BBVA Compass Bowl 2013: Grading the Performances of Ole Miss and Pittsburgh

Brett Mixon@@TrueBlueAUContributor IJanuary 6, 2013

BBVA Compass Bowl 2013: Grading the Performances of Ole Miss and Pittsburgh

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    The rain fell down on Birmingham's Legion Field as the clock ticked down to zero in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The precipitation could not stop the party that many of those clad in Ole Miss paraphernalia were having after their Rebels beat the Pittsburgh Panthers, 38-17. 

    The 55 points scored were a BBVA Compass Bowl record. 

    Ole Miss improved to 22-12 all-time in bowl appearances, while Pitt fell to 12-17 in its bowl game history. 

    A record-breaking crowd of 59,135 people, many of whom made the trip over to Birmingham from Mississippi, saw Ole Miss jump out to an early 14-0 lead, and the Rebels held the lead for the rest of the game. Pittsburgh came as close as seven points early in the second quarter, but Ole Miss quickly responded. 

    Pittsburgh's troubles started before it took the field, as 1,000-yard rusher Ray Graham was ruled out of Saturday's game due to a hamstring injury. Freshman RB Rushel Shell filled in admirably as he rushed 25 times for 79 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. 

    Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace was named the Fred Slington Most Valuable Player, and the Rebel offense racked up 387 yards of offense against the Panthers. Pitt came in with a defense that was ranked No. 17 in the nation in total defense. 

    Ole Miss improved to 7-6, and Pittsburgh fell to 6-7, as they both closed the book on the 2012 football season.

    Before we close the book on the BBVA Compass Bowl, let's grade the performances of the teams in this SEC and Big East battle. 


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    Bo Wallace, Ole Miss: A-

    Wallace admitted in his postgame press conference that he still had a long way to go in his development as a QB. He started the game off well and then his performance got a little shaky. That sort of inconsistency was apparent on a couple of occasions in Saturday's matchup.

    "I felt really good at the start of the game and then had the two interceptions, but I just had to bounced back from it. When coach Freeze went tempo it settled me down a little bit because that's what I am comfortable in," Wallace said.

    Still, Wallace ended the day going 22-of-32 for 151 yards and three TDs.

    He threw two interceptions that he would undoubtedly like to have back, but it was impressive how he came back from those interceptions and moved on to the next series. 

    Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh: B

    Sunseri was evading the Ole Miss rush plenty of times on Saturday night. His streak of 271 consecutive passes without an interception came to an end, but considering the pressure that he was under, he played pretty well. Sunseri finished his Pittsburgh career going 16-of-32 for 185 yards and 1 INT. 

Running Back

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    Ole Miss game grade: A

    Who said the hurry-up, no-huddle offense meant throwing the ball 50 times a game? It was the opposite on Saturday as Ole Miss rushed for 224 yards on 49 carries. Those 49 carries tied the bowl's record for most rushes in a game. Southern Miss ran the same amount of times in a loss to Cincinnati in 2007.

    RB I'Tavius Mathers put a cap on the scoring midway through the fourth quarter when he scampered 62 yards for a TD. The run was the longest run in BBVA Conpass Bowl history. He ended up leading the Rebels in rushing. He had 96 yards on six carries. 

    Pittsburgh game grade: C

    Pitt struggled on the ground with the absence of 1,000-yard rusher Ray Graham, who was sidelined before the game with a hamstring injury. The Panthers mustered only 81 yards for the game. 

    Freshman Rushel Shell was the leading rusher as he got the ball 25 times on Saturday afternoon. He was able net 79 yards for the game. 

    Russell Shell offers a promising future for the Pitt run game in lieu of losing stud Sr. Ray Graham...

    — Kevin Carter (@kevincarterESPN) January 5, 2013

    The longest run of the day was 14 yards. 

Wide Receiver

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    Ole Miss game grade: A

    WR Randall Mackey made a gorgeous diving catch for his first career TD reception to put the Rebels up 14-0 with five minutes remaining in the first quarter. It was that kind of day for the Rebel offense. 

    Four different receivers had five or more catches and the Rebels' offense ended with 163 yards through the air. WR Vince Sanders showed off his moves when he made some Pitt defenders miss on a WR screen that went for an 18-yard TD run. 

    Ja-Mes Logan was the leading receiver. He had six catches for 36 yards and a TD. 

    Pittsburgh game grade: B

    The only scoring that the Panthers did on Saturday afternoon was through the air. WRs Devin Street and Mike Shanahan both had TD receptions. Street ended the day with 83 yards, and Shanahan had four receptions for 57 yards. Those yards accounted for most of the Panthers' 185 yards through the air. 

Tight Ends

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    Ole Miss game grade: C

    The Ole Miss TEs were not utilized in the passing game on Saturday—at least not in the form of catching passes. 

    Pittsburgh game grade: C 

    Like the Rebels, QB Tino Sunseri and the Panther offense did not utilize the TE in the passing game much. TE J.P. Holtz ended the game with one catch for three yards. 

Offensive Line

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    Ole Miss game grade: A-

    The Ole Miss offensive line wasn't perfect, but it won the battle in the trenches against the DL of the Panthers. 

    For a lot of the first quarter, Ole Miss was running to the outside and trying to use the speed of its RBs to outrun the Pittsburgh defense. The Pittsburgh defense became worn down and that's when the offensive line for Ole Miss took over. 

    The 224 yards rushing for Ole Miss had a lot to do with the play of the offensive line. 

    Pittsburgh game grade: D

    The offensive line for Pittsburgh had a hard time handling the pressure of the Ole Miss defense. "We saw a lot of things that they were doing on film out there today. We just didn't do enough to be successful," senior OL Ryan Turley said (Quote provided by media relations in press box). 

    Pittsburgh allowed QB Tino Sunseri to be sacked four times and there was nothing on the ground for the Panthers rushing attack, as they finished with only 81 yards on the ground. 

Defensive Line

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    Ole Miss game grade: A

    The Rebels came into Saturday's game ranked in the Top 15 in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss. The front seven of Ole Miss will probably creep up in those rankings after Saturday. The Rebels had four sacks and 11 tackles for loss against the Panthers in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

    The defensive line played a big part in the defense's stellar performance. The group was living in the Pittsburgh backfield and pressuring Sunseri for much of the night. 

    NT Gilbert Pena led the group with four tackles, a tackle for loss and two QB hurries.

    Pittsburgh game grade: C

    The Panthers' defensive line did little to stop the Ole Miss offense that features a lot of misdirection and up-tempo. 

    The group was clearly the weaker unit going up against the Ole Miss offensive line. 

    DE Shayne Hale was the team's second-leading tackler with 13 tackles and two tackles for loss. 


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    Ole Miss game grade: A

    MLB Mike Marry made his presence in the Pittsburgh backfield known throughout the game. He had a hit in the third quarter that was very similar to that of Jadaveon Clowney's hit on New Year's Day

    Marry led the Rebels with seven tackles. Included in that is four tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Freshman OLB Denzel Nkemdiche recovered the fumble.

    Pittsburgh game grade: C

    The Panthers' LB corps was busy throughout the game on Saturday. The pace and misdirection of the Ole Miss offense gave the group trouble in making reads throughout the game. 

    There were plenty of missed tackles to point to on the entire defense, but the linebacker corps had more than its fair share. 

Defensive Backs

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    Ole Miss game grade: B

    The Ole Miss secondary did a good job against Pitt's senior QB Tino Sunseri. Coming into the game, Sunseri had thrown 270 passes without being picked off. That ended on Saturday when Sophomore CB Senquez Golson intercepted Sunseri. It was his third interception in the last three games. He also had four tackles in the game. 

    Sunseri did have some success against the secondary, though. He threw for 185 yards and two TDs in the game. 

    Pittsburgh game grade: B

    Had Pittsburgh won Saturday's game, FS Jason Hendricks may have won MVP honors. He had a stellar game and broke some records in the process. 

    With Jason Hendricks' 16 tackles, he becomes the 1st #Pitt player with 15 since Scott McKillop had 17 vs Cincinnati on Nov. 22, 2008.

    Pitt Football (@GoPittFootball) January 5, 2013

    Hendricks finished with 17 tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss and a forced fumble. 

    For the rest of the secondary. There were some missed tackles and a couple instances where Ole Miss receivers got behind the secondary. 

Special Teams

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    Ole Miss game grade: A

    Senior K Bryson Rose set a BBVA Compass Bowl record with his five point-after-touchdown attempts. He also kicked a field goal to give him eight total points on the day. 

    In the kickoff-return game, freshman Jaylen Walton had two returns for 83 yards. One of those returns went for 49 yards. 

    Punter Jim Broadway averaged 39.7 yards and pinned Pittsburgh inside the twenty-yard line two times. 

    Pittsburgh game grade: A

    Pittsburgh punter Matt Yoklic tied the BBVA Compass Bowl record for best punt average. He averaged 48.3 yards per kick on six attempts. His longest was a 58-yard boom of a kick in the third quarter. 

    Kicker Kevin Harper nailed a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter, and he was perfect on his two point-after-touchdown attempts. 


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    Ole Miss game grade: A

    Hugh Freeze and his staff had the Rebels ready to play in Saturday's bowl game. That is not easy to do after a long layoff like Ole Miss had. When Pitt pulled to within seven points of Ole Miss in the second quarter, it appeared that the Panthers had snatched away some momentum. 

    Freeze upped the tempo a little bit and got back to what QB Bo Wallace and the Rebel offense were comfortable doing. 

    After being doubted for much of the year, Freeze ended his first year in Oxford with a winning (7-6) record. 

    Pittsburgh game grade: C

    First-year head coach Paul Chryst ended his first year on a sour note in the BBVA Compass Bowl. He and his staff were out-coached throughout the game. 

    It appeared that no adjustments were made after halftime. That did not put the Panthers in a position for a chance to win. 

    Overall, Chryst finished his first season as Pitt coach with a 6-7 record. He should be commended for the job he did and the situation he took over. A lot of coaches would not have had the courage to accept the challenge that he did. 

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