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 (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 & 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."
George M. Steinbrenner, whom the New Era Pinstripe Bowl Trophy is named after, was once an assistant football coach at Northwestern in 1955. Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi is also a graduate of the University.
The 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl continues the Bowl's relationship with the Big Ten and ACC. Each respective conference has entered into multi-year agreements with the New York Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to have a representative school play in the game.
"We are pleased and excited to welcome the student-athletes, staff and families of two great institutions in the University of Pittsburgh and Northwestern University to the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl," said Mark Holtzman, Executive Director of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. "There's nothing quite like New York City during the holiday season, and we are confident that the entire bowl week will provide these two universities and their passionate fan bases a collection of unforgettable experiences."
Pittsburgh will be making its third Yankee Stadium appearance all-time, previously playing in the first ever college football game at the original venue on October 20, 1923 (3-0 loss vs. Syracuse) and on November 17, 1962 (7-6 victory vs. Army). Northwestern will be making their Bronx gridiron debut.
This year's game will be nationally televised by ESPN and will be broadcasted by ESPN Radio.
Special events, promotions and community outreach will take place throughout New Era Pinstripe Bowl week to once again create an unforgettable experience for fans, families, students and staff. Scheduled visits to noteworthy New York City landmarks will include One World Observatory, the 9/11 Memorial, the New York Stock Exchange, Radio City Music Hall, and more.
In addition, a special trophy tour will also see the George M. Steinbrenner Trophy visit the campuses of both the University of Pittsburgh and Northwestern University.
Tickets for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl are currently on sale at www.pinstripebowl.com, the official website of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and www.ticketmaster.com. For up-to-the-moment information regarding the game, fans are also encouraged to follow the Bowl game's official Twitter and Instagram accounts -- @PinstripeBowl.