BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Ugh.
That's about the best word to describe the way Pitt fans must feel after watching their Panthers slog through yet another ugly bowl game.
The Panthers fell behind SMU by three touchdowns within the first 15 minutes of today's BBVA Compass Bowl and never had a chance as the Mustangs cruised to a 28-6 win before a crowd of 28,726 at Legion Field.
It was the final chapter of a long season for the Panthers (6-7) who endured a coaching change and a lot of heartbreaking losses en route to this minor bowl for the second consecutive season.
But unlike last year in this game, when then-interim head coach Phil Bennett rallied the Panthers to a win over Kentucky, this staff, led by interim head coach Keith Patterson, couldn't find the magic.
Of course, the deck was stacked against the staff as there were only five full-time coaches left on the staff and all of them were on the field.
That meant the skeleton crew had to try to put together and implement a game plan without much help; the coaches' box in the press box was filled with graduate assistants.
This game was not close from the start, however, as the Mustangs (8-5) looked sharp and crisp while the Panthers appeared to be in disarray.
SMU took a 7-0 lead on its second possession thanks to a 50-yard touchdown pass from J.J. McDermott to Darius Johnson and finished its next two drives with touchdowns -- a 1-yard sneak by McDermott and a 1-yard run by Rishaad Wimbley.
That was pretty much the end of the game as the Panthers, who had two costly turnovers and got a punt blocked, couldn't mount even a bit of a comeback.
Patterson will now head to Arkansas State to take a job as the defensive coordinator while former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who was in attendance at the game, takes over and begins a new era of Pitt football.
Chryst is the sixth head coach for the Panthers in about 13 months but talked like a guy who hopes to be the last one the school needs to hire for quite some time.
"That is the vision I have," Chryst said. "You don't talk about it but that is what you want. I feel fortunate to have been around a [winning] program like [Wisconsin] and if you have continuity like that it really does help in a lot of ways. I certainly learned a lot from working in that model."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1720 First Published January 7, 2012 9:45 PM