ACC: Tony Dorsett

Terry Bowden grew up in Morgantown and attended West Virginia. For fun, he and his friends would make the hour-plus trip to the big city of Pittsburgh to go shopping at the South Hills mall. He'd watch Terry Bradshaw sling it at Steelers training camp in Latrobe.

So yes, the Akron coach can probably tell you more about Saturday's opponent and the Western Pennsylvania region than many within the Pitt program.

Like the difference between old Heisman winner Tony Dorsett and the nation's current top rusher, James Conner.

[+] EnlargeTerry Bowden
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarTerry Bowden is in his third year as Akron's coach.
"He would accelerate into a crack like you never saw anybody do it," Bowden says of Dorsett. "This guy (Conner) will make the crack. He'll make the hole, and then run through it."

Or the excitement of the Pirates clinching consecutive postseason berths.

"That's awesome. I go back to Willie Stargell. I go back to chicken on the Hill and Bob Prince," he says of the announcer's famous call.

Or the worst loss his dad, the legendary Bobby Bowden, experienced during his 44-year head-coaching career.

"He'll tell you: It was 36-35 to Pitt," Terry Bowden says. "He was winning 35-8 at halftime, in his first year as a head coach in college at West Virginia, and they played it it too tight and (Pitt) decided they would not punt on fourth, they were just gonna go for it because they thought they were gonna get run off the field, and they made every one. And by the time they made every fourth down the last one was at the end of the game to win the game, 36-35."

More importantly, the third-year Zips coach can point to the third-year Panthers coach he'll be squaring off against this weekend and notice plenty of similarities, from the stamp each is trying to put on his program to the coaching bloodlines that carried each into his chosen profession.

Paul Chryst, of course, is the son of the late George Chryst, a beloved figure on the Wisconsin-Platteville campus who served as head coach for 14 years before his sudden death at the age of 55, in 1992. Bowden, who like his father Bobby and brother Tommy has a coach of the year award to his name, knows such exposure to that life as a child rubs off.

"I feel real fortunate to have grown up the way I did," Chryst said. "You don't know as a kid, you only know what your life is, and when you look back and reflect on it, it's a great way to grow up, and so I was kind of attracted to the profession that way, a ton of respect, look up to your dad; there's a lot of kids that want to be like their dad.

"I think what it was is you're just around the game probably more so than Xs and Os. By the time I was really serious into coaching, my dad had passed away. I was just getting into it. But I think it was just being around it, being around the game, and the people."

Says Bowden: "I've often said that being the son of a football coach, the biggest thing you know how to do is you know how how to act like a football coach -- when you win, when you lose, when you drop a couple of games, when you have to respond from a tough situation."

It doesn't get much tougher than what Bowden experienced at the end of last season, when separate car accidents during a four-day span in December took the lives of Akron assistant Alan "Tank" Arrington and nephew T.J. Bowden, the son of Zips assistant Jeff.

"It shakes your foundation," he says. "It makes you put football in perspective. When all is said and done, it brings your family together, and it brings your football family together. And you mourn together and you come together, and at end of the day you know that there's a bigger picture out there and things that we don't understand, but there's also the language -- people come together and grow from these experiences, and I think most of us here have."

Bowden says he's trying to take Akron to a place it's never been before, and he tries not to lose sight of the big picture. He jokes that you could be a heck of a coach in his family and still never be better than second-best. He knows the identity of the program he's facing Saturday, and he sees how close Chryst -- a coach he has no prior relationship with -- is to restoring that.

"I'm 58 now, but I'm always Bobby Bowden's son," he says. "Heck, that's my mentor. My dad's my mentor. All of us boys and his sons, we've tried to emulate our father."

The coach he'll meet at Heinz Field will likely nod in agreement.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
That's a wrap on Week 4 in the ACC. Who stood out the most? Glad you asked ...

Duke safety Jeremy Cash: There were a handful of players to choose from on a Blue Devils defense that turned in an excellent performance in Saturday's 47-13 win over Tulane, but Cash gets the nod here. The redshirt junior tied for the team-high with 11 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and had the first of four Duke interceptions on the day, and the fifth of his career. Duke is 4-0 for the first time since 1994, when it started 7-0, and it has looked sharp on both sides of the ball as it readies for conference play next week at Miami.

Pitt running back James Conner: At this point we'll call it a ho-hum day for the bruising sophomore back: 29 carries, 155 yards and two touchdowns. (He had one catch for 9 yards as well.) Those early-season Heisman prospects likely go out the door with a 24-20 loss to Iowa, given Pitt's underwhelming schedule, but a fifth straight 150-yard rushing outing is nothing to overlook. Conner is at 699 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, a school-record to start a season, crushing Tony Dorsett's 564 yards through four games during his 1973 freshman season.

Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene: There may not be a player in the country who is more important to his team than Greene. The senior delivered again Saturday night in FSU's 23-17 overtime win over Clemson. He had nine catches for 135 yards and a touchdown, in addition to a 28-yard punt return. He came up huge on a night the Seminoles needed him to, proving to be a huge help to first-time starter Sean Maguire.

Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy: Stop the presses: Murphy failed to rush for 100 yards. He did net 99, though, along with two rushing touchdowns, including a 71-yarder in the first quarter. And he completed 11 of 18 throws for 130 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Murphy has proven to be an invaluable addition to the Eagles, as he stretches the field and makes them so much less predictable. BC rushed for 413 yards in its 40-10 win over Maine, eclipsing the 400-yard rushing mark for the second straight game and eclipsing the 300-yard mark for the third time in four games. The Eagles' 549 yards of total offense marked the third time they eclipsed that mark this year as well. So much of that comes back to the man under center.

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas: Thomas' numbers will not jump off the page as a passer: He completed 7 of 18 throws for 125 yards and a touchdown during the Yellow Jackets' 27-24 win over Virginia Tech. His rushing numbers were much better: 22 carries for 165 yards and another touchdown. But Thomas made plays when it mattered most, leading yet another game-winning drive and helping the Yellow Jackets snap a four-game losing streak against Virginia Tech. Thomas bounced back from a rough start throwing (he lost a fumble as well) and completed 4 of his final 7 passes, relying heavily down the stretch on DeAndre Smelter (5 catches, 101 yards, TD), who himself deserves plenty of recognition in this space now. For all of its troubles, Georgia Tech is now 4-0 and in great position in the Coastal race, having fended off the Hokies on the road. (Special recognition in this game also goes to Virginia Tech linebacker Chase Thomas, who had the insane line of 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.)

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 30, 2013
Not bad, Week 17. Not bad at all.

Instant Analysis: Pitt 30, BGSU 27

December, 26, 2013

Pitt withstood the loss of quarterback Tom Savage and held off Bowling Green, 30-27, to win the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit and clinch its first winning record (7-6) under second-year coach Paul Chryst. Here is how it went down.

It was over when: Chris Blewitt hit a 39-yard field goal to give Pitt the 30-27 lead with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in the game. Blewitt went 3-for-4 on the night and was 2-for-3 in the second half. On Bowling Green's ensuing drive, Aaron Donald and Tyrone Ezell came up with consecutive sacks of Matt Johnson to set up a fourth-and-40 with 31 seconds left. The Falcons' desperate, multi-lateral attempt from their end zone was entertaining for a few seconds, but it eventually ended with the Panthers taking over possession to secure the win.

Game ball goes to: James Conner was absolutely phenomenal for Pitt, carrying the ball 26 times for 229 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Conner broke Tony Dorsett's school record for rushing yards for a bowl game (202, set versus Georgia in the 1977 Sugar), with the true freshman accounting for nearly half of what he gained through 12 regular-season games this season (570). Oh, and as a pass-rusher on Bowling Green's final possession, Conner drew a crucial hold on Jacob Bennett that preceded Pitt's back-to-back sacks.

Stat of the game: Pitt outgained Bowling Green by a margin of 487 yards to 290. Considering that the Falcons entered the contest atop the Mid-American Conference in every single major defensive category (No. 8 nationally in total D), and considering that the Panthers were without their starting quarterback for much of the contest, and considering that Bowling Green was coming off a 574-yard performance at Ford Field in its previous outing, against Northern Illinois, this was nothing short of staggering.

Unsung hero: Chad Voytik stepped in when Savage went down with a rib injury and delivered a performance that had to have put a smile on Pitt fans' faces. The redshirt freshman completed 8 of 13 passes for 124 yards and carried it two times for 24 yards with a touchdown. Can't ask for much more than that.

What it means for Pitt: The Panthers exit Year 1 of the ACC era with a winning record, showing tangible progress under the Chryst regime in Year 2. More importantly, they closed out the 2013 season with young faces dominating the show. While Donald, Savage and Devin Street will all be missed, Voytik and Conner made big plays all night, and true freshman Tyler Boyd further cemented himself as one of the top receivers in the nation to keep an eye on moving forward, as he closed his rookie campaign with eight catches for 173 yards and a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown.

What it means for Bowling Green: Forget about this and move forward. The Falcons had a wonderful season, winning their first MAC title in 20 years and ruining then-undefeated NIU's BCS-bowl hopes. Their coach, Dave Clawson, got the head-coaching job at Wake Forest for his efforts. (Adam Scheier served as interim coach for this game.) And while the defense will not like the way this season ended, there is plenty ahead to be excited about, especially on offense, as Johnson (20-of-32, 273 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers Thursday) returns for his redshirt junior season under new coach Dino Babers, whose quarterback lineage includes FCS player of the year Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III (Baylor).

To watch the trophy presentation of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, click here.



Friday, 11/28
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