As I start off this article, I will tell you right now that you can blast me all you want on picking James Conner for this game, but I'm doing it. During yesterday's 34-27 emotional loss to North Carolina, Pitt had several players that proved they were worthy of the title. We could have given the award to Tyler Boyd, who put up 92 yards on five catches, including a brilliant early snag down the middle of the field to set up Pitt's first score. We could have also given it out to either Tom Savage or Devin Street, who both bounced back from injuries to give a gutsy performance. Instead, we settled on Conner, whose numbers could have been huge, if not for some questionable play-calling and substitutions.
Despite ignoring an obvious effective running game early on and some weird yo-yo type rotation at running back, the freshman from Erie, PA put up 102 yards on just 19 carries. He also added 13 more yards receiving yesterday afternoon. The bullish tailback carried (literally) Tar Heel tacklers all over the field and ripped off impressive run after impressive run. It all made you think what would have happened if Conner would have been given the load early and ended up with around 30 carries, instead of just 19.
Conner only got stronger as the game went on and bulled his way into the end zone for his only score to tie the game up at 27 in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, James' day ended on being stopped for no gain on fourth down in North Carolina territory, but he was also met almost as soon as he took the hand-off, so I believe we can forgive him for that.
With the recent big-time commit of Chris James, the Panthers could bring in a very loud one-two punch next season. Conner has already proven the Panthers are capable of landing a severe over-hand right on their opponents, so maybe James can help them with that follow-up uppercut next season.