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Pitt notebook: Boyd playing beyond his years

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd makes a first-quarter diving catch past North Carolina's Tim Scott on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, at Heinz Field.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, 3:57 p.m.
 

Circumstances have forced Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd to grow up quickly, and he has been willing to shoulder that responsibility.

With his first season winding down, Boyd finds himself leading the country's freshmen in receptions with 68, one short of Larry Fitzgerald's Pitt freshman record set in 2002.

His presence became pivotal Saturday, when he was quarterback Tom Savage's No. 1 target in a 17-16 victory at Syracuse. With Devin Street out for all but the first series, Boyd caught 10 passes for 82 yards. It marked the second time this season he has reached double-digit receptions — he had 11 for 118 yards at Georgia Tech.

“I feel like a freshman,” said Boyd, who turned 20 this month. “When I go out there and play, I don't play as a freshman. I feel everybody out there playing is equal. The class doesn't mean anything.”

Boyd plays with confidence that contradicts his inexperience.

“I probably have more athleticism than some of the older guys we are playing (against),” he said, “so they don't take me as a freshman.”

Boyd has 903 receiving yards with a chance Friday against Miami to reach 1,000 yards, something that has been done only seven times at Pitt. Fitzgerald holds the freshman record with 1,005.

Boyd's nearest competition for the freshman pass-catching title is Western Michigan's Corey Davis (64), who ends his season Tuesday at No. 18 Northern Illinois.

Street's injuries

Boyd's role could grow while Street is dealing with ankle and elbow injuries.

Street, whose return is uncertain, passed the 2,900 career mark in receiving yards (2,901) with two catches for 7 yards before sitting out the rest of the game.

Bowl-bound

Pitt (6-5, 3-4) joined 9 ACC schools on the FBS bowl-eligible list. Syracuse could make it 11 of 14 teams if it defeats Boston College on Saturday.

The Panthers' destination is unclear, but defensive tackle Aaron Donald, whose next stop is the NFL, doesn't care where he goes for the postseason.

“I get to be a college kid a little longer,” he said.

Pitt can improve its bowl status by beating Miami on Friday at Heinz Field. Among the possibilities in order of prestige are: the Music City Bowl in Nashville (Dec. 30, SEC opponent), Advocare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La. (Dec. 31, SEC), Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md. (Dec. 27, Conference USA or MAC team), Little Caesars Pizza in Detroit (Dec. 26, MAC) and the Pointsettia Bowl in San Diego (Dec. 26, Mountain West).

New experience

Miami is coming to Pittsburgh for a late-season game for the first time since 2003.

Temperatures are predicted to reach no higher than the 30s, which players such as Miami sophomore cornerback Tracy Howard never have experienced.

“I'm from Miami. I've never played in weather like that,” Howard said. “The coldest weather I've played in was at Duke last year, and it was in the 50s.”

Miami is 5-0 all-time in Pittsburgh in November.

Notable

Junior fullback Mark Giubilato isn't always on the field when Pitt has the ball, but he threw the key block that allowed Isaac Bennett to score on the decisive 5-yard touchdown run against Syracuse. … The Panthers had no second-half comeback victories in the previous three seasons, but they have two in the past three weeks (Notre Dame and Syracuse). … Freshman kicker Chris Blewitt extended his successful field-goal string to seven, with five being 42 yards or longer. ... Donald was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week after recording nine tackles, 3 12 for a loss, two hurries and a blocked extra-point attempt.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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