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Pitt notebook: Conner benefits from heavy workload

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 5:12 p.m.
Pitt's James Conner runs away from Duke's Dwayne Norman on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.
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Pitt's James Conner runs away from Duke's Dwayne Norman on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.

James Conner's standing on the Pitt depth chart is on the rise.

Conner, a freshman running back, was Pitt's busiest running back Saturday against Duke, recording 26 carries, a total matched in only one game last season by then-senior Ray Graham. Conner more than doubled the workload of junior Isaac Bennett, who had 12 carries for 38 yards against Duke.

Conner ran for 173 yards, setting his average yards per carry at 6.7. That's actually a dip from his 6.9 average after the first two games.

Conner's yardage total was the fourth-best for a Pitt running back in the past four seasons.

“Just making my reads,” he said. “I made the right reads, and things just opened up. The line did a great job, and I just ran downhill.”

Is it his job now?

“Today it was,” he said. “I just manned up.”

Rare trio

Conner was part of a history-making threesome. Pitt, which scored its most points in 18 years (58), had a 300-yard passer (Tom Savage, 424), 100-yard rusher (Conner) and 100-yard receivers (Devin Street and Tyler Boyd) in the same game for the first time since 2000. In that game against Boston College, quarterback John Turman, running back Kevan Barlow and wide receiver Antonio Bryant reached triple digits.

Lots of company

Savage's six touchdown passes tied an ACC record held by three others, including Virginia's Dan Ellis and Florida State's Chris Weinke who did it on the same day — Nov. 13, 1999. Steve Slayden of Duke originally set it against Georgia Tech in 1987.

Lose two, win two

Pitt's victory continued an odd trend that started at the beginning of last season. The Panthers, who have won their past two games, have had four two-game losing streaks under coach Paul Chryst, and each has been followed immediately by a two-game winning streak.

Pitt hasn't lost more than two in a row in the same season since losing four in 2007. The most recent three-game winning streak occurred in 2010.


Pitt never has allowed more than 55 points in a victory, and Duke's point total was a season high for an FBS losing team this year. Old Dominion, which is in its first FBS year and visits Heinz Field on Oct. 19, beat The Citadel of the FCS, 59-58, on Saturday. ... Pitt's 598 yards of offense were half a football field short of the school record of 648 set against Eastern Michigan in 1995, a 66-30 victory. … Attendance at Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium was 22,714. … Street moved into sixth place on Pitt's all-time receiving yards list with 2,434. He passed Mike Shanahan and Jon Baldwin and is 36 behind Greg Lee. Street (17 receptions, 387 yards) is averaging 22.7 yards per catch, 10th in the nation. … Tyler Boyd (16 catches, 314 yards) is gaining 19.6 yards per catch. … Outside linebacker Bam Bradley's shoulder injury moved freshman Matt Galambos into a backup position, and he responded with five tackles. … Defensive tackle Aaron Donald's only two tackles were a 5-yard sack of quarterback Brandon Connette and a 4-yard loss for running back Josh Snead. Donald is tied for ninth in the nation with four sacks. ... Quarterback Tom Savage was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation's Offensive Player of the Week.

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

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