wallace hit Randall Mackey with a 27-yard scoring strike.
The Pitt looked out of sync from the opening drive. After throwing an interception on their first possession, the Panthers had a pair of three-and-outs followed by another turnover, when Sunseri fumbled after being sacked.
Pitt finally got on the board on their sixth possession with a 10-yard pass from Sunseri to Devin Street in the second quarter. But even though that cut the lead to 14-7, the game just seemed way out of reach by that point.
Wallace finished up with three touchdown passes, but the story of the game was the fact that the Rebels carved the Panthers up on the ground, to the tune of 224 yards on 49 attempts.
By comparison, Pitt had 266 total yards on the afternoon and converted only 4-of-16 third down attempts, also going 0-for-2 on fourth down.
Sunseri finished his career by completing only 16-of-32 pass attempts for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a meaningless 16-yard touchdown to Mike Shanahan with just over two minutes left in the game.
Ole Miss had an impressive turnaround under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels improved to 7-6 in 2012 after winning only two games a season ago.