Conner leads Pitt to 30-27 win over Bowling Green

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 27, 2013 at 2:18 am •  Published: December 27, 2013
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DETROIT (AP) — James Conner surpassed Tony Dorsett in the Pittsburgh record book — and that's not all.

The freshman running back also played a few snaps on the defensive line.

"Coach told me they wanted to unleash me on both sides of the ball, so I've been getting a lot of reps both ways," Conner said. "I was pretty tired by the end, but I wasn't going to tap out. They kept giving me the ball, so I just kept running."

Conner rushed for 229 yards, and fellow freshman Tyler Boyd caught eight passes for 173 yards in Pitt's 30-27 victory over Bowling Green on Thursday night in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Conner broke Dorsett's school record for yards rushing in a bowl. Boyd set the receiving mark for the Panthers — and also scored on a punt return.

Chris Blewitt kicked a tiebreaking field goal with 1:17 remaining.

"They were without question the most physical team we faced all season," said Adam Scheier, Bowling Green's interim coach. "The offensive line was tough, the running back was obviously a bear to tackle and the whole defensive line was disruptive."

Scheier took over after Wake Forest hired coach Dave Clawson away from the Falcons. Scheier coached the bowl, but now Dino Babers takes over.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Conner rushed for 165 yards in the second half, helping Pitt overcome the loss of quarterback Tom Savage, who didn't play after halftime because of a rib injury. Conner and the Panthers drove 51 yards in seven plays late in the fourth quarter to set up a 39-yard kick by Blewitt, who had missed from the same distance earlier.

Then Conner was back on the field on defense, helping the Panthers protect the lead.

Boyd gave Pitt (7-6) a boost with his versatility as well.

"We obviously have some great young talent and that's why we are so confident about the future of this program," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "We think we're in great shape going forward."

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.

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