By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst had been coy about the status of ailing running back Ray Graham in the days leading to the BBVA Compass Bowl.
After the Panthers managed just 81 rushing yards on 36 carries, Chryst said Graham’s absence didn’t significantly change the game plan.
“We were going to try and get the best runs we could,” Chryst said. “We were never quite sure until a couple of days before, but we had a sense he wouldn’t play.”
Graham ended his career as Pitt’s second-leading rusher with 3,271 yards, trailing only Tony Dorsett. He was also active in the passing game and finished second – again to Dorsett – in all-purpose yards with 4,943.
For Ole Miss, it was the second-straight game to hold an opponent to fewer than 100 rushing yards. The Rebels allowed just 30 yards on 25 attempts to Mississippi State.
Pitt had some success with its inside running game in the second quarter but could get nothing going after halftime.
Linebacker Mike Marry led Ole Miss with seven tackles, four for loss. The Rebels had 11 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Sunseri streak ends
Senquez Golson’s interception of Pitt QB Tino Sunseri on the Panthers’ opening possession ended Sunseri’s string of 271 passes without an interception.
Sunseri went into the game with 19 TD passes and only two interceptions on the season.
It was the third interception of the year for Golson, the sophomore two-sport athlete from Pascagoula. He picked off two passes against LSU in November.
18:The Rebels got off 86 plays to Pitt’s 68, a difference of 18.
The Rebels moved 48 yards in five plays to answer Pitt’s first touchdown. The Panthers had just cut a 14-0 lead in half, and Ole Miss got a 49-yard kick return from Jaylen Walton to move the ball into Pitt territory. The points came on an 18-yard pass to Vincent Sanders, who slipped a tackle near the line of scrimmage to score.
“This shows the program is moving in the right direction. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re moving in the right direction. We’ll be a whole lot better next year. We still don’t know everything about the defensive scheme. God only knows how good this defense will be next year.” – Ole Miss linebacker Mike Marry
Walk-on Carlos Davis, a Birmingham native, had a big-day on special teams with three tackles. … Ole Miss stretched its bowl winning streak to five games. … Bo Wallace finished the season with 2,994 passing yards, third on the school’s single-season list. He threw 22 touchdown passes, fourth on the list. … Ole Miss has 22 bowl wins all-time, tied with Auburn and LSU for 11th in the NCAA.