James Conner And Tyler Boyd Lead Pitt Over Miami 35-23, Panthers Become Bowl Eligible


Nov 29, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner (24) dives to score a touchdown against Miami Hurricanes during the first half at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Chryst’s Pitt Panthers entered Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida with one goal:

  • Defeat the Miami Hurricanes and become bowl eligible, so that the seniors could play in one more game and the younger players could gain more experience.

Certainly, this would be no easy task, as Miami junior running back Duke Johnson was on the cusp of breaking the Hurricanes all-time rushing yards record.

Pitt had not won in Miami since 1965, and the Panthers had lost their last eight games against the Hurricanes since 1997.

Pitt sophomore quarterback Chad Voytik only needed to complete 8 passes, as a solid ground game led by sophomore running back James Conner wore down the Hurricanes defense for a 35-23 victory.

Personally, after the multitude of disappointing finishes this season, I counted Pitt out and did not expect them to become bowl eligible.

A young Panthers team has been growing up before our own eyes, and the future is looking bright, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  The offensive line dominated up front, and this was something that we had not seen against Miami in a long time.

Sophomore wild receiver Tyler Boyd finished with 5 receptions for 72 yards and 1 touchdown, while Conner, hampered by a hip injury, ran for 75 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Conner, who appeared in pain throughout the game, surpassed Tony Dorsett’s Pitt record of 22 total touchdowns, and he set a new ACC record for rushing touchdowns with 24.

Nov 29, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Chad Voytik (16) throws a pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the first quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For the Hurricanes (6-6, 3-5 ACC), freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 22 of 45 passes for 296 yards and 2 TDs.  Duke Johnson was held to 89 yards rushing, and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett finished with 5 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Pitt (6-6, 4-4 ACC) started the game strong, as Boyd had a successful kickoff return, and Conner rushed into the end zone from 13 yards out to make it 7-0.

The Hurricanes countered with a Michael Badgley 40-yard field goal, but Pitt star Tyler Boyd caught a 12-yard pass from Voytik to make it 14-3 in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Hurricanes wideout Phillip Dorsett showed his 4.21 speed with a 51-yard TD pass from Kaaya to cut the lead to 14-10.  The Panthers punched right back, as Conner leaped into the end zone for a 2-yard TD rush to give Pitt a 21-10 advantage.

A Badgley 48-yard career-high field goal cut the lead to 21-13 at the half.

On Miami’s first drive, Duke Johnson scored on a 17 yard TD pass from Kaaya, following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Pitt, in which Todd Thomas and Shakir Soto ended up getting into a confrontation on the field.  Johnson became Miami’s all-time leading rusher, finishing with 3,387 yards.

As a recurring theme, the Pitt Panthers continued to punch back after Miami scored.  Freshman running back Chris James scored from 15 yards out to give Pitt a 28-20 lead.

Another Badgley field goal cut the Pitt lead to 5, but Voytik ran a QB sneak on 4th-and-goal from the 1 yard line to build the lead to 35-23 in the fourth quarter.

Pitt’s defense then stood tall, stopping Miami on a 4th and goal at the Pitt 5.

Pitt is now bowl eligible and will wait to hear if they are selected for a specific bowl game.

As for potential bowl destinations, there is a possibility that Pitt could be invited to the Quick Lane Bowl and be matched up against a Big Ten team such as Penn State or Northwestern.  Another bowl destination could be the BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl or Military Bowl against an American Athletic school such as UCF or East Carolina.

Wouldn’t it make most sense to match Pitt up against Penn State or West Virginia?

Now that would be fun.