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November 24, 2013

Pitt is bowling again for the sixth straight year

SYRACUSE - The destination may end up being a southern outpost like Shreveport or Birmingham, or it could be a closer and more appealing locale like Nashville or Annapolis, but the key takeaway is this:

Pitt is going bowling.

With their 17-16 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, the Panthers secured a sixth victory on the 2013 season and the bowl eligibility that goes along with that plateau of wins. So while Pitt may end up in any number of places depending on how the chips fall both within the ACC and beyond, the one certainty is that Pitt is headed to the postseason, and for the players, that means something.

"That was the plan coming up here," redshirt junior tight end Manasseh Garner said after the win over Syracuse. "We practiced hard all week and that was the main thing that was on our minds, to come up here, get a win and keep moving."

Pitt, of course, has one more game in the 2013 regular season when the Panthers host Miami at Heinz Field on Black Friday, and the outcome of that game could help Paul Chryst's team land in a more desirable spot this postseason. But the simple opportunity to keep playing is one that all players appreciate, and that especially applies to a freshman like Tyler Boyd.

"To me, a freshman, it means a lot, because I've never been in a bowl game. This is my freshman year and going through that experience is probably going to be something fun for me. So I'm just happy that we won."

For Pitt, this will be the sixth consecutive bowl appearance, making for the longest such streak since the Panthers went to nine bowls in a row from 1975-83. And Chryst is the first coach to lead Pitt to bowls in each of his first two seasons as head coach since Foge Fazio did so in 1982 and 1983.

But those are big-picture implications, just like the impact of the extra practices Pitt will get to hold as a result of making the postseason. On a smaller scale, playing one extra game means that seniors like Aaron Donald and Tom Savage get just that: one extra game as a team.

"Definitely," Savage said when asked if he felt good about making a bowl. "Get another shot with these guys and finish this thing off right."

"I get to stay with these guys a little longer," Donald said. "It's good, man. I get to be a college kid a little longer."

Chryst agreed with his senior leaders.

"I told the guys. I'm thankful as heck because it gives you an opportunity for one more game with that group. I appreciate what they're doing, and that's pretty special."



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