Admit it, you didn't have the greatest amount of confidence in Pitt before tonight's game, right? It's okay.
I mean, how could you? Pitt was missing three starters on the offensive line in Adam Bisnowaty, Cory King, and Matt Rotheram. They were without star and the school's career leader in receptions, Devin Street. They didn't have starting defensive end Bryan Murphy. Playing against the fifth ranked defense in the NCAA and you had a chance for a bit of a disaster.
Heck, the stadium even ran out of pizza for the media. Hey, it happens.
Fortunately for Pitt, a few players stepped up in a big way and Pitt ended up with a 30-27 win over Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
There are lots of reasons Pitt came out on top here, but the two biggest ones were James Conner and Tyler Boyd. Conner had an unbelievable game with 229 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per carry. It seemed like every time he touched the ball he found space. He looked clearly motivated and not real pleased to be spending his Christmas in Detroit, to be honest. That broke Pitt's record for rushing yards in a bowl game that was held by a little guy we like to call Tony Dorsett, so yeah - big game.
As if that weren't enough, he also played defense in the game, filling in a bit at end where Pitt was short due to the Murphy injury. It should also be noted that he didn't have many plays off on offense with 26 carries. Isaac Bennett only had five carries and Conner was really the only guy getting carries tonight.
The other big factor was Tyler Boyd. Boyd not only had a whopping 173 yards on eight catches (passing Larry Fitzgerald's freshman year in the process), but returned a punt for a touchdown. Just a big player making big plays.
I'm not one to kill refs, but man, this crew was all over the place. They had no idea what they were doing and if you need further proof of that, this happened and no one was ejected.
Point blank, those refs should be nothing short of completely embarrassed at the way this game was called. Aaron Donald was held on play after play with no call. Bowling Green's throwing punches. A horrible pass interference call was made against Titus Howard for doing nothing more than not looking for the ball despite the fact that no real contact was made. Just a horrendous night for the guys that are supposed to be calling the game fairly.
Speaking of Donald, he made an epic gaffe earlier in the game that really cost Pitt. His personal foul penalty for scrapping with a Bowling Green player kept a Falcons drive alive and they ended up scoring a touchdown off of it. The drive resulted in a touchdown and pretty much all the momentum Pitt had was sucked out at that point. Hard to get on a guy that's done so much this year, but that was really something that shouldn't have happened.
I'd be remiss if I left out the play of Chad Voytik, too. He played the entire second half after Tom Savage went out for an injury and did really well. He wasn't perfect but there's reason for optimism for next year. He was 5-9 for 108 yards and had a couple of nice scrambles, including a rushing TD from several yards out. His legs are going to be an asset next season and it's a good thing because he'll need them with what should be a pretty average offensive line IMO.
And, heck, why not - give Chris Blewitt some credit too, folks. He missed a 39-yarder, but made three of his four field goals including a 39-yarder to give Pitt the win. As I wrote a few weeks back, he had a really nice season - especially considering he was a freshman.
Little Caesars Bowl - I get it. Playing against a MAC team, even the champion, just doesn't scream big deal. But the game ended up being a nice little win and it was fun having one more game to root like crazy for the Panthers. The game was far more entertaining than I could have envisioned, if not for anything more than the terrible officiating, the wacky sideline reporter and her penchant to laugh at, well, everything, and it just being close throughout.
And winning it just made it that much better.
- FREE PIZZA FOR EVERYBODY! Pitt wins Little Caesars Bowl over Bowling Green, 30-27
- Cardiac Hill Podcast - Episode 1: Little Caesars Bowl & Pitt Hoops
- 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Game Injury Report: Devin Street questionable for Pitt game against Bowling Green
- Aaron Donald and Devin Street end Pitt careers on Thursday
- Little Caesars Bowl Game: Pitt vs. Bowling Green - Game Information, TV, Schedule, Time