(At Yankee Stadium on Tuesday morning were Scott Barnes – Pittsburgh Athletic Director, Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh Head Coach, Jim Phillips – Northwestern Vice President for Athletics & Recreation, Randy Levine – New York Yankees President, Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern Head Coach, Mark Holtzman – New Era Pinstripe Bowl Executive Director (hidden), Bill Adams – New Era Vice President of Special Projects – Photo by Jason Schott)
Pittsburgh, the No. 23-ranked team in the country, and Northwestern University will play in the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, December 28, with kickoff scheduled for 2:00 p.m.
This matchup has sentimentality for the Yankees, as George Steinbrenner was the head football coach at Northwestern, and Manager Joe Girardi is an alumni of the school.
Pittsburgh is led by head coach Pat Narduzzi and they will be making its ninth consecutive bowl appearance and 33rd all-time. They were the only team in the nation this year to defeat two “Power 5” conference champions, Penn State of the Big Ten and Clemson of the ACC.
The Panthers finished the regular season with an 8-4 record, including aforementioned victories vs. Penn State (42-39) on September 10, and a 43-42 win at then No. 2-ranked Clemson on November 12. The victory at Clemson snapped a 21-game Tigers home winning streak, previously the longest active streak in the NCAA FBS (Division I-A).
Redshirt junior running back James Conner earned 2016 All-ACC First Team honors and was the recipient of the conference’s 2016 Brian Piccolo Award, awarded to the “most courageous” football player in the ACC. Following a knee injury and a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015, he ended the 2016 regular season ranked fifth among all league rushers with 1,060 yards, scoring 20 touchdowns.
Joining Conner on the 2016 All-ACC First Team were sophomore wide receiver Quadree Henderson, redshirt senior defensive end Ejuan Price and senior offensive lineman Dorian Johnson. Henderson finished the regular season ranking 11th nationally in all-purpose yards with 159.8 yards per game. Price finished second in ACC Defensive Player of the Year balloting and helped anchor a Panthers defense that ranked ninth in the nation in rush defense (108.9 yards per game) at the conclusion of the regular season. Johnson entered the year named as one of the top-100 college football players in the country, according to NFL.com.
“Congratulations to our student-athletes and coaches for finishing an exciting regular season on a fantastic high note and earning a Tier One bowl bid,” said Scott Barnes, Pittsburgh Athletic Director. “I want to thank the New Era Pinstripe Bowl for their strong interest in selecting Pitt as the ACC representative. Our fans love New York City and I know they are excited to rally around our team. We fully anticipate that Panther Nation will continue the great travel momentum established last year. I can’t wait to see everyone in New York City.”
Northwestern, led by head coach Pat Fitzgerald, will be making its second consecutive bowl appearance, seventh in the last nine years, and 13th all-time. The Wildcats concluded the regular season with a 6-6 record, winning five of their last eight games after losing three of their first four. Notable victories included a 38-31 win at Iowa on October 1, and a 41-21 home victory vs. Illinois on November 26, in the annual Land of Lincoln Trophy game.
The Wildcat offense was led by senior wide receiver Austin Carr, a Billetnikoff Award finalist and 2016 All-Big Ten First Team honoree, ending the regular season ranked first in the conference in receptions (84), receiving yards (1,196), receiving yards per game (99.7) and receiving touchdowns (12). He was also the recipient of the 2016 Richter-Howard Award, presented by the Big Ten to its Receiver of the Year.
Junior First Team All-Big Ten running back Justin Jackson led the Conference in rushing (1,300 yards) at the end of regular season play and paced the Wildcats with 12 rushing touchdowns. Junior First Team All-Big Ten defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo helped lead the defense, tying for first in the conference with 10 sacks.
“We’re overjoyed to accept an invitation to the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl and have the opportunity to compete against Pittsburgh in a unique game environment,” said Jim Phillips, Northwestern Vice President for Athletics and Recreation. “This time of year is a tremendous experience for our student-athletes and fans and we’re grateful for one more opportunity to take the field. Beyond the University’s deep ties to the Steinbrenner and Girardi families, New York City is home to the largest Wildcats alumni community outside Chicago. We can’t wait to see them – and hear them – at Yankee Stadium later this month.”