Larry Fitzgerald could only watch from the Pittsburgh Panthers sidelines,
hands on his hips in yet another disappointing loss in what might
have been the final game for one of the greatest players in
Virginia made it 2-for-2 in the 2-year-old Tire Bowl by using
solid defense to snap Fitzgerald's record touchdown streak at 18
games in a 23-16 victory on Saturday.
"We have worked very hard to become a significant defensive
team and we knew stopping Larry Fitzgerald was going to be
important," Cavaliers coach Al Groh said. "He can do in one or
two plays what a 12-play drive usually does, so we put an emphasis
The Cavaliers (8-5) did it by limiting the looks in Fitzgerald's
direction with a steady pass-rush that led to five sacks and only
six throws to Fitzgerald.
The Heisman Trophy runner-up, who could petition the NFL for
early entry into the draft, was held to five catches for 77 yards
and failed to score a touchdown for Pittsburgh (8-5) for the first
time since Oct 12, 2002, against Notre Dame. His 18 consecutive
games with a touchdown is an NCAA record.
"I don't play for records," he said. "The record was fun and
I thank my teammates for helping me get it. Records are meant to be
Then he said he still wasn't sure what his future holds, just that he plans to be enrolled in classes at Pitt next month.
So what could have been Fitzgerald's swan song instead became
Schaub's big day. He threw for a 244 yards and a touchdown -- the
56th of his career, a Virginia record -- to earn the MVP award in
the second-year bowl.
The Cavs beat West Virginia here last season, and marked the
sweep by running as a team to the far end zone and celebrating with
the Virginia-dominated crowd.
Schaub, whose touchdown was a 52-yard strike to Heath Miller, wasted little time on sentimentality.
"It's over and done with, I sort of established that earlier this month," Schaub said. "It is a rite of passage seniors go through. So I knew it would come and it is just a great way to go
out -- with a win."
But his coach felt otherwise, taking time to credit Schaub for
leading the Cavs to consecutive bowl victories for just the second
time in school history.
"He's made an indelible mark and I think he joins an elite
group of Virginia football players," Groh said. "I can't imagine
anybody in the country who has carried their team more than he
But the game was also won with defense.
Virginia used a goal-line stand on Pitt's first drive of the game. The Panthers were stopped on four straight plays from the 1
and Fitzgerald was not on the field for any of them. The Cavaliers
also sacked Rod Rutherford on fourth-and-10 near the end of the
first half, and forced him into a costly fumble that basically
sealed the game.
Connor Hughes kicked a 39-yard field -- his third of the game -- to give Virginia a 23-16 lead with 2:28 to play. But with
Fitzgerald on the field, it seemed almost a given the Panthers
would be able to move down field.
They got 45 yards from TuTu Ferguson on the ensuing kickoff, but Rutherford was sacked by Brennan Schmidt on the first play and Kai Parham recovered on the Pitt 37.
The Cavaliers then put the game away with a 17-yard run by Wali Lundy that moved them to the 17 and allowed them to run out the
"Our goal was to keep points down," Groh said. "That is the
purpose of defense and in the future, we'll be a defensive team."
Lundy, who scored four touchdowns in this bowl last year,
finished with 90 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run. Charlotte native
Alvin Pearman, who missed the game last year with an injury, marked
his homecoming with 104 yards rushing and six catches for 32 yards.
Brandon Miree ran for 110 yards for Pitt and added four catches for 43 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown. The scoring pass from Rutherford was his 37th of the season, tying the school record Dan Marino set in 1981.
Rutherford finished with 246 yards passing, two touchdowns, an
interception and a fumble.
His mistakes weren't the only ones for Pitt, though. The
Panthers also missed a conversion and a field goal, critical errors
for a team extremely disappointed at even being in the second-tier
Pitt had hoped to be in the Orange Bowl this season, but a loss to Miami in the regular-season finale knocked them out of Bowl
Championship Series contention.
Now things can take another bad turn if Fitzgerald decides to
petition the NFL for early entry into the draft. The league
prevents players from entering the draft just two years out of high
school, but the sophomore could ask the NFL to make an exception