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Pitt notebook: QB Savage's confidence unshaken by INTs

| Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, 8:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterback Tom Savage plays against New Mexico on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Heinz Field.

Pitt quarterback Tom Savage believes he can avoid the mistakes that have led to four interceptions in 45 attempts.

He gets another chance Saturday when Pitt travels to Duke for its first ACC road game.

Savage has the full support of coach Paul Chryst, who likely won't be afraid to take shots downfield the remainder of the season, given the strength of Savage's arm.

“I thought he was good,” Chryst said after the Panthers evened their record at 1-1 with a 49-27 victory against New Mexico. “Tom, as he should be, is confident in who he is and (the coaches).”

Savage threw with accuracy against New Mexico, completing 13 of 17 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns.

For the season, Savage is 28 for 45 for 437 yards and three touchdowns.

His average of 218.5 yards per game ranks him seventh among ACC quarterbacks and tied for 53rd in the FBS.

“I thought we had a good tempo going the whole game and we played well,” Savage said.

Duke's QB woes

After losing starting quarterback Anthony Boone indefinitely with a broken collarbone, Duke is forced to settle for backup Brandon Connette, a junior who has been with the team since 2010.

Connette, who has played tight end, running back and operated the wildcat offense in his time at Duke, had his first collegiate start Saturday in a 38-14 ACC loss to Georgia Tech. Duke converted only three of 14 third-down situations and Connette completed barely half of his pass attempts (15 of 28) for 122 yards.

“He had his moments,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Sunday. “He was obviously frustrated with his third-down circumstances.”

Cutcliffe was more annoyed by his defense's inability to stop Georgia Tech and its strong running game (344 yards). The Yellow Jackets possessed the football for 38 minutes, 32 seconds.

“I thought our defense fought hard for being back on the field so quickly, so often,” he said. “I don't think it's an indication of our talent. I don't think it's an indication of how we play. If we don't like it, we have to go get something done about it.”

Notable

Pitt's 21 points in the first quarter against New Mexico marked the first time since the Buffalo game in 2009 the Panthers reached 20 to open the game. ... Aaron Donald tied a career high with four tackles for a loss, bringing his career total to 21 12. ... Senior wide receiver Devin Street moved into third place on the Pitt all-time receptions list, passing Mike Shanahan (159), Dietrich Jells (160) and Larry Fitzgerald (161). Fitzgerald played only two seasons. Street, who has 162 in three-plus seasons, is 11 behind runner-up Antonio Bryant (173). Latef Grim leads with 178.

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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