Freshmen Stars Show ACC Pitt Will Be a Force to Be Reckoned with in 2014

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IDecember 26, 2013

USA Today/Andrew Weber

The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl was supposed to be the swan song for Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, but an injury to Savage and three freshmen were the real story in the Panthers' 30-27 win over Bowling Green.

It was a perfect storm of the future coming together for the Panthers. One performance came out of nowhere, another was expected and the last was a backup thrust into a major role—and it all mixed into a winning recipe. 

Running back James Connor ran for a Pitt bowl record of 229 yards, breaking Tony Dorsett's previous record. He ran for over 100 yards for the first time since a 102-yard performance against North Carolina in mid-November, and it was just the fourth time all year.

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd showed why he's a name to remember with an eight-catch, 173-yard performance, adding a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown for good measure.

Then, with Savage down with an injury, it was redshirt freshman Chad Voytik who came in and went 5-of-9 for 108 yards in his backup role. 

All three performances together put the ACC on notice that Pitt won't be a pushover in 2014—it may just be getting started. 

Paul Chryst has waited patiently for his recruits to work into the program, and on Thursday night we all saw what his offensive mind can do when combined with the right talent. 

On the night, Pitt ran for 255 yards, shattering its average of 114.9 yards per game (which is 112th in the nation). It also passed for a combined 232 yards, which nearly matched its average for the season. 

The good balance between the pass and run game is the key to Paul Chryst's offenses, and history suggests that this type of a performance could be a sign of things to come at Pitt. 

His offenses at Wisconsin were consistently high-scoring and used a balanced approach to achieve success as well. 

Wisconsin Offenses Under Paul Chryst
SeasonScoring AverageTotal OffenseRushingPassing

Consistency and balance have hobbled Chryst's first two teams at Pitt, but it was what allowed them to squeak out a win in the bowl game. 

Voytik gave the coaching staff a lot to work with in the future, showing he can throw and run—scoring on a nice bootleg from five yards out that put the Panthers ahead 27-20 in the fourth quarter. 

Connor could be the one that becomes the least productive of the bunch offensively, with two highly rated 3-star running backs (according to 247sports), Chris James and Qadree Ollison, coming in the 2014 class.  

Boyd has been the growing star of this group from the start of the season, with 77 receptions, 1,001 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns on the year. 

With Chryst looking to make a big splash, he may have just found the right combination to make the Panthers a contender in the ACC going forward.

It was just one game against Bowling Green, but if these are the performances Pitt's youngsters are capable of now, the future is bright for the Panthers. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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