Pittsburgh running back James Conner breaks through the Bowling Green defense in the second half. He ran for 229 yards, getting most of that yardage in the second half for the Panthers.
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DETROIT — The Bowling Green State University football team found a surprise in the locker room before its Little Caesars Pizza Bowl battle with the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday.
The Falcons broke out gray uniforms for the first time in school history in the 30-27 loss to the Panthers at Ford Field.
“It was a surprise when we came into the locker room,” senior safety BooBoo Gates admitted. “When you feel good, you play good, and the new uniforms felt good.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the game
GAME STORY: Panthers sack Falcons 30-27
DAVE HACKENBERG COLUMN: BG's season ends on sour note
This season the Falcons have used just two jersey colors, orange and white. The team has also had both pants and helmets in both orange and white, giving them six possible uniform combinations.
While both basketball teams have worn black jerseys in the past, the gray look was a first.
“We all liked the look,” senior offensive lineman Dominic Flewellyn said. “But we still played for the name on the front of the uniform, so that was the most important part of the uniform.”
Bowling Green's BooBoo Gates gets tripped up on a kickoff. He had a kickoff return of 94 yards for a touchdown to set a bowl record.
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INJURY REPORT: Pittsburgh lost starting quarterback Tom Savage at halftime because of a rib injury. Savage completed 8-of-13 passes for 124 yards and was replaced by Chad Voytik, who connected on 5-of-9 passes for 108 yards. … BG’s Cameron Truss suffered an undisclosed upper extremity injury in the first half and did not return. He had two tackles in the contest.
BY THE NUMBERS: Ryland Ward led the BG defense with 10 tackles, including seven solo stops, while Gates and Brian Sutton both were second with eight stops each. … The Falcons finished with just 10 net yards rushing because of the 56 yards in sacks. Travis Greene led Bowling Green with 39 yards rushing on 18 attempts. … Shaun Joplin led the Falcons with six catches for 86 yards, while Heath Jackson was close behind with five receptions for 78 yards. … BG punter Brian Schmiedebusch averaged 54.6 yards per kick on five punts in his final college game, thanks in part to punts of 67, 60 and 56 yards.
RECORDS WATCH: The 94-yard kickoff return by BG’s BooBoo Gates was the second-longest in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl history. … The 67-yard punt by Schmiedebusch was the third-longest in bowl history.
BOWL SWAG: Players from both teams received a Timely Watch Co. watch, a leather luggage set, and a football.
NO STRANGER: Pitt coach Paul Chryst was familiar with both Bowling Green and the Mid-American Conference.
Chryst played at Wisconsin for coach Dave McClain, the son-of-law of former Falcon coach Doyt Perry. What’s more Chryst’s father George was on McClain’s first staff and Tom McClain, Dave’s son, played for Chryst’s father at UW-Platteville.
Chryst was a graduate assistant coach for Don Nehlen, the former BG coach, for two years at West Virginia.
Chryst’s brother Rick also served as MAC commissioner for 10 seasons.
NOTES: The Falcons fell to 1-1 in this bowl after winning the 2003 contest. BG also suffered its first lost at Ford Field after a pair of victories. … Atlantic Coast Conference teams now are 2-0 in the bowl after Pitt’s victory. The other win was by Boston College, a 51-25 victory over Toledo in the 2002 game. … Among those on the Pitt roster is Tony Harper, a tight end who graduated from St. John’s Jesuit. … New BG coach Dino Babers was at the contest and was interviewed by ESPN. … Toledo native Bill Clark was the sideline reporter for the national radio broadcast.