The exploits of Pitt running back Qadree Ollison are already well known at this point, as he ran for a season-high 192 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown run, and played pivotal role in Pitt’s 44-37 overtime win over ACC rival Syracuse on Saturday. However, on the other side of the ball, Pitt cornerback Damar Hamlin quietly had a career outing, amassing a personal-best 14 tackles.
For their efforts in the upset, the two were recognized by the ACC as players of the week. Hamlin was named the ACC Defensive Back of the Week, while Ollison was named the ACC Running Back of the Week. This marks the third time Ollison has been honored by the conference, as he was named ACC Rookie of the Week twice in 2015. But for Hamlin, the award is his first.
Congrats to this week's #ACCFootball Players of the Week!— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) October 8, 2018
Quarterback: TaQuon Marshall (@GeorgiaTechFB)
Running Back: Qadree Ollison (@Pitt_FB)
Receiver: Kelvin Harmon (@PackFootball) & Damon Hazelton (@VT_Football)
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Another Pitt player many thought would make the cut is kicker Alex Kessman, who set a Heinz Field record with a 55-yard kick and went 3-for-3 against Syracuse on Saturday. However, ACC Specialist of the Week went to Florida State return man D.J. Matthews, who amassed 145 yards and a touchdown on four returns in the Seminoles’ 28-27 loss to Miami over the weekend.
With all that said, Hamlin’s performance is perhaps the most notable takeaway, as the Pitt fanbase has been waiting for a breakout performance from the former four-star recruit.
Hamlin was expected to contribute early in his career in a supposedly defense-oriented Panthers squad under Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, a former defensive coordinator at Michigan State. That never came to fruition, but with Hamlin now in his junior year and apparently on the rise, there’s newfound reason for hope that his greatest contributions might come as an upperclassman.
Defensive Lineman: Alton Robinson (@CuseFootball)— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) October 8, 2018
Defensive Back: Damar Hamlin (@Pitt_FB)
Linebacker: Germaine Pratt (@PackFootball)
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To some extent, matters even appear to be improving for the Pitt secondary as a whole, as the team now ranks 63rd in the nation in pass defense after the matchup with Syracuse. That’s up from 106th in the 2017 season and an abysmal 127th out of 128 Division I teams back in 2016.
While that still leaves much to be desired, the fact that Hamlin and the secondary stepped up throughout an important game and were able to help Pitt climb to 2-1 in the ACC Coastal is a positive development. And if they’re able to continue to improve, it could go a long way toward getting the team back to respectability, bowl eligibility, and perhaps contention in the Coastal.