For one day the focus was on football and anything you need to know about why the Panthers were successful - other than Kentucky isn't very good -- today in winning the BBVA Compass Bowl is that quote from Pitt's acting coach Phil Bennett in the title because that is the attitude Pitt had when it took the field today agianst the Wildcats.
Here is the quote in its full context and it says a lot about Bennett's ability to get this team motivated and get them focused despite everything swirling around them and all the things they had to overcome in the past month or so.
"Coming in here, let's face it, we played the underdog role, I played it, with everything that happened," Bennett said. "We're in SEC territory, Kentucky maybe had twice as many fans as us today and when we pulled in, hell we couldn't get in [the parking lot] because [Kentucky fans] wouldn't get out of the way and I used that I said 'that's the kind of stuff we are fighting today, let's run over their asses'."
"It was a mindset that we had to go above and beyond to play well."
And that was a consistent theme among all of the players I talked to in the postgame -- "let's show the world who we are"
Pitt's players and coaches did finish the job and did indeed make the university proud, if only for one day, but I really a lot of credit has to go to Bennett and his coaching staff for the job they did in getting the team ready to play and more importantly getting them motivated to play a game that a few weeks ago a lot of them were saying they had no interest in playing.
** I asked Bennett in the post-game if he was interested in interviewing for the head coaching position or if his work this past week at least should have earned an interview with Pitt's administration and he laughed then gave an honest answer.
“If the were smart they’d have done that a long time ago,” Bennett said. “That is just the way it works so I’m looking forward to going to Baylor.”
Bennett - whose resume is legitimately better than that of most of the candidates who have interviewed for the position -- will join Baylor's staff as the defensive coordinator.
** Sophomore tailback Dion Lewis said he "hasn't made up his mind" about his future and whether he was going to leave school early but then sure sounded like a guy who is out the door when he talked about how he'd miss the family atmosphere at Pitt.
Lewis ran for 105 yards and a touchdown and was named the MVP of the game. He also went over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season and he also broke LeSean McCoy's school record for most yards rushing in freshman and sophomore seasons (2,860). McCoy rushed for 2,816.
Pitt also set a Compass Bowl record with 261 yards rushing.
** Pitt's players certainly had enough of hearing about the SEC and how great it is and how tough the league is as compared to the Big East.
Jason Pinkston, in fact, probably changed the game when he nearly started a bench clearing brawl by pushing a Kentucky player who he thought threw a cheap shot at Tino Sunseri. After that, the Panthers just took it right to the Wildcats and pushed them around up front.
"“They were doing a lot of talking at the bowling alley and the comedy show earlier this week about SEC this and SEC that,” said Pinkston. “We’re not buying all of that, we’re Pittsburgh, we play physical and there was a couple of times they were complaining about us blocking and obviously we got into their head and we finished the game.
“We’re power football, that is all we play, power football and we are going to come after you for 60 minutes and we’re going to block to the whistle.”
Bennett echoed that and said that Pitt didn't reach all of its goals this year and didn't win enough games but the idea they were going to get pushed around by anyone was ridiculous because power football is what the Panthers under Dave Wannstedt do best.
"That's Dave Wannstedt football," Bennett said. "We are physical on both sides of the ball, sometimes we are not pretty, we are not flashy but if you are going to fight us, you better get ready because we are going to be there a while.
"We came here with the mindset that we were going to win the game."
** One thing about going out and making a statement by winning a game -- you earn respect the old fashioned way and that is what Pitt did.
Kentucky senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin admitted the Panthers were more physical than even he thought and he said they let Pitt's physical play get into their heads. That was a pretty interesting admission, I thought, but it does show how hard Pitt played.
"[Pitt] looked like an SEC football team, the way they run the ball they remind you of Auburn and Mississippi State," Lumpkin said. "You could see on film how physical they are and what they would do after the play but we didn't revert to our training and not retaliate [when they felt like Pitt was blocking too long after the whistle] and that is what hurt us and honestly, they got in our heads and the next thing you know we are hitting people out of bounds. We usually don't do that, we're usually disciplined.
"We knew what they were going to do, we were out there on the field calling out that they were going to run the ball and yet, we couldn't stop them. That hurts."
** The Big East is now 5-0 in BBVA Compass Bowls - it used to be called PapaJohns.com bowl or something - and that includes 2-0 against the SEC.
** We'd be remiss if we didn't remind you about this little coaching search, even though Steve Pederson and Mark Nordenberg were both at Legion Field today for the game. Tomorrow two candidates, Stanford assistant coach Greg Roman and former Pitt player Teryl Austin will interview with Pederson and company. Also, Tom Bradley, who is likely right now the leading candidate at Pitt, is supposed to interview with Connecticut tomorrow at an undisclosed location.
I'll have more on today's game and the coaching search later.