DETROIT -- Freshman tailback James Conner rushed for a career-high 229 yards to power the Pittsburgh Panthers past the Bowling Green Falcons 30-27 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Thursday at Ford Field.
Pitt freshman Chris Blewitt kicked a game-winning 39-yard field goal with 1:17 remaining.
Conner, who was named the MVP, broke Tony Dorsett's school bowl record of 202 rushing yards against Georgia in the 1977 Sugar Bowl. Conner ran the ball 26 times and scored a touchdown.
Freshman wide receiver Tyler Boyd had a career-high 173 receiving yards on eight catches and also scored on a 54-yard punt return for Pittsburgh (7-6).
Panthers senior quarterback Tom Savage, who completed eight of 13 passes for 124 yards, missed the second half due to a rib injury. His replacement, redshirt freshman Chad Voytik, scored on a 5-yard run during the fourth quarter. Voytik went 5-for-9 passing for 108 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson threw two touchdown passes for the Falcons (10-4). He completed 20 of 32 passes but couldn't extend Bowling Green's five-game winning streak.
Bowling Green senior BooBoo Gates returned the second half kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 17-17. Sophomore Tyler Tate's 46-yard field goal gave the Falcons a 20-17 edge in the third quarter. The Panthers answered with a 28-yard field goal by Blewitt.
Voytik's 62-yard completion to Boyd set up Voytik's go-ahead touchdown run to cap a 98-yard drive with 9:31 remaining.
Bowling Green tied it again at 27-27 on Johnson's 15-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Ryan Burbrink.
Conner had a 20-yard run on Pitt's go-ahead, 51-yard drive that culminated with Blewitt's field goal.
The combination of Boyd and Conner lifted the Panthers to a 17-10 halftime lead. Boyd had seven first-half receptions for 111 yards, plus his punt-return touchdown, while Conner rushed for 64 first-half yards and a 15-yard score.
Boyd broke Larry Fitzgerald's freshman school record of 1,005 receiving yards with a 19-yard reception during the first quarter. Boyd finished with 1,174 yards.
NOTES: The Falcons' last bowl victory was a 52-35 decision over Memphis in the 2004 GMAC Bowl. ... Pitt lost five of its previous seven bowl games. Before Thursday, the Panthers' last bowl victory was a 27-10 win over Kentucky in the 2010 BBVA Compass Bowl. ... Bowling Green defeated Northwestern 28-24 in 2003 in its previous appearance at was then called the Motor City Bowl ... The Mid-American Conference lost five consecutive times in the bowl before Central Michigan's 24-21 win over Western Kentucky last season. ... The Falcons won the last meeting 27-17 at Pitt's Heinz Field in the 2008 season opener. ... Bowling Green allowed just 21 second-half points in its previous seven games. ... The Panthers played 12 true freshmen this season. ... Pitt senior DT Aaron Donald, who won the Bronko Nagurski and Outland trophies, committed a 15-yard penalty during the second quarter.