PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Pittsburgh erased some late-season frustration.
Shawn Robinson's 66-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter cemented Pittsburgh's first nine-win season in 20 years as the 23d-ranked Panthers defeated Oregon State, 38-13, in the Insight Bowl at BankOne Ballpark.
"When you win, boy, you're smart," Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said. "When you lose, boy, are you dumb."
Pittsburgh (9-4) reached nine wins for the first time since 1982, when it went 9-3 and played in the Cotton Bowl during Dan Marino's senior year.
With a few breaks, however, the Panthers could have finished with an even better record as they ended the regular season with close losses to top-ranked Miami (28-21) and West Virginia (24-17).
"That really shows team chemistry and great coaching right there, to come back from two difficult losses like we did," Pittsburgh freshman wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
Special teams turned around this one as Torrie Cox downed Andy Lee's punt inside the 5 late in the first half, leading to David Abdul's 45-yard field goal that tied the contest, 10-10, as time expired.
The Panthers carried the momentum into the second half, taking a 17-10 lead on Rod Rutherford's one-yard keeper with 12:06 left in the third quarter.
"I'm not surprised at all," said Rutherford, who completed 13-of-26 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. "We expect to win, we expect to score. We expect to get some kind of points every time touch the ball. The're (Oregon State) a good defense and I'm starting to believe we're a good offense."
Getting the first possession of the second half, Oregon State tried some trickery as Anderson attemped a flea flicker, but defensive back Tez Morris intercepted the pass and returned it to the Beavers' 23.
"We just didn't make plays," Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson said. "Everything you can do to lose a football game happened."
Pittsburgh needed only two plays to take the lead for good as a 22-yard pass to Fitzgerald set up Rutherford's TD.
With 3:24 left in the third quarter, Robinson became the first Pittsburgh player to return a punt for a touchdown in a bowl game. His score gave the Panthers a 24-10 lead.
"My teammates did a great job," Robinson said. "It was easy for me. We still had a lot of time to go. We still had to go out and play, but it was a good boost."
Pittsburgh broke it open on touchdown runs by Brandon Miree and Tyler Palko in the final 5 1/2 minutes. Miree rushed for 113 yards on 20 carries.
"I'm so proud our players could get their ninth win," Harris said. "It gives us momentum to finish our recruiting and head into next year."
The first half featured a pair of spectacular touchdowns by each team's star wide receiver.
On the game's opening possession, Fitzgerald made a diving catch inside the 5 and landed in the end zone.
"Rod threw it early because of the blitz," Fitzgerald said. "I wasn't even in my break yet when he threw it. He knew where I was going to be and I knew I could catch it."
Oregon State (8-5) answered on its first possession on James Newson's 65-yard TD reception. Newson rolled over as he made the catch near midfield, but retained his balance, got up and raced untouched to the end zone.
Replays appeared to show that Newson's elbow hit the turf, but the officials allowed the play to continue. Newson caught 10 passes for 165 yards.
"I didn't feel I was down and I didn't feel my knees touch the ground," he said. "I just got up and started running. They didn't call it down, so it was a touchdown."
Oregon State took a 10-7 lead on Kirk Yliniemi's 50-yard field goal with 7:57 left in the first half, but the Beavers were shut down thereafter. While Derek Anderson passed for 319 yards, Oregon State finished with just seven yards rushing.
"It was a little bit of a shocker," Newson said of his team's inability to run the ball.
Pittsburgh held Stephen Jackson, the Pac-10 Conference's leading rusher, to just 33 yards on 19 carries, easily his worst game of the year. Jackson ran for a school-record 1,656 yards in the regular season and had a string of five straight 100-yard games entering Thursday's contest.
"They were very physical against us," Erickson said. "It did surprise me because I thought we could run the football against most people. We couldn't tonight."