JACKSONVILLE. Fla., Dec 29- Pittsburgh easily defeated South
Carolina, 37-9, in the Gator Bowl tonight and then prepared for the
more difficult job of a patient waiting game. Ranked No. 1 in the nation
by both wire-service polls and The New York Times computer rating, the
Panthers still to hope to finish No. 1. There is nothing more they can
do now. The ultimate decision depends upon the outcomes of the Sugar and
Orange Bowl games on New Year's Day, and the final votes in the two
wire-service polls and the last computer figures.
Georgia and Florida State, ranked above the Panthers in the
wire-service-polls, play Notre Dame and Oklahoma, respectively, in the
Sugar and Orange Bowl games, if they should both lose, Pitt may have a
chance to become the first team to be ranked No. 1 after playing in a
bowl game other than one of the major four bowls- Rose, Sugar, Orange or
Cotton. The Panthers, who lost once during the regular season, to
Florida State, gained their 11th triumph before a Gator Bowl record
crowd of 72,297 and a national television audience.
Coach Jackie Sherrill's Pitt defense rendered George Rogers virtually
harmless as it prevented the Heisman Trophy running back from scoring
and forced him to turn the ball over twice on key fumbles. One of these
fumbles came on the first play of the game and led directly to Pitt's
Rogers gained 113 yards on 27 carries, 59 yards short of his average
during the regular season. But he finished his four years at South
Carolina with an impressive total of 5,204 yards rushing, including
performances in the Gator Bowl and last year's Hail of Fame Bowl. He has
an official total of 4,958 yards rushing because the National
Collegiate Athletic Association does not recognize bowl statistics. He
is No. 4 in the major college career rushing list.
Hugh Green, the defensive end who finished second to Rogers in the
Heisman vote this season, proved his value as South Carolina kept
sending Rogers away from him. Green had only four tackles and did not
meet Rogers to stop him until the third quarter.
As a result, Ricky Jackson, the other end on Pitt’s excellent defense,
made 14 tackles. He recovered the second fumble by Rogers at the Pitt 9
early in the fourth quarter. Rick Trocano alternated with Dan Marino at
quarterback. Trocano, who started at that position in the first six
games this season, was moved back to his old spot as starting
Trocano finished his career tonight with one of his best performances as
he scored one touchdown, passed for another and gained 155 yards with
10 completions. He also directed a fine control offense that gave Pitt
possession a majority of the time, thus keeping Rogers from running as
much as he desired,
"Pittsburgh is one of the three best teams in the country but I really
don't know which is best," said Coach Jim Carlin of South Carolina,
Sherrill said, "There are still some games to be played but I feel we
deserve to be right up in there and if things fall into place we
deserve to be No. 1.
The first series of plays set the tone of the game. Rogers fumbled after
picking up 7 yards. Tom Flynn recovered and Pitt began its first drive
inside the 30. It took Trocano almost four minutes to get into the end
zone, which he did on a 1 foot plunge. This ate up time and kept Rogers
from the ball.
Dave Trout kicked the first of his four extra points and Pitt was off to
a 7-0 lead never to be caught. Trout booted three field goals and Randy
McMillan, the senior fullback, scored two touchdowns for Pittsburgh.
The other Pitt touchdown was registered on a 3 yard pass from Dan Marino
to Willie Collier late in the first half when Sherrill gave Trocano a
rest after he had helped get Pitt a comfortable lead.
Pittsburgh's forte has been defense all season as the Panthers led the
nation in defense against rushing and total defense yardage. The
defense made it easy for the offense tonight as South Carolina was kept
bottled up so deeply that the Panthers held excellent field position
Three of Pitt's four touchdowns came on drives of 29, 41 and 35 yards.
The touchdown made when Marino directed the team came at the end of a
quick 59 yard march so that the Panthers never had to go very far to
South Carolina’s lone touchdown came when Pat Bowen picked off a
Panthers’ pass a returned it 31 yards to the Pitt 14 with 3:34 left to
play. Gordon Beckham then connected with Tim Gillespie for the
touchdown. The PAT was no good.
The only downbeat note for Pitt tonight was that Sherrill felt forced to
discipline his regular halfback, Joe McCall. The freshman, who was the
team's No. 2 ground gainer behind McMillan this season, sat the game out
for reasons Sherrill would not disclose.
But Pitt fans and players were planning to celebrate well into tomorrow
morning as the Panthers, a preseason pick by some to be the nation's top
team in 1980, appeared in a bowl game for the seventh year in a row and
gained their fifth bowl victory in those seven games.
Sherrill, who finished his fourth season as Pitt head coach, has a
39-8-1 record for the highest winning percentage by any coach in
Pittsburgh history, .830. Sherrill succeeded Johnny Majors, who had a
.717 percentage in four years and led his 1976 Pitt team the national
championship before moving on to Tennessee as head coach.
PITT- Trocano 1 yard run (Trout kick)
PITT- FG Trout 35
SC- FG Leopard 39
PITT- Collier 3 yard pass from Marino (Trout kick)
PITT- FG Trout 25
PITT- McMillan 3 yard run (Trout kick)
PITT- McMillan 3 yard run (Trout kick)
PITT- FG Trout 29
SC- Gillespie 14 yard pass from Beckham (kick failed)
PITT- McMillan 13-59, Hawkins 9-50, Trocano 8-41
SC- Rogers 27-113, Wright 4-23
PITT- Trocano 10-21-155, Marino 7-13-78
SC- Harper 7-16-116, Beckham 4-10-52
PITT- Collier 5-57, Pryor 4-36, Collins 3-50, McMillan 2-46, Dombrowski
SC- Scott 7-109, Gillespie 2-32