Sage Rosenfels, in his final game for Iowa State, completed 23 of 34 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns, both to Chris Anthony, as the Cyclones beat Pittsburgh 37-29 in the Insight.com Bowl on Thursday night.
"I'll treasure this season and this game for the rest of my life," said coach Dan McCarney, who was 13-42 in five seasons at Iowa State before this breakthrough season.
Safety Doug Densmore was Mr. Everything in Iowa State's first ever bowl victory.
Among other things, he threw the key block on JaMaine Billups' 72-yard punt return for a touchdown, made a left-handed grab to down a punt on the Pittsburgh 1 late in the game, and sacked the quarterback.
Official stats gave Densmore the credit for tipping away a 22-yard field-goal try to end the first half, but Densmore said it was Ryan Harklau who got it.
Iowa State (9-3), 0-4 in bowl games entering the contest, had its first nine-win season since 1906.
"It was a great feeling to be part of such a special team," said Rosenfels, the offensive player of the game. "We didn't do anything pretty this year but we found a way to win."
Defensive end Reggie Hayward of Iowa State was selected the top defensive player.
When it was over, the Cyclones fans rushed the field and tore down the goal posts.
"I was envious of the support they had," Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said.
Rosenfels was on the sidelines as a backup when Iowa State went 1-10 and 3-8 in 1997 and 1998. Last year, he became the starter on a team that went 4-7 but played better. Then came this breakthrough season that could send him to the NFL, his coach said.
"He's gone from a two-year backup to a guwho's put himself in a position to play a whole lot of football with the way he's played," McCarney said.
Pittsburgh's Antonio Bryant, the winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in the country, caught five passes for 155 yards, including touchdowns of 72 and 44 yards.
John Turman was 20-for-36 for 347 yards for the Panthers (7-5). He threw for two touchdowns and was intercepted once. Kevan Barlow rushed for 114 yards in 22 carries.
The bowl game was moved from Tucson and was the first football contest played in Bank One Ballpark, also the scene of the first outdoor collegiate basketball game between the Tennessee and Arizona State women on Wednesday night.
The Panthers rallied from a 27-7 halftime deficit to cut the lead to 34-29 on Barlow's 3-yard touchdown run with 9:49 to play.
The Cyclones drove to the Panthers' 44, then Carl Gomez lofted a punt toward the goal line. Densmore, lying on his stomach, reached out with his left hand like an infielder going for a grounder and stopped the ball at the one.
Pittsburgh couldn't move the ball, and Gomez kicked a 41-yard field goal to put Iowa State up 37-29 with 4:53 remaining. Turman tried to tie it with another long pass to Bryant, but the throw was short and Marc Timmons intercepted at the Cyclones 11 with 3:11 to go.
"We were just there mentally in the second half," said Turman, also in his last game for Pittsburgh. "We came out and showed our type of football. In the first half, if we could have done that, it would have been different."
Rosenfels ran out the clock and threw the ball into the crowd of Iowa State fans as the game ended.
Rosenfels completed 11 in a row, including the last nine of the first half. He directed to touchdowns on four consecutive first-half drives as Iowa State built its 20-point lead.
The Panthers scored twice in the third quarter to cut the lead to 27-20. Billups, a freshman in his first collegiate punt return after regular returner J.J. Moses was knocked woozy, followed Densmore's block to the sidelines and raced 72 yards for Iowa State's first punt return for a touchdown in eight years.
"I went in there, they told me which way to go, and I just ran it," Billups said.
Harris called the loss a learning experience.
"We're still not where we need to be as a football program," said Harris, who had the Panthers in a bowl game for the first time since 1997, "but we have a lot in front of us as we continue to grow and understand what it takes to win big games."
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