True freshman running back Dion Lewis set a PITT rushing record as he broke Tony Dorsett's 36-year mark by running for 159 yards to pace the Panther's 19-17 victory over North Carolina in the Meineke Care Care Bowl.
Lewis finished his freshman season with a 1799 rushing yards and he eclipsed Tony Dorsett's old mark of 1686 yards set back in 1973. Despite facing the number six ranked defense in the nation, the North Carolina Tar Heels looked inflectional in stopping the freshman sensation. Lewis scored PITT's only touchdown as the Panther's won in front of hostile home-state crowd in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The 5-foot-8 Lewis entered the game needing only 47 yards to break Dorsett's mark. By halftime he had his 10th 100-yard game of the season and his eighth straight. Not too shabby for a largely ignored running back, barely a year out of high school, seen as too small by most big schools.
Despite committing his first fumble of the season after 302 carries, Lewis' 2009 rushing total marks the second most yardage by a PITT player in a single season, surpassing Craig Heyward, who totaled 1,791 rushing yards in 1987 as a Heisman finalist. Lewis' total is second only to Tony Dorsett's 1976 Heisman-winning season of 2,150 yards.
The 18-year-old Lewis also racked up an impressive amount of accolades this season being selected the 2009 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Rookie of the Year, The Sporting News Freshman of the Year, and the Offensive Freshman of the Year by CollegeFootballNews.com.
Add 17 touchdowns and an average of over 138 rushing yards per game, Lewis has to figure prominently as a sophomore threat to win the 2010 Heisman Trophy. Lewis is now ranked as the second leading 2009 FBS rusher in the nation ahead of Toby Gerhart and Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram.
PITT's victory capped their first 10-win season since the 1982 squad led by Dan Marino
led the Panthers to a last second, come-from-behind win over Georgia in the 1982 Sugar Bowl. It also marked PITT's first bowl game win since the 2002 Insight Bowl triumph over Oregon State, 38-13. This was PITT's seventh bowl game appearance of the decade.