Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi announced today that junior running back James Conner, the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, will undergo season-ending surgery on his right knee for a torn medial collateral ligament.
/Uncomfortable silence. Someone say something. Anything.
"I greatly appreciate everyone’s support and well wishes," Conner said. "This is a temporary setback and I’m going to work even harder to bounce back. Even though I won’t be able to play this season, I’m going to be right beside my teammates and help them every way I can to have a great season."
THAT ISN'T HELPING.
In all seriousness, this is the huge blow that all teams fear. Losing what is arguably your best player is never a good thing - quality depth notwithstanding. Narduzzi initially said that Conner was fine, but that clearly was not the case.
The Panthers had a close game against Youngstown State on Saturday and are now headed into their first road trip of the season at Akron. As we saw in the team's loss to the Zips in 2014, that is no guaranteed victory and now Pitt will need to face them without the All-American candidate.
Conner was replaced on Saturday with backups Chris James and Qadree Ollison. Ollison had a career day and school record (for a debut) 207 yards, so the team does have options. But losing the program's workhorse is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow and forces more spotlight on a passing game that struggled wildly in the team's opener.