EL PASO, Texas – The Pittsburgh Panthers make their fourth appearance in the Sun Bowl when they take on the Stanford Cardinal in the 85th Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl Game on Monday, Dec. 31.
“Our kids are going to be excited,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said about learning Pittsburgh (7-6, 6-2 ACC) would be heading to the Sun Bowl. “When you think about Pitt versus Stanford (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) both those names ring a bell in people’s heads. We know how strong both institutions are and when you think of the tradition of Pitt and Stanford, I think it’s a great matchup.”
Pitt struggled early in the season and sat at 3-4 after a 19-14 loss to then No. 14 Notre Dame. It then won four consecutive games including a 23-13 win over then No. 25 Virginia on the road and won the Atlantic Division. The Panthers earned a bid in the ACC Championship Game against No. 2 Clemson but lost 42-10.
The Panthers played 11 bowl-eligible teams this season and went 6-5. The teams included Clemson (13-0) and Notre Dame (12-0) who earned bids in the College Football Playoff, and undefeated UCF (12-0).
The Panthers leaned heavily on the running game all season and had two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in school history in Qadree Ollison (1,190) and Darrin Hall (1,021). The tandem helped Pittsburgh to 192 rushing yards against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, the most given up by the Tigers all season. Pittsburgh is averaging 230 rushing yards a game, third-best in the ACC.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett leads Pittsburgh’s passing attack accumulating 1,833 passing yards and 12 touchdowns this season. The Panthers managed just four completions for eight yards against the Clemson defense and looks to improve passing production against Stanford.
“We know how physical they (Stanford) are up front so we’re going to have to throw the football a lot better,” Coach Narduzzi said of what his team will have to do to pick up a Sun Bowl win. “If we can’t throw the ball against Stanford then we’ll have the same result we had against Clemson. This team can score points, they can throw the ball, so we have to be able to stay up with them point-wise.”
Pitt brings physicality and tradition to El Paso this year, and coach Narduzzi is definitely looking for support from the local fans, “I’ve never been to El Paso, but I hear the hospitality is incredible. We’re looking forward to being down there and tell the people of El Paso to get their Pitt gear ready to go.”
Pitt takes on Stanford, Monday, Dec. 31, with kick-off set for noon (MT).
by Michael Lujan on behalf of the Hyundai Sun Bowl
Sun Bowl Association
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