Bowling Green Falls to Pitt in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, 30-27

Andrew Mascharka- Hustle Belt

The Falcons were dominated by Pittsburgh's defense, who sacked Matt Johnson seven times.

It was the most physical game Bowling Green played all year, which ended up working against them in their 30-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers.

The Panthers, led by freshman running back James Conner, ran all over the BGSU defense. "It was a surprise how many tackles he was breaking," Falcon senior safety "BooBoo" Gates said. And let's make no mistake about it, Conner absolutely dominated. Steamrolling and stiff-arming players left and right, he picked up 229 yards on the ground, breaking his school's bowl-game rushing record (1977- Tony Dorsett, 202 yards in the Sugar Bowl).

Freshman wide receiver Tyler Boyd retuned a punt for 54-yard score in the second quarter, which put Pitt ahead 17-3.

Matt Johnson, who had five passing touchdowns in his last game at Ford Field, didn't exactly have the same results, but he battled all day long. He finished the day completing 20 out of 32 passes for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions, but it's hard to get anything going when you've been sacked seven times. Those seven sacks were second-most in LCPB history (1999, Marshall had eight sacks against BYU).

"They have a really good defensive line," BGSU offensive lineman Dominic Flewellyn said. "Aaron Donald was what he was hyped up to be." Donald had five total tackles, two of them for a loss of 12 yards. Johnson's two passing touchdowns were to Alex Bayer and Ryan Burbrink. Shaun Joplin was the team's leading receiver with six catches for 86 yards.

Tom Savage started under center for the Panthers. Taking a lot of shots down field, he was 8-for-13 through the air for 124 yards in the first half. Seven of those completions were to freshman Boyd for 111 yards. Boyd would finish the day with eight catches for 173 yards.

To start the second half, Gates took the opening kickoff back for a 94-yard score, second longest return in Pizza Bowl history (2012- Raheem Mostert, 99 yards). Gates finished the day with 165 kick return yards, second-most in LCPB history.

Savage would not play in the second half, leaving the game with a rib injury. Freshman Chad Voytik came in to take over for Pitt, and had no problems taking over. He was 5-for-9 through the air for 108 yards and ran the ball twice for 24 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run the helped Panthers take back the lead 27-20 in the fourth quarter.

Down by three with less than a minute to go and on their own one-yard line, the Falcons found themselves in a 4th and 40 situation. They needed more than a prayer to get themselves out of that hold, and the designed curl-pitch-pitch-pitch-pitch-pitch play didn't go the way they exactly planned.

Bottom line stats: Pitt's rush defense was just too much for the Falcons. Travis Greene had 18 carries for 39 net yards and Matt Johnson had -31 total rushing yards on 11 carries. Chris Blewitt was 3-for-4 in field goals for Pitt with a long of 39 while BGSU's Tyler Tate was 2-for-2 with a long of 46. BGSU's Brian Schmiedebush had five punts for 273 yards. His longest punt, 67 yards, is the third-longest punt in LCPB history. For the first time in LCPB history, there was a kickoff (Gates) and punt return (Boyd) for a touchdown. Conner was just nine yards short of DeAngelo Williams' LCPB rushing record.

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