In the storied 89 year history of the Sun Bowl you’d be hard pressed to find a more entertaining finish than the one delivered by both the Panthers and Bruins.
When Bruin Running Back TJ Harden scored the go-ahead touchdown with :34 many In attendance would doubt that Pitt Quarterback Nick Patti seeing his first action of the 2022 season would lead a drive in only 14 seconds to set up the game winning 47 yard field goal but that’s exactly how this story book ending played out, giving the Panthers the 37-35 win over the Bruins.
The game played out in the first half with both offenses moving the football to start, however on the first two possession UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson Robison would lead the Bruins to two touchdowns, while Pitt would be forced to settle for field goals of 23 and 49 yards by kicker Ben Sauls giving the Bruins the early 14 to 6 lead. Pitt Quarterback Nick Patti would drive his Panthers down to the red zone and find Bud Means on a 15 yard touchdown pass and execute the two point conversion to tie the game at 14 with 3:48 to play in the first half.
UCLA’s Robinson would answer the score with under a minute to play finding Titus Makio Atimalala on a 21 yard touchdown pass to take a 21-14 lead into the half. UCLA had two other opportunities to have a larger lead but Robinson had two passes intercepted on separate drives in the Red Zone on tipped passes.
The 3rd Quarter began with a UCLA 3 and out as the Panther defense would tighten up eventually knocking Robinson out of the game. Pitt Quarterback Nick Patti would make his biggest error of the game a 45 yard pick-6 by Jaydin Davies to put the Bruins up 28-14. Nick Patti would answer driving his team down to the UCLA 1 yard line where Running Back TJ Harden Would Score cutting the lead to 28 to 21.
The Panthers would intercept another Dorian Robinson pass deep in UCLA territory setting up a 7 yard Rodney Thompson touchdown run to tie the game at 28-28.
On the ensuing kickoff UCLA would fumble near their goal line setting up a 31 yard Ben Sauls field goal for Pitt giving them a 31-28 lead. UCLA would struggle in the next kickoff pinning themselves deep in their own territory where they would be forced to punt from their own end zone giving the Panthers back the ball on the 50 where they would drive for another Ben Sauls field goal to give Pitt a 34-28 lead with 4:25 to play.
UCLA would get their only offensive touchdown of the quarter led by backup quarterback Ethan Garbers who would set up a 8 yard touchdown run by TJ Harden with :34 seconds to play putting the Bruins up 35 to 34.
Pitt Quarterback Nick Patti would only need three passes and a spike to kill the clock with :10 left to play setting up kicker for a 49 yard game winning field goal with :04 to play. The Panthers would pick off Garbers final desperation heave to secure the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl Victory by a final of 37-35.
For the lively crowd in attendance it was an exhilarating finish to a well played game. Pitt’s Running Back Rodney Hammond was the games most valuable player and kicker Ben Sauls 5 for 5 on fields turned out to be the difference in the game and gave him the special teams player of the game.
Story by Chris Gomez