|Pitt provides challenge for BG (12-12-13)|
|Written by JACK CARLE Sentinel Sports Editor|
|Thursday, 12 December 2013 10:59|
Pittsburgh provides an interesting challenge for the Bowling Green Falcon football team.
The teams will face each other Dec. 26 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN. Pitt is 6-6 and BG is 10-3.
''We're excited for the chance to play in another game against such a quality opponent," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said in a statement released by Pitt officials. "Bowling Green was impressive not only in its MAC championship win but all season long, and we have a competitive game of football ahead."
The Falcons will need to find a way to contain Pitt's Aaron Donald, who already has won the Bronko Nagurski Award and the Rotary Lombardi Award.
The Nagurski Award is given annually to the nation's top college defensive player. The Lombardi Award is presented annually to the nation's top college lineman.
The 6-foot, 285 pound, Donald is a defensive tackle. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year and is an All-American candidate. Donald averaged 2.2 tackles for loss per game while ranking 10th in forced fumbles and 13th in sacks per game.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly earlier this year called Donald a "one-man wrecking crew."
"You have a powerful guy, but he's also extremely quick at the point of attack," Kelly said.
Pitt beat Notre Dame, 28-21.
Donald's best game came against Georgia Tech when he had six tackles for a loss, the most by an FBS player this season, and 11 tackles overall. He also had nine tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries against Syracuse. He also blocked a PAT which proved to be the decisive point in a 17-16 Pitt victory.
"My mentality is to just go 100 miles per hour every play," Donald said. "I went out there and did the job. We fell short a few times, but you can't win them all. It is a great reward for all of the hard work I've put in."
Said North Carolina coach Larry Fedora: "He's got that motor that never quits."
Defensively, the Falcons will have to pressure Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, a redshirt senior who is attending his third school.
Savage played two seasons at Rutgers, starting 11 games as a freshman. He threw for 294 yards and two TDs in Rutgers' 45-24 win over UCF in the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl.
After playing in only six games as a sophomore at Rutgers, he transferred to Arizona. He did not play there, and transferred to Pitt prior to the 2012 season. He sat out both the 2011 and 2012 seasons per NCAA transfer rules.
This season, Savage was 230-of-276 (61.2 percent) for 2,834 yards with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Pitt has allowed 41 sacks, No. 118 in the nation.
Freshman receiver Tyler Boyd set the school record for receptions by a freshman with 77, and he has 1,001 yards and seven touchdowns. Devin Street has chipped in with 51 receptions for 854 yards and seven scores.
The Falcons are in finals week next week, but a practice plan is in place.
''We had ironed out a tentative schedule shortly after the MAC (Mid-American Conference) championship game, and what I think is in the best interests of this team is sticking to that,'' said Adam Scheier, BG's interim head coach. ''I think it's best to keep these guys on their routine, and that means a preparation that has been successful for 13 weeks.''
BOWLS: BG is making its 11th appearance in a bowl game, and the Falcons are 4-6, with the last win coming in the 2004 GMAC Bowl, which is now the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
In 2003, BG played in the Motor City Bowl, the predecessor to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, beating Northwestern, 28-24.
Pitt is playing in its 11th bowl since 2000 and its sixth consecutive since 2008. The Panthers are 12-17 all-time in bowl games.
BG-PITT: Pitt holds a 2-1 lead in the all-time series with BG. The two teams most recently played in the first game of the 2008 season, when the Falcons beat No. 25 Pitt, 27-17, at Heinz Field. It was the first time the Panthers lost to a MAC team at home.
MONEY: The bowl payout per team is $750,000.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
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