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updated: 1/5/2013 4:38 PM

Ole Miss crushes Pitt 38-17 in Compass Bowl

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  • Mississippi running back I'Tavius Mathers (5) rushes for a 62-yard touchdown as Pittsburgh defensive back Jason Hendricks (25) trails in the second half of the BBVA Compass Bowl NCAA college football game at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. Mississippi won 38-17. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

      Mississippi running back I'Tavius Mathers (5) rushes for a 62-yard touchdown as Pittsburgh defensive back Jason Hendricks (25) trails in the second half of the BBVA Compass Bowl NCAA college football game at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. Mississippi won 38-17. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

 
Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Bo Wallace threw three touchdown passes and Mississippi beat Pittsburgh 38-17 in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday to complete an impressive turnaround under first-year coach Hugh Freeze.

Ole Miss (7-6) took a five-win improvement over its 2-10 finish in 2011.

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Pitt (6-7) struggled on offense as leading rusher Ray Graham was held out with a hamstring injury he suffered in bowl practice. The Panthers fell behind in the opening minutes after quarterback Tino Sunseri threw his first interception since Sept. 15 and trailed the remainder of the game.

Wallace's 13-yard touchdown pass to Ja-Mess Logan gave the Rebels the 7-0 lead. Wallace added first-half touchdown passes to Randall Mackey, for 27 yards, and Vince Sanders, for 18 yards.

Pitt, under first-year coach Paul Chryst, was making its third straight appearance in the bowl. The Panthers lost to SMU in last year's game.

The Panthers played their last game as a Big East team. They are moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Wallace, chosen the game's MVP, completed 22 of 32 passes for 151 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Ole Miss backup quarterback Barry Brunetti had a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and freshman running back I'Tavius Mathers added a 62-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter to cap the rout.

Pitt stayed close early with Devin Street's 10-yard pass from Sunseri in the second quarter. That was Pitt's only touchdown until Sunseri threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Mike Shanahan with only 2:23 remaining.

Sunseri completed 16 of 32 passes for 185 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Pitt had only one turnover in its last seven games of the regular season. It shared the nation's lead with only eight turnovers for the season.

Sunseri's streak of 271 passes without an interception, the nation's longest, ended on his second throw of the Panthers' opening drive. Senquez Golson's interception, returned 17 yards to the Pitt 23, set up Wallace's touchdown pass to Logan. It was only Sunseri's third interception of the season and his first since the team's third game against Virginia Tech.

Sunseri lost a fumble early in the second quarter for the Panthers' second turnover.

Wallace completed his first eight passes, including two for touchdowns but his hot streak ended with two second-quarter interceptions.

Kevin Harper kicked a 47-yard field goal, his longest of the season, for Pitt in the second quarter. Bryson Rose kicked a 31-yard field goal for Ole Miss and missed from 44 and 48 yards.

Pitt said Graham, the team leader with 1,042 yards rushing, suffered the hamstring injury in bowl practice.

Rushel Shell and freshman Malcolm Crockett, who had only 32 yards rushing in the regular season, shared the carries. Shell led the Panthers with 25 carries for 79 yards. Crockett added five carries for 18 yards.

Mathers led the Rebels with 96 yards rushing on only six carries. Jaylen Walton had 10 carries for 56 yards.

A strong turnout by Ole Miss fans within driving range of Birmingham pushed attendance to 59,135, easily a bowl record. The previous high was 42,610 for the 2010 game between South Carolina and Connecticut.

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