DETROIT — The way James Conner and Tyler Boyd played in their first postseason game, it’s no wonder Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst is excited about next season.
With a pair of freshmen leading the way — and breaking some long-standing school records in the process — the Panthers edged Bowling Green 30-27 on Thursday night in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Conner rushed for 229 yards. Boyd caught eight passes for 173 yards and also scored on a punt return.
“We obviously have some great young talent and that’s why we are so confident about the future of this program,” Chryst said. “We think we’re in great shape going forward.”
Conner broke a Pittsburgh bowl record for yards rushing held by Tony Dorsett, and Chris Blewitt kicked a tiebreaking field goal with 1:17 remaining.
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Conner even played a handful of snaps on the defensive line. Boyd gave Pitt (7-6) a boost with his versatility as well.
One star the Panthers will have to replace is Aaron Donald, their All-American on the defensive line. Donald, a senior, helped thwart any last-ditch comeback with a sack deep in Bowling Green territory in the final minute.
Dorsett rushed for 202 yards in Pitt’s win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1977. The school’s receiving record for a bowl came the next season. In a Gator Bowl win over Clemson, Gordon Jones had 163 yards receiving.
Utah State triumphs
SAN DIEGO — Brian Suite intercepted Jordan Lynch’s pass and recovered a fumble by the Heisman Trophy finalist to help Utah State beat No. 24 Northern Illinois 21-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Joey DeMartino, who went to high school and junior college in San Diego, carried 23 times for 143 yards and a touchdown for Utah State (9-5).
Lynch, who was third in the Heisman Trophy voting and made The Associated Press All-America team as an all-purpose player, had a rough end to his college career. Besides the two turnovers, he was held to just 39 yards rushing, keeping him from becoming the first major-college player to rush for 2,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season.
Lynch ran for a touchdown and passed for another for NIU (12-2), which lost its second straight game.
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden’s grandson was one of two men killed when their car flipped into a small ditch off a central Florida road, officials said Thursday.
Taylor Jeffrey Bowden, 23, and driver Rafael Fernandes De Aguiar Valim, 25, died in the crash, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. A third man in the crash — 22-year-old Robert Lewis Edwards — was rescued after spending hours in water up to his neck.
“Our whole family had just celebrated Christmas together in Panama City, as well as celebrated T.J.’s graduation from Florida State just three weeks ago,” Bobby Bowden said in a statement released by the University of Akron, where son Terry is the football coach. “We will cherish those last memories together with T.J. forever.”
T.J. Bowden was the son of Jeff Bowden, a former Florida State assistant coach under his father who is now on brother Terry’s staff at Akron.
The details of the crash were being investigated, but alcohol appears to be a factor, the sheriff’s office said.
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• South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was pulled over for going at least 25 mph over the speed limit for the second time in three weeks. Clowney was stopped going 84 mph in a 55 mph zone about 5 miles from the Gamecocks’ campus.