What Happened: While neither team really bothered rushing the ball (71 total yards on the ground between the two teams), it was the SMU defense that surprisingly led the Mustangs to a big victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Without a legitimate rushing game, SMU still managed to move the ball fairly well, racking up 239 yards through the air, while also owning a slight lead in time of possession. Given the strength of the defenses in this matchup, both squads combined for just 25 first downs on the game — a strong statement on just how inefficient both gameplans ended up being.
Who’s to Blame: Pitt was obviously under-coached by their interim head coach Keith Patterson, who was probably far more focused on his upcoming gig with Arkansas State next season. With no real defensive scheme, nor any real field presence by quarterback Tino Sunseri, the Panthers looked overmatched by their supposedly lesser foe. Failing to score until 33 minutes into the contest, Pitt appeared to be in disarray, with little production on offense, nor the personnel to truly capitalize on what should have been a weak Mustangs’ front.
It Was Over When: SMU closed out the first quarter with another touchdown, making the score 21-0. Running back Rishad Wimbley tallied his first of two scores with just 35 seconds left on the clock in the period to thoroughly put away the hapless Panthers. Pitt failed to ever really get their offense going here, and it especially showed in the late goings, as they desperately attempted to make this a competitive game.
Game Ball Goes to: Mustangs’ quarterback J.J. McDermott, who cut down on turnovers, throwing for 239 yards and one touchdown (and ran for another), leading SMU to the win. McDermott had been inconsistent all season, with a high turnover total, yet delivered when his team need him most in the BBVA Compass Bowl. His one-yard touchdown scamper in the first would end up being all the points the Mustangs needed to put away the ACC-bound Panthers. SMU is on track to join the Big East in 2013.
Predictions Update: I close out the ACC bowl season at a thoroughly disappointing 4-5. However, this is nowhere near the ghastly 2-7 record the conference collected in this year’s postseasons. Their only victories — to an overrated Notre Dame team and a lackluster, offensively-challenged Louisville squad — are nothing to truly brag about. The conference is likely to enter another offseason with questions to answer and a diminutive W-L record to defend.