Pitt TB LeSean McCoy never really got going.
With Oregon State missing its best two offensive players and Pitt playing with Bill Stull at quarterback, the 75th annual Sun Bowl Wednesday in El Paso, Texas was destined to be a defensive struggle.
But who would have believed only three points would be scored?
Pittsburgh capped its best season in four years with its worst offensive performance and lost 3-0 to Oregon State. The Panthers finished the year 9-4, while the Beavers improved to 9-4.
Pitt played without redshirt sophomore left offensive tackle Jason Pinkston, who injured a shoulder prior to the game. Fifth-year senior Chase Clowser took his place, but neither he nor junior right tackle Joe Thomas could slow OSU's pass rush or open holes for Panthers sensational sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy.
McCoy, who reportedly told Pitt legend Tony Dorsett before the game that he still wanted to return for next season as opposed to declaring eligibility for the NFL Draft, ran for 84 yards on 23 carries. That's just a 3.7-yard average. The Panthers had 90 yards rushing overall, but just 88 yards passing.
"That's the game we were in,'' OSU coach Mike Riley said. "We played that game. We ended up winning it. Some people will call it ugly, but I can't.
"We were three downs and out way too much. We put a terrific burden on our defense and we put a lot of burden on the punt team. They came through. That's the game we were in and we played that game. We ended up winning it.''
Stull was a primary reason. Not the main one, but among them for sure. His inability to complete rudimentary passes, let alone the 6-8 long passes that were not even kept in the field of play, kept Pitt's offense from gaining any consistency from the outset.
Late in the fourth quarter, Stull -- who reportedly injured his right (throwing) hand -- was replaced by sophomore Pat Bostick. With pressure on every pass attempt, just like Stull, Bostick was 2-for-4 for 37 yards. Stull completed just 7 of 24 passes for 51 yards and one interception.
Justin Kahut kicked a 44-yard field goal late in the first half to provide No. 24 Oregon State with its margin of victory against No. 18 Pitt. The game included 20 punts and nine sacks. Panthers fifth-year senior place-kicker Conor Lee tried a 58-yard field goal in the closing minutes, but the ball, helped by a steady wind faded wide right and maybe a bit short.
"I had more confidence in a 58-yard field goal try than going for it on fourth-and-eight Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "I wanted to give out team a chance. I really thought he could kick it.''
The Panthers had several early opportunities with the stiff first-half wind at their backs, but couldn't do anything. Pitt gained a turnover on the game's third play, when sophomore safety Dom DeCicco recovered a Ryan McCants' fumble at the Oregon State 33. Two plays later, however, Stull's pass intended for fifth-year senior wideout Derek Kinder was intercepted by cornerback Keenan Lewis at the 37. The toss was high and behind Kinder, who deflected the ball.
Pitt gave the ball to McCoy only once in its first 10 plays and three times in its first 15 despite the difficulties passing due to the wind and Stull's inconsistency. When the Panthers finally started handing it off to McCoy, he ran five times for 34 yards. Pitt had a third-and-three at the Oregon State 37, but Stull's pass intended for freshman wideout Jonathan Baldwin fell short.
"We couldn't get anything on offense started at all,'' McCoy said. "We played horribly.''
The Panthers went for it on fourth down, but a wind-blown attempt was off badly to turn the ball over. Oregon State answered with completions of 19 yards to tailback Jeremy Francis and 18 yards to Shane Morales to the Pitt 26 to set up Kahut's game-winning field goal.
Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao completed passes of 17 yards to Morales and 19 yards to Sammie Stroughter, then ran a keeper 10 yards on fourth-and-three for a first down at the Pitt 19. Moevao appeared to throw a touchdown pass to tight end John Reese, who caught it and appeared to get a foot down in the end zone. But Pitt safety Eric Thatcher knocked the ball away at the end, and it was ruled no catch. Replays confirmed that.
On the next play, Pitt fifth-year senior middle linebacker Scott McKillop intercepted a pass in the end zone with 5.7 seconds remaining before halftime to keep the score at 3-0. Unfortunately for the Panthers, it stayed that way throughout the second half as well.
"We left a couple of plays on the field today,'' McKillop said. "We just didn't come out in the second half and set the tone.''
Pitt got a spark early in the fourth quarter, when junior wideout T.J. Porter returned a punt 36 yards to the Oregon State 42. But Stull fumbled when sacked by defensive end Victor Butler, and the Beavers recovered with 11:12 remaining.
The Beavers (9-4) improved to 5-0 in bowls since coach Mike Riley began his second stint as their coach in 2003. It was the lowest-scoring Sun Bowl since a scoreless tie in 1940 between Catholic and Arizona State.
Here are the game stats:
Here are photos and game information from the El Paso Times: