DETROIT — If it was the last Little Caesars Pizza Bowl ever, then Thursday night’s game finished what it started 17 years ago.
A series of down-to-the-wire games with big plays, big performances and little margin of error.
This year’s version was no different.
But Pittsburgh’s margin of error was a 6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman wide receiver named Tyler Boyd.
And he made play after play in breaking record after record in a 30-27 win over Bowling Green in front of 26,259 at Ford Field.
The announced attendance was second smallest in the history of the game only to last year, when Central Michigan beat Western Kentucky in the middle of a snowstorm.
Last summer, the Lions and Big Ten conference announced an agreement for a 2014 bowl game that could spell the end of the Pizza Bowl.
Boyd’s punt return touchdown and 11 receptions for 173 yards — the last a 62-yard strike to set up a late touchdown — was the difference in a back-and-forth game, a game decided by Chris Blewitt’s field goal with 1:17 left.
After redshirt freshman quarterback Chad Voytik rushed for a 5-yard touchdown to cap a 98-yard drive, Bowling Green drove 75 yards of their own for a Matt Johnson-to-Ryan Burbrink touchdown strike to tie the game.
The Panthers then went 51 yards in 3:25 for the win.
It was the 11th time in Pizza Bowl history the final score was decided by a touchdown or less.
Johnson finished 20-of-32 for 272 yards and two touchdowns, while Bowling Green’s high-powered rushing attack was held to only 30 yards.
Boyd broke Larry Fitzgerald’s records for freshman receiving yards and most 100-yard games as a freshman. His game was third-best in Pizza Bowl history for receptions (tied with Antonio Brown) and yards (tied with Randy Moss).
But he was far from the only youngster to do damage.
Running back James Conner won the game’s MVP award, rushing for 229 yards on 26 carries, which broke a Pitt bowl record set by Tony Dorsett in the 1977 Sugar Bowl, and Voytik stepped in for senior starter Tom Savage, who left the game with injured ribs, going 5-for-9 for 108 yards.
Aggies beat Lynch, No. 24NIU 21-14 in Poinsettia
SAN DIEGO — Brian Suite intercepted Jordan Lynch’s pass and recovered a fumble by the Heisman Trophy finalist to help Utah State beat No. 24 Northern Illinois 21-14 on Thursday night in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Joey DeMartino, who went to high school and junior college in San Diego, carried 23 times for 143 yards and a touchdown for Utah State (9-5).
Lynch, who was third in the Heisman Trophy voting and made All-America team as an all-purpose player, had a rough end to his college career. Besides the two turnovers, he was held to just 39 yards rushing, keeping him from becoming the first major college player to rush for 2,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season.
Lynch ran for a touchdown and passed for another for NIU (12-2), which lost its second straight game.
By wire sources