Streaking Pitt, N.C State meet in Tangerine Bowl

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 20, 2001

Sports Editor

With current bowl games taking on web domain names and corporate logos, it’s nice to have an old classic rejoin the 2001-02 postseason schedule.

The Tangerine Bowl, which was retitled the Florida Citrus Bowl after the 1982 season, returns to college football’s bowl lineup. Last year this bowl was named the Bowl and one team, North Carolina State, is making a return to the site of its 38-30 win over Minnesota.

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The Wolfpack (7-4 overall, 4-4 ACC) are led by Alabama native Phillip Rivers at quarterback, who has passed for 2,586 yards this year. Pittsburgh counters with David Priestley (2,128 yards, 18 TDs) under center.

Both teams have been hot as of late. Pittsburgh (6-5 overall, 4-3 Big East) started the year 1-5, but ran off five straight to become bowl eligible. That includes a 38-7 bombing of Virginia Tech.

The Wolfpack won four of its last five, dropping a four-point decision to ACC champ Maryland in the final game of the year, but did beat Florida State 34-28 to hand the Seminoles their first ever ACC home loss.

For Rivers, who slipped away from both Auburn and Alabama, the challenge tonight will be having to deal with a four-week layoff between games.

"It will be tough to be crisp and execute," he said. "They (Pitt) have a great defense so it will be a big challenge. We don’t really fear any part of their defense. We respect them because they really fly to the ball and like to strip the ball. Their safety (Ramon Walker) really likes to come hard, so we have to keep an eye on him because he is a playmaker on their defense."

The Panthers may, or may not be, without 2000 Biletnikoff winner wide receiver Anthony Bryant, so the task may fall on Walker (120 total tackles) and the Pitt defense to make something happen. Pittsburgh is ranked seventh in the nation, defensively, and has sacked opposing quarterbacks 25 times during their five game win streak.

Bryant has been inconsistent this season and is questionable for tonight’s game due to an ankle injury. He struggled with injuries earlier in the year, but did return late in the season, finishing with 659 yards and nine touchdowns.

Wolfpack running back Ray Robinson could be the player that takes some of the heat off Rivers and the offense. Robinson rushed for 733 yards and nine touchdowns this season, but struggled in NC State losses.

The two teams have met once before in the Tangerine Bowl, back in 1978, with the Wolfpack winning the game 30-17.

Chuck Amato, now head coach at NC State, was an assistant on Bo Rein’s Wolfpack staff back then.

"We weren’t supposed to have a chance," said Amato. "Pitt was very good. They had Hugh Green and a huge offensive line."

Green was an All-American defensive end at Pittsburgh, but it was Wolfpack running back Ted Brown who made his mark, rushing for 126 yards on 28 carries and being named the game’s most outstanding player.

NC State also had Bill Cowher, who hailed from Pittsburgh, but wasn’t even recruited by his hometown school.

"Pitt didn’t even ask him to come visit their school when he was being recruited," said Amato. "Naturally, I wouldn’t remind him of that. He gave a speech before the game that was X-rated, but it was awfully good. It was a lot of fun."

Ironically, Cowher is now head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.