Pittsburgh scored a victory today for the party lovers and easy livers of the world - and won a national championship for itself in the process.
The Panthers, who trained for this Sugar Bowl confrontation with Georgia by enjoying the night life of Bourbon Street much of the past week, showed no signs of a New Year's Eve hangover during their 27-3 triumph in the massive Superdome.
It was Pitt's 12th straight victory. Only the final wire service polls stand between the Panthers and the East's first national title in 19 years.
"Michigan or USC may make a claim for it (No. 1) but we've already claimed it and put it away," said Tony Dorsett, who showed how you can gain a Sugar Bowl-record 202 yards and really not be a major factor in the game.
That Pitt won was not a surprise, but the easy way Johnny Majors' troops went about it was. The Panthers took on a 10-1 opponent who had been playing exceptional football the last half of the season and simply dominated things from the opening moments.
It had appeared that Pitt was taking the game too easily and not pushing itself hard enough in practices, but don't tell that to Georgia. The Bulldogs afterward said they couldn't believe any team could have as much speed and balance as the Panthers and could do as many things so well.
That was just the type of game Pitt wanted to produce, in order to show a national television audience that it indeed warranted its No. 1 rating. "They proved it to me," said Georgia coach Vince Dooley. "I can't believe any team can be better than they are."
Pitt won by showing it was not just a one-dimensional team. When Dorsett found yards hard to come by in the first half, quarterback Matt Cavanaugh quietly took over the offensive burden and passed the Bulldogs silly.
Pitt won by showing that its defense not Georgia's better publicized Junkyard Dogs, was usperior. Georgia had been averaging 29 points and 366 yards a game, but took more than a quarter to get its initial first down. It scored only because Pitt fumbled deep in its territory.
And Pitt won simply because it had superior quickness and strength than the Georgia runts, who survived all year on enthusiasm, spunk and aggressiveness. But even shaved heards (half the defense cut its hair off for the game) wasn't enough to subdue a surprisingly emotional opponent.
"Tony told me before the game he was more ready for this one than any game in his career," said Majors, "and I know we'd be O.K. Tony is ready for every game but never says it. When he starts talking, we're ready for explode."
If Majors was looking for an emotional edge to get his players' minds off Bourbon Street, he found it in the antics of the Georgia fans, who were staying at the same French Quarter hotel as the Panthers.
"I've never seen more people who say such stupid things as they (the fans) did," said middle guard Al Romano. "We were getting harassed so much, we had to stay in our rooms more than we wanted. By the time the game came around, we wanted to beat their fans worse than their team."
Pitt accomplished both goals. Georgia wasn't much of a factor in the contest once it well behind, 14-0, in the second quarter. By then, its rooters were strangely silent.
They had been quieted mostly by Cavanaugh, the junior quarter who missed part of the season with a slightly cracked bone in a leg. It was his passing that set up Pitt's first and third touchdowns and led directly to its second. And it was his passing that enabled Dorsett to run wild in the second half and finish his Heisman Trophy season with another outstanding yardage output.
Cavanaugh first asserted himself on a third and 14 play during the Panthers' first scoring drive. He completed a 13-yard pass to Gordon Jones over the middle and Pitt gained a first down at midfield on the next play. From that point on, everything fell into place.
Cavanaugh completed a 36-yard pass, again over the middle, to halfback Elliott Walker. Then Dorsett cut over left tackle on an option play from the six for a touchdown with 5:44 left in the opening quarter.
Cavanaugh struck again early in the second quarter after linebacker Arme Weatherington grabbed off a Ray Goff pass at his 26. He picked up 15 yards with a strike to Willie Taylor, who broke one tackle and then connected again with Jones on a slant-in pass over the middle.
Jones grabbed the ball on his 45, snds at midfield and avoided Johnny Henderson's tackle at the Georgia 35. The rest of the way was an easy sprint to a 14-0 margin.
An interception by linebacker Jim Cramer on the Pitt 33 started the Panthers to their third touchdown. Dorsett's running was an important factor for the first time. He ripped off a 22-yard scamper before taking a pitch and scooting around right end for an 11-yard touchdown.
Geargia, now behind 21-0 was going nowhere. The Bulldogs had tried four passes and the only two completions were to Pitt linebackers. Dooley had briefly benched Goff for backup quarterback Matt Robinson but he, too, was ineffective. And Cavanaugh had completed seven of 11 attempts for 160 yards and a touchdown.
"Pitt did cause disorganization in our offense," said Dooley. "They frustrated us by coming at us like they did. We didn't want to throw but we couldn't run, so we had to. That's not the position we like to be in."
Things didn't get any better in the second half. Although Pit was willing to settle for two field goals by Carson Long and waste time with Dorsett's ball-control runs, the Bulldogs could not rally. They weren't able to do much of anything but throw incompletions, nine of them after intermission and 19 for the game.
George completed three passes for 46 yards and suffered four interceptions. Cavanaugh picked up 192 yards through the air and Pitt added another 288 on the ground, compared to 135 for Georgia.
The statistics demonstrate Pitt's thorough control. Georgia had wanted to run off large gobs of time by keeping things on the ground and keeping the ball away from Dorsett and Co. It just didn't work out that way.
For Majors, the victory was a sentimental one. He now goes on to his alma mater, Tennessee, after one of the more fascinating rebuilding stories in college football history. He inherited a 1-10 team and within four years produced a national title.