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Panthers Climb Out of the Pits

College football: Pittsburgh upsets Miami for first time since 1976, 21-17.

September 19, 1997|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — After four seasons made up mostly of losses, Pete Gonzalez got a victory to savor.

Gonzalez, a fifth-year senior, threw for two touchdowns and ran for one as Pittsburgh surprised No. 22 Miami, 21-17, Thursday night.

John Jenkins had a game-clinching interception as Pittsburgh (3-1) ended an eight-game losing streak in the series. The last Pitt victory was 36-19 in 1976, when the Panthers of Tony Dorsett won the national championship.

This was Pitt's first victory over a ranked team since it beat No. 16 Texas A&M in the 1989 Hancock Bowl.

"It's been frustrating, yes," Gonzalez said. "This just means so much, not just for me, but also for the senior class and all the seniors who have been with me this far."

Fans attending the homecoming game ran onto the field to tear down the goalposts after Pittsburgh won its third in four starts for rookie coach Walt Harris. The Panthers had won only 15 games the previous five seasons.

"They are just tired of losing," Harris said. "They have put their foot down, and it is going to take someone to pull it off to get it back up again."

Miami's 1-2 start is its second in three seasons under Butch Davis, who is 18-8 since replacing Dennis Erickson.

Gonzalez, who took the quarterback job from 1996 starter Matt Lytle, completed 19 of 33 passes for 187 yards and ran for 63 yards.

"Pete is a lot better than he has shown in the past. He's a big-time competitor and he knows the game like a coach," Harris said. "I couldn't be happier for him or more proud of where he is. You don't know what he has done to prepare to become our starter."

Miami had a chance to pull the game out in the final minutes but Jenkins intercepted Ryan Clement's fourth-down pass near the Pittsburgh 20.

"We made numerous mistakes. We have 18 to 20 freshmen playing," Davis said. "We have mistakes being made by inexperienced players. The biggest challenge for us is to evaluate. We have to take a hard look at our players."

Clement, who was 17 for 38 for 250 yards with two interceptions, said Miami will rebound.

"I don't thinking you are looking at the next Alabama Crimson Tide with Pitt, and I also don't think you are looking at an also-ran in the Big East with Miami," Clement said.

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