Panthers win Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

By Nate Barnes | Sports Editor

The 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl played at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., featured four lead changes and three ties. Thursday night, the Pitt Panthers were the final team to make a change when Chris Blewitt drilled the game-winning field goal from 39 yards out for a 30-27 Pitt victory against Bowling Green. 

1:17 was left on the clock when Blewitt made his third field goal of the game, but the Falcons faced a fourth-and-40 after James Conner drew a holding penalty and Ty Ezell and Aaron Donald each sacked Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson. 

Blewitt’s go-ahead boot was set up by impressive, record-setting efforts from freshmen James Conner and Tyler Boyd.

Conner earned the bowl’s Most Valuable Player honors after he rushed 26 times for 229 yards and a touchdown. Conner’s yardage total sets a new program record for rushing yards in a bowl game, beating the 202 yards Tony Dorsett ran for in the 1977 Sugar Bowl. 

Boyd finished with eight catches for 173 yards and set the record for receiving yards in a season by a Pitt freshman. The freshman from Clairton, Pa., finished his season with 85 receptions for 1,112 yards which tops Larry Fitzgerald’s previous record of 1,017.

Chad Voytik also provided a glimpse of the future at the quarterback position as he played the second half behind center after Tom Savage suffered a rib injury in his final game as a Panther.

Voytik connected with Boyd for a 62-yard bomb as a part of a 98-yard scoring drive, and Voytik kept the football on a bootleg for a five-yard score to cap the drive.

Savage was 8-for-13 for 124 yards prior to his injury. Voytik threw for 108 yards on 5-of-9 passing in the second half.  

The Panthers win gives them a 7-6 finish, their first winning record since the team went 8-5 in 2010. The bowl win is also the first for the program since 2010, the final year Dave Wannstedt coached the team. 

The winning season and bowl win are each the first in the coaching tenure of head coach Paul Chryst.