Pittsburgh Panthers Team Report

Everything went according to plan in the opening minutes Saturday against Miami. The Panthers held the Hurricanes to three-and-out on the first series, then marched 64 yards in nine plays to take a quick 7-0 lead.<br><br> Essentially, that was the Panthers' last hurrah.

They were thoroughly dominated the rest of the way, save for a brief stretch at the outset of the second half when they drove to the Miami 15-yard line before QB Rod Rutherford threw an interception.

Their eventual 28-14 loss actually wasn't that close. It was 28-7 when the Panthers scored their final touchdown with 2:43 left in the game. That score came on Rutherford's 18-yard pass to WR Larry Fitzgerald, which extended Fitzgerald's NCAA-record streak of games with a touchdown reception to 18.

Typical of the way the evening went for the Panthers was the series following their second touchdown. They recovered the onside kickoff, giving rise to faint hopes for a miracle comeback. But after Rutherford got a first down with a 15-yard run to the Miami 41, he was picked off two plays later by SS Maurice Sikes, who returned it 72 yards to the Pittsburgh 16. So much for a miracle.

The Panthers were dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They gave up 280 rushing yards to the Hurricanes and managed only a net 26 of their own on the ground. RB Brandon Miree had 23 yards on four carries on the first series but got only four more on six more carries the rest of the way.

The Panthers also surrendered nine sacks, probably the biggest reason Fitzgerald was kept under control. Rutherford simply had no time to throw.

Thus the Panthers, who came into the game with a shot at a share of the Big East title and a likely BCS bid, fell to 8-4 overall and 5-2 in the conference. Afterward, they accepted an invitation to the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., Dec. 27 against Virginia, as a consolation prize. "It's not the bowl we were hoping for, but just the same we're excited about the opportunity. There were a lot of years around here when that didn't happen." -- Coach Walt Harris, after his Panthers were extended an invitation to the Continental Tire Bowl following their loss to Miami.

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