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Pitt upsets Miami 35-23 to earn bowl eligibility

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James Conner battled a hip injury to score two touchdowns, Tyler Boyd had 263 all-purpose yards and Pitt became bowl eligible with a 35-23 upset at Miami.

The victory is Pitt's first over the Hurricanes since 1997, and their first win in Miami since 1963, snapping an 0-9-1 streak in south Florida.

Pitt won their second straight game and improved to 6-6, likely extending their season with a trip to a bowl game for the seventh straight year.

"They're big," said head coach Paul Cryst of the back to back wins. "These kids put a ton of time in and certainly not everything went our way each week. But you really appreciate it and you're happy for this group. A lot goes into it each week, and it's all about that. I'm proud of these guys and they way they came out and played."

Chad Voytik threw for a touchdown and ran for another for Pitt, which never trailed and scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions.

It took Conner just three touches (and two carries) to break Pitt's single-season record for rushing touchdowns, previously held by Tony Dorsett. Conner scored his 23rd touchdown of the year with a 13-yard just 2:11 into the game to give Pitt a 7-0 lead.

Conner added his second TD of the game midway through the second quarter to put the Panthers ahead 21-10.

Pitt ran the ball on 24 of their 30 plays in the first half, and threw just one pass in the entire second quarter.

Miami closed the gap to 21-20 early in the third quarter, appearing to grab the momentum as well. Their opening drive of the half featured Duke Johnson setting the Hurricanes career rushing record, 30 yards of personal foul penalties against the Panthers, an on-field shoving match between Pitt defenders Shakir Soto and Todd Thomas, and a beautiful 17-yard touchdown run by Johnson on a screen pass. The Canes trailed by just one and Sun Life Stadium came alive.

Boyd and the Pitt running game had other plans, however. The sophomore's 53-yard kickoff return gave the offense the ball in Miami territory. Conner bulled his way for a first down, and Boyd's 17-yard reception moved the ball inside the red zone. On the very next play, back-up running back Chris James shot through a hole on the right side of the line for a 15-yard score. Pitt took a 28-20 lead.

A Miami field goal made the score 28-23, but Voytik added a fourth quarter score on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to give Pitt a commanding 35-23 lead that they would not relinquish.

Johnson finished with 18 carries for 89 yards and added 3 catches for 16 yards and a score. Miami receiver Philip Dorsett caight 5 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

With Conner still fighting the hip injury he sustained in Pitt's Nov. 22 win over Syracuse, Pitt used a backfield by committee approach. Senior Isaac Bennett had 12 carries for 60 yards, freshman Chris James added 11 for 58, Voytik picked up 26 yards on 4 carries and Rachid Ibrahim carried twice for 11 yards.

Pitt ran the ball on 47 of their 59 offensive plays.

In addition to setting Pitt's single-season record for rushing touchdowns, Conner broke two more of Dorsett's records. The sophomore also passed Dorsett's single-season marks for total touchdowns (23) and points (140). Dorsett set all three records in Pitt's national championship 1976 season, during which he also won the Heisman Trophy. Conner was met by a phone call from Dorsett in the locker room after the game.


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