PHOENIX (Ticker) -- On an historic night at Bank One Ballpark, Iowa State cashed in.
The Cyclones defeated Pittsburgh, 37-29, in the Insight.com Bowl for their first bowl victory and the school's first nine-win season in 94 years.
Sage Rosenfels threw a pair of touchdown passes and JaMaine Billups had a key 72-yard punt return for a score as Iowa State (9-3) emerged victorious in its first postseason contest since the 1978 Hall of Fame bowl.
The Cyclone fans at the first football game at the home of baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks stormed the field and tore down one of the goalposts moments after Dan McCarney received a postgame Gatorade shower from his players.
"We waited over 100 years for that bowl win," McCarney said. "I'm really happy for the Iowa State family. They had to overcome an awful lot. I will treasure this night for the rest of my life."
Iowa State had appeared in four bowl games prior to tonight, losing the 1978 Hall of Fame Bowl (Texas A&M), 1977 Peach Bowl (North Carolina State), 1972 Liberty Bowl (Georgia Tech) and 1971 Sun Bowl (Louisiana State).
But the school became a laughingstock during the 1990s, going the entire decade without a winning season, including a nightmarish 0-10-1 campaign in 1994. The Cyclones were 4-7 in 1999.
The Panthers (7-5) received two touchdown passes from John Turman but were unable to rebound from Iowa State's 27-point outburst during a 16 1/2-minute span of the first half.
"I don't think the lead was too much to come back," Turman said. "There was just some stuff that was hard for us to come back from. When you have opportunities you can't miss them and unfortunately we missed the opportunities that we had. " Pittsburgh's last bowl victory was in 1989.
"I was very envious of the support that they had tonight," Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said. "I was proud of the way our team fought back, but we're still not where we need to be as a football program."
After falling behind 7-0, the Cyclones scored four straight touchdowns as Rosenfels threw for scores of 23 and nine yards to Chris Anthony and and Joe Woodley and Ennis Haywood each added short scoring runs.
"It's a great feeling just to be part of a special team," Rosenfels said. "We didn't do anything pretty this year but we found a way to win."
The Panthers rallied and were within 27-20 with 2:05 left in the third quarter following Turman's 44-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant, who finished with 155 yards and two TDs on five receptions.
Turman completed 20-of-36 attempts for 347 yards and was intercepted once.
"I'm disappointed that we lost, but at the same time I'm excited about the potential this offense has," said Bryant. "With all the plays in our playbook, we have the capability to be a tremendous offense."
But in the first minute of the final quarter, Billups field a punt at his own 28-yard line, raced toward the right sideline and was gone for Iowa State's first punt return for a score in a bowl game and its first in eight seasons.
"It's been a number of years since we returned a punt for a touchdown," McCarney said. "It couldn't have come at a better time because the momentum shift was going to Pittsburgh."
It was also the first career touchdown for the freshman running back, who is the first high school Player of the Year from the state of Nebraska to attend Iowa State.
"I think our kids really executed well," added McCarney. "We're a pretty good offense when we can run the ball. Our protection was outstanding. We knew that Pittsburgh was very dangerous and explosive but our kids responded like they had to and the second half was all about making big plays."
The Insight.com Bowl moved to Bank One Ballpark this year after taking place previously in Tucson.