Freshmen James Conner and Tyler Boyd set school records on Monday night for most rushing yards and most receiving yards in a bowl game, and led Pitt to a 30-27 win over MAC champion Bowling Green (10-4) in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
The win gives Pitt (7-6) a winning record for the first time in three years. In each of the last two seasons, the Panthers also went to a bowl game with 6-6 marks, but both times finished the year with a postseason loss.
Conner, who attended McDowell High School in Erie, ran for 229 yards, breaking Tony Dorsett’s record of 202 yards set in Pitt’s 1977 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. Boyd, who is from Clairton, caught eight passes for 173 yards, snapping a Pitt highmark of 163 yards set by Gordon Jones in a 1978 Gator Bowl victory over Clemson.
Conner scored on a 15-yard run, and Boyd found the end zone following a 54-yard punt return.
A third Pitt freshman, Chad Voytik, replaced injured starting quarterback Tom Savage at the start of the second half and scored on a 5-yard keeper. Chris Blewitt kicked three field goals, including the game-winning 39-yarder with 1:17 remaining in the contest.
For Bowling Green, Matt Johnson three touchdown passes to Alex Bayer and to Ryan Burbrink, BooBoo Gates ran the second-half kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown and Tyler Tate kicked two field goals.
Also on Monday night, Utah State upset MAC runner-up Northern Illinois 21-14 to win the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, played in San Diego.