The Pitt News

Military Bowl matchup features plenty of intrigue

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Pitt will face the Navy in the Military Bowl on December 28.  Left:  Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer,  Right: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS

Pitt will face the Navy in the Military Bowl on December 28. Left: Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer, Right: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS

Pitt will face the Navy in the Military Bowl on December 28. Left: Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer, Right: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS

By Dan Sostek / Sports Editor

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When Pitt learned it’s bowl destination on Sunday afternoon, many Pitt fans were frustrated that the team earned a trip to one of the two lowest tier ACC-affiliated bowls.

The Panthers finished with a better record than all four ACC teams who received higher tier bowls than them, but geographic and financial factors likely relegated the team to the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland.

Despite the disappointment, Pitt’s matchup against No. 21 Navy will mollify fans, as the game promises to be a marquee contest for a bevy of reasons.

KILLER KEENAN

The Midshipmen quarterback will wrap up a historic career against the Panthers in Annapolis, as Reynolds is the all-time NCAA leader in career touchdowns, with 83 career rushing touchdowns. The run-first quarterback has rushed 220 times for 1,093 yards and 19 touchdowns this season alone, and received Heisman Trophy consideration. Reynolds is the third triple-option quarterback Pitt will face, and is the most dangerous one it’s seen yet. He’ll prove to be an immense challenge for the Pitt defensive coaching staff. Facing one of the best players in NCAA history is always an exciting proposition, and to see him play his final career game against Pitt is a cherry on top.

BYE BYE BOYD?

Amid speculation regarding whether or not he will enter the 2016 NFL Draft, the Military Bowl could very well be the last ride for one of the best players to ever wear a Pitt uniform: junior receiver Tyler Boyd. Pitt fans should catch the potentially last opportunity to watch Boyd as a Panther, and appreciate just how dynamic of a talent he has been over his three-year career. He also needs 127 yards to finish with 1,000 yards receiving in each of his three seasons at Pitt, adding some statistical intrigue into Boyd’s performance as well. If he is planning on leaving, the ever-electric Boyd will want to go out with a bang.

NAVY IS NICE

Despite the Military Bowl slotting in the lowest tier of ACC bowls, the Panthers are facing a ranked team, a proposition that wouldn’t have occurred had Pitt received some of its other projected locations. In the Pinstripe Bowl, they would have faced an average Indiana team. In the Sun Bowl, it would have been an unranked Washington State. Taking on a team that’s been as good as the 9-2 Midshipmen will be a good litmus test for the state of the program heading into next season, and will give the younger players — like running back Qadree Ollison and safety Jordan Whitehead — a chance to shine on a bigger stage.

FIRED UP

Emotions will definitely be high for Pitt heading into their bowl game, as it marks the first opportunity for the Panthers to take the field since star running back James Conner announced he has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The team will likely look to win the game for their teammate as he undergoes treatment. I’d expect head coach Pat Narduzzi to also play up the fact that, despite having a better record than four other teams, higher tier bowls passed up the Panthers. The Panthers will play with a heavy heart and a chip on their shoulders, giving them extra motivation to win.

CLOSE QUARTERS

While the game is much closer to Navy’s campus, Annapolis is a manageable trek for Pitt fans. Tickets are also free for students, and coach busses will chauffeur students from various cities to the game for just $25. With the Panther’s past five bowl locations being Fort Worth, Detroit, Birmingham, Birmingham and Birmingham, Annapolis’s proximity will give Pitt fans a chance to show up in respectable numbers.

The bowl allotted Pitt 7,333 tickets to sell, and the school should be able to unload almost all of them.

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Military Bowl matchup features plenty of intrigue