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Pitt Ends Successful (Yes, Successful) Season

That was the feeling after Pitt wrapped up a 19-17 Meineke Car Care Bowl win over North Carolina on Saturday. Regardless of what anyone may try to argue, this was a fairly big win for Pitt. To get to ten wins for the first time since 1981, and 19 wins over the past two years, was pretty significant. No, it's not a BCS bowl win. But it is a nice win to end the season.

Let's recap - Pitt goes 10-3 along with picking up some nice wins against teams like North Carolina, South Florida, Rutgers, and Notre Dame. The losses against WVU and Cincy were tough, especially considering Pitt had the talent to win both of those games. But 10-3 is Pitt taking the next step. It didn't happen in the late 80s, or even in the Walt Harris era where Pitt experienced somewhat of a resurgence. The way the season ended was disappointing, but if you look at everything, it wasn't a bad year.

I'm normally with Bob Smizik, but I've got to respectfully disagree with him this time. I agree with much of what he says, but not this:
Pitt reached the 10-win plateau for the first time since 1981, which seems like a big deal to some. I’ll regard it as a big deal when they once gain reach the one-loss plateau, which was the case in 1981 when they were 11-1 in Jackie Sherrill’s final season as coach. Ten wins in a 12-game season isn't the same as 10 wins in an 11-game season.
The one-loss/undefeated seasons are another plateau. Pitt isn't there yet and rarely do teams go from several straight bowless seasons to those types of years. The progress Pitt has made over the past two years has been significant and they have taken the next step over the Walt Harris era in my opinion. Further, the talent Coach Wannstedt has been bringing in has also been upgraded. One step at a time and the next step Pitt needs to take is getting to those one-loss seasons.

I'm not sure I agree completely with Dion Lewis, though:
"It's back," Lewis said of Pitt football, moments after he was voted bowl MVP.
I think we need to see at least another strong 9-10 win season before we can declare Pitt back in the national spotlight. And even then, as I pointed out, Pitt is still another big step away from being considered among the best in college football. But, point taken - Pitt is definitely getting back on the map.

There were plenty of stars for Pitt in this one:

Dan Mason getting the start and a key interception.

Mike Shanahan pulling in five big catches for 83 yards.

Dan Hutchins kicking four field goals to push him ahead of Conor Lee's single-season record.

But none bigger than Lewis, who took home the game's MVP award. He was unquestionably the MVP for the team all season, and with 159 yards yesterday, kicked off his 2010 Heisman campaign a bit early. I'd like to say more about Lewis...I really would. But there's not much I can say to describe the type of season he had. 1,799 yards? Sick. I picked him back in the preseason blogger poll conducted by Bleed Scarlet in the beginning of the year as the Big East Rookie of the Year, but of course didn't predict this kind of season. It will be interesting to see what kind of season he has next year now that teams will likely key in on him a bit more.

Even though Lewis was the hero, he could have turned into somewhat of a goat had Pitt not been able to pull this one out. After the game, he acknowledged his fumble through the end zone was costly:
It changed the game. We would have been up, I don't know what the score would have been at the time but we would have been up. It would have been a touchdown but I fumbled. It was tough for me but I had to come back and respond. I just needed a little time to calm down and forget about it and go back out there and play.
I think the biggest play of the game may have been the offsides penalty on North Carolina prior to the long field goal attempt. I had doubts whether Dan Hutchins would have made that kick, but fortunately for Pitt, he didn't have to. That also allowed Pitt to run some more time of the clock and forced NC to burn two timeouts:
The drive stalled at the 30, forcing Wannstedt to make another tough decision with 1:56 remaining.

This time, he put his faith in Hutchins, who set a single-season school record with 22 field goals, including conversions from 31, 31 and 42 yards yesterday. Hutchins, whose career-high had been a 45-yarder, would be tested from 47.

But the Tar Heels flinched under pressure, and the offside penalty gave Pitt a first down at the UNC 25.

"We were trying to draw them offsides," Hutchins said, "but I had planned on kicking that ball."

Said North Carolina coach Butch Davis: "We shot ourselves in the foot, and that was my fault. I have to take responsibility for us losing composure."
All in all, a solid season for Pitt. Now it's time to take that next step.