Little Caesars Pizza Bowl notebook: Boyd's show backs up his words



DETROIT -- Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd said earlier this week he thought the Panthers had faced better pass defenses than Bowling Green this season.

Technically, Boyd was correct -- Florida State, the Panthers' opening-game opponent -- ranks first in Division I-A in fewest passing yards allowed and opponent passing efficiency. It was, however, brash talk from a freshman about to play his first bowl game.

It didn't take long for Boyd to back it up Thursday night and break a few records.

Boyd, a Clairton High School graduate, broke two of Larry Fitzgerald's Pitt freshman records in the first half against Bowling Green. With a 19-yard reception on the Panthers' second drive, he broke the record for most receiving yards by a freshman, passing Fitzgerald's mark of 1,005 yards set in 2002.

In the second quarter, Boyd made a difficult catch in coverage for a 29-yard gain that put him over 100 yards for the game. It marked his fifth 100-yard receiving game, passing Fitzgerald's mark of four.

For good measure, Boyd added a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter. It was Pitt's first punt return for a touchdown since Darrelle Revis returned one 73 yards against West Virginia in 2006.

Street misses finale

Pitt receiver Devin Street missed his final career game Thursday, sitting out the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl with an elbow injury.

After the Panthers' loss against North Carolina Nov. 16, Street seemed like a lock to break the school's all-time receiving yards record. He was 167 yards shy of the mark at that point, but after two catches against Syracuse, he missed Pitt's final two games to finish his career with 2,901 receiving yards over four years. That's 160 short of Antonio Bryant's record.

Street, a redshirt senior, will graduate as the leader in receptions. In that game against the Tar Heels, he became the first Pitt receiver to catch 200 passes. He finished his career with 202.

Street finished this season with 51 catches for 854 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Bethlehem, Pa., native elected to return to Pitt this season after briefly considering leaving for the NFL draft after his junior season. He likely will be selected in the April draft, with most analysts projecting him as a mid-round pick.

Others absent, too

Street wasn't the only notable player absent Thursday as the Panthers had to play with new starters on both the offensive and defensive lines because of players missing.

On offense, left tackle Adam Bisnowaty and left guard Cory King were out with nagging injuries that have cost them the past few games. Right guard Matt Rotheram did not make the trip for personal reasons, leaving freshman Dorian Johnson to start in his place.

Pitt's offense line of Juantez Hollins, Ryan Schlieper, Artie Rowell, Johnson and TJ Clemmings featured just two players who started the opener. Only Rowell and Clemmings were starters against Florida State.

On defense, defensive end Bryan Murphy also was not in Detroit because of personal reasons, and freshman Shakir Soto started in his place. Running back James Conner also played some defensive end as a rusher in passing situations.

Ford makes debut as Panther

Pitt redshirt freshman receiver Dontez Ford, from Sto-Rox High School, made his Panthers debut as a receiver in the first quarter. Ford transferred from Syracuse in January, but had to sit out the season per NCAA regulations. Because Pitt's fall semester ended earlier this month, he was eligible to play in the bowl game.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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