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Hope on the way for Pitt ground attack

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pitt running back Isaac Bennett didn't have a strong game in the opener against Florida State. He'll try to rectify that Saturday against New Mexico.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pitt running back Isaac Bennett didn't have a strong game in the opener against Florida State. He'll try to rectify that Saturday against New Mexico.
AP - Pitt running back James Conner (40) carried nine times for 34 yards in the Panthers' season-opening loss to Florida State on Sept. 2.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pitt running back James Conner (40) carried nine times for 34 yards in the Panthers' season-opening loss to Florida State on Sept. 2.

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Minor movement

A look at Pitt's 10 offensive possessions against Florida State:

Plays Yards result

8 80 Touchdown

6 29 Interception

3 3 Punt

11 69 Field goal

2 3 Interception

2 9 End of half

11 52 Field goal

3 minus-2 Punt

5 12 Punt

5 52 Downs

'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.

Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 11:12 p.m.
 

Many reasons surfaced for Pitt failing to generate a solid running game against Florida State.

Reasons? Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph might label at least one of them “excuses.”

Clearly, the Seminoles have superior athletes, but Rudolph doesn't want to hear it.

“If you are on your landmark, there are a lot of things you can do that don't take talent,” he said. “It's just a matter of doing your job and being detailed with it. That's the thing we have to make sure of.”

Rudolph saw some positive plays, just not enough of them.

“The biggest thing is lack of consistency,” he said. “That's been the big talk (in position meetings). Really appreciating the (play) you are in and how important your job fits it, never knowing if it's the piece of the puzzle that's going to create a big play.

“We have been hammering them about being consistent, about finishing, about doing their job and doing it through the whistle.”

Rudolph said there was plenty of blame for everyone. Pitt carried 27 times for 96 yards (3.6 yards per attempt) in the loss.

“There were times, the tailback, we could have been better with the reads,” he said. “There were a couple times it was blocked pretty well and we just got outside it. There were a few times I know a tight end, the same thing, didn't detail it up, and I'm sure it flows over to the offensive line.”

Failing to heed those directives resulted in undesirable down-and-distance situations and a 25 percent third-down conversion rate (2 of 8).

Among Pitt's 10 possessions, there were too many punts (three), field goals (two) and interceptions (two). The leading rusher was a wide receiver — freshman Tyler Boyd, who gained 54 yards on three sweeps — but Pitt needs more from its backs.

Pitt has a chance to get well Saturday against New Mexico of the Mountain West. The Lobos (1-1) allowed 280 rushing yards (6.1 per carry) in a 42-35 overtime victory against UTEP.

The two-man tag team of junior Isaac Bennett and freshman James Conner will continue to carry the running game.

Conner has been one of the most impressive players on the roster, and he showed his toughness fighting through a painful shoulder injury to carry nine times for 34 yards against Florida State.

“I was lucky to take a snap because I really didn't practice that much before the Florida State week,” said Conner, who estimated his wellness at about 60-70 percent.

“I got shot up and it wore off and I got another one. I didn't want to take myself out.”

Conner said he expects to be close to 100 percent for New Mexico.

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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