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Panther of the Game: James Conner

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The Pitt running back had his best game of the season

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

During Pitt’s 39-36 loss to Virginia Tech last night, Panther fans saw the old James Conner. He’s had a nice season and he’s shown flashes of his old self. He’s found the end zone. I think we can all agree that he hasn’t been near his 2014 self, though. That’s a tall order to be truthful and his body has been through a lot since then. But his body received a few extra days of rest before the game last night and it showed.

I think we saw it early, despite the offensive struggles to start the game. When Alex Officer didn’t snap the ball and backed up Pitt a half yard to inside their own one-yard line, Conner seethed. He was beside himself. To get a little extra room, the Panthers called a third down run for Conner. That’s when it happened as Conner spun, drove, and fought for an 11-yard gain. It didn’t gain a first down, but it did show what Virginia Tech’s defense was in for the rest of the night.

Tech came in with a top ten rushing defense but it didn’t matter. He just looked like the old James Conner last night. His speed, stiff arms, and just flat out nasty running was back on display. Conner finished the game with 19 carries for 146 yards and three touchdowns. The Hokies were focused on the jet sweep and the offensive line did a fabulous job, but I think we were all thankful to see that familiar #24 running hard, staring at defenders after they force him out of bounds, and quick hitting of the open holes.

Let’s hope he can keep it up, as he receives another couple of extra days before going on the road to play the Miami Hurricanes. He will need more performances like that for Pitt to be successful down the stretch and to hold off teammates, like Tyrique Jarrett for this award. The Pitt senior interior defensive lineman had another stellar game to make this a tough choice. Despite the usual double teams he faces, Jarrett recorded five solo tackles, three assists, and one sack. He was a disruptive force in the middle, but Conner held him off for this week’s award.

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