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Cardiac Spill: Remembering the 2014 Sun Bowl, Thirty Years Later

Three decades after the Trivia Question Game, we talked to the quarterback who led that most anomalous offense.

Chad Voytik's legs
Chad Voytik's legs
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports






FOR FEATURE: "MIDDLE TENNESSEE ON TOP" (working title - maybe "Murfreesboro Men?" "The Other Tennessee?")

PAGES 18 - 20

CV: [cont. from previous page] We've raised about $85,000 for a deep-sea capsule to find out.

SB: Wow, interesting, interesting. So we'll get back on topic in a minute, but I actually grew up in Monaca and knew that if I got a chance to talk to you...

CV: [Laughs]

SB: …yeah you guessed it, huge Pitt fan.

CV: Absolutely! I actually don’t get asked about it that much anymore, but I cleared an hour for this so as long as your editors don’t mind you using their time, shoot.

SB: I’ll make do, it’s still talking about football and I think I have enough material about MTSU and the foundation for now, anyway. I could maybe make a sidebar out of this - like, this past December marked thirty years since that Sun Bowl game.

CV: See, most people who remember that season want to talk about that game. And I get it! It was crazy. But if you want to talk about that, you have to go back to the Virginia Tech game earlier that year.

SB: The one with the six overtimes and the blocked extra point that lost it at two in the morning?

CV: No, that was the next year, 2015. I’m talking about the 2014 one. Thursday night game?

SB: I don’t know, I was about twelve at the time, the seasons you started sort of blurred together for me. Remind me what happened, then.

CV: We won by five. Broke a three-game losing streak. I rushed for like 120 yards. More importantly, it was when Pitt became a "Paul Chryst team." This is what we could all tell he wanted: five hundred yards rushing a game, only the slightest hint of a passing attack. I could tell when we studied some old Wisconsin plays for reference.  Like, if Mike Leach wanted his steak well-done, Coach just wanted to show the cow a picture of fire. That night he sort of showed that it could work – and he wanted to see how far he could take it. So if you remember the game the next week…

SB: I don’t.

CV: It was Georgia Tech. Homecoming. Conner went for like 110, I ran for 100, I threw the ball eight times.

SB: Ohhhhhh.

CV: Yeah, you see where this is going now - the Duke game. Six pass attempts, we won by three. That's when people noticed something was up. At the media session afterwards, I got a dozen variations on "Do you feel underused?" "Do you think coach doesn't have confidence in your arm?" Nevermind that one of my four completions was a fifty-yarder. "Do you think the offense should throw more?" Same questions after the UNC game.

SB: See, I remember that game, definitely. Three passes! I was in, like, sixth grade at the time. Every Monday at lunch we would talk about the game a bit. My one friend Jayden insisted it was the most boring thing he had ever seen. My other friend, Jadeyn, she thought it was cool, and different. ANd then Jaydin, he swore his dad yelled "HOLTZ WAS WIDE OPEN!" like twice a drive. Why didn't you ever throw to him, by the way?

CV: It wasn't in the game plan.

SB: But you really didn't throw to him that much at all that season.

CV: He knows what he did.

SB: It was decades ago, man, could it possibly -

CV: He. Knows. What. He. Did.

SB: Right. Okay. So around this time you started getting Tebow comparisons a whole bunch. What’d you think of those?

CV: I never really understood them, mostly because I never got compared to Florida Tebow, or even CFL Tebow. I got a lot of NFL Tebow. But, see, he didn't throw because he couldn't throw at the NFL level. I could throw at the college ball level! I just didn't. That was a huge part of why it all worked. If defenses didn't think I was a threat to throw, they'd put eleven in the box and the whole thing would be shot. It was a mind game, like how it only rains when you forget your umbrella, they needed to cover Boyd and Garner because -

SB: ...when they didn't it was gonna be a touchdown.

CV: Exactly.

SB: ...and that explains the Sun Bowl. The Trivia Question Game.

CV: Zero pass attempts. ZERO. None. I either handed it off or just went for it myself the whole time. I think we rushed for –

SB: Eight hundred and eighty-four yards. My uncle’s insane, he got a tattoo of the number a few days after the game.

CV: For a Sun Bowl win? That’s intense! But yeah, not quite 900 yards, and FIVE of our guys rushed for the century mark. Five! Me, James, Chris, Tyler, and Trey Anderson.

SB: Wow, Trey Anderson. That is a name I haven’t heard in forever. What’s he up to now?

CV: He’s the AD at some prep school near Dallas. Saint something. St. Mark’s? I just know that from Facebook, we don’t really keep in touch, mostly just Christmas cards and luncheons. But I think his century was more impressive, because he came into the game in the fourth quarter. We were only up twelve, but coach said he wanted my "legs fresh" for next season. Something like an innings limit, I guess.

I almost got put back in halfway through that quarter, though. Trey had to insist that he "fumbled forward" to stay in the game.

SB: See, the strangest thing about that game wasn’t that you guys didn’t even try to throw, but that Utah kept their secondary out on the field the whole time.

CV: Oh, yeah, one hundred percent. When we played Syracuse that year we only passed once or twice and the same thing happened, but that was Syracuse. Halfway through that game I pump-faked and three of their guys fell over. It was pretty amazing. Utah, Utah was decent. They flirted with their conference championship for a bit, they were favored by six, I think. But they bit just as hard the whole game!

So we wound up winning by like ten, and I'm immortalized in the fun facts section of most major sports almanacs.

SB: So you have all these wins, get a pretty big bowl victory… if it all worked out so well, why didn’t Chryst keep it up the next season?

CV: It wasn't a system built to last, pure and simple. For it work, to convince opponents it "was gonna rain," you needed decent talent at QB and wideout. Apparently once we started playing that way, though, recruiting receivers was just about impossible. A few years back I went to this luncheon; this old booster was telling me all about how he apparently passed by coach’s office one day while touring the facilities and heard him all but begging Quadree Henderson not to de-commit, making these promises about how it was a one-year thing, he'll get his catches, all that. I had to basically re-learn to throw twenty times a game the next season.

SB: Which, in retrospect, really goes a long way to explaining the Youngstown State loss that year.

CV: Pretty much, yeah.

Alright, well, I have to cut you off. I just got a brain transmission from the repair droid saying that my solar-powered flying Tesla is ready to be picked up.

SB: lol we are so in the future

CV: lol we totally are, woooooooooo

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics, as well as whatever this is. Follow the author @N_THEYSTAYTHERE.