Pitt Trending Upward After Bowl Win
By James Ferguson
There are many things you could talk about during Pitt's roller coaster season in 2013: Big wins over Duke and Notre Dame and losses to Navy and North Carolina. However, the Panthers showed promise in their bowl win over Bowling Green, with young players on the rise.
1. Pitt will bring back freshmen stars in running back James Conner and wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Conner finished the season with about 800 rushing yards as Pitt's leading rusher. He dominated Bowling Green's defense as he rushed for 229 yards and a touchdown in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Boyd finished the game with 173 receiving yards and a punt return for a touchdown.
Conner and Boyd broke records this season previously held by guys named Tony Dorsett and Larry Fitzgerald; not bad company.
2. Chad Voytik most likely will be under center when the 2014 Pitt football season begins. In their second season in the ACC, Pitt will be using their second quarterback after the graduation of Tom Savage. Voytik, a redshirt freshman out of Tennessee, likely will be at the helm next season as we saw a glimpse of his play in the bowl game, where he rushed for a touchdown.
3. Pitt can be a competitor in the ACC and against non-conference opponents. Pitt defeated the ACC Coastal Division champion Duke Blue Devils in a shootout, 58-55, and also took down the likes of No. 23 Notre Dame, 28-21, in early November. They beat the MAC champion Bowling Green Falcons and are on the prowl to take a bigger bite out of the competition in 2014.
4. Pitt will lose the most decorated defensive player in the country in Aaron Donald, but will have to respond with safety Ray Vinopal and linebacker Anthony Gonzalez. The two combined to help Pitt's defense hold the Falcons of Bowling Green to only 10 rushing yards during the bowl game. Pitt will have to replace one of its best players ever next season, but has the players to accomplish that task.
5. The final thing to take from Pitt's bowl win is that head coach Paul Chryst can help Pitt return to fame in college football. Chryst has now gone an even 13-13 in two seasons for Pitt, but had a winning record in his first season as an ACC coach. The only team that blew out the Panthers was the eventual No. 1 team in the country, the Florida State Seminoles.
Chryst is capable of leading Pitt for seasons to come, especially with their returning talent and his experience while at the University of Wisconsin. Look for the up-and-coming Panthers to make a mark in the 2014 college football season.