Former Pitt stars James Conner and Aaron Donald faced off on Monday Night Football, as Conner’s Arizona Cardinals took on Donald’s Los Angeles Rams in an NFC West tilt, and both Pitt men put on solid performances.
Conner extended his latest scoring streak to seven games, becoming the first Cardinals player in the Super Bowl era to record a rushing or receiving score in seven consecutive games. The Cardinals running back’s first score was a one-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 10-10 in the second quarter. His second came on an eight-yard run in the fourth quarter and kept the Cardinals alive, as it made the score 27-20 with more than 13 minutes to play.
As for Donald, he accrued five tackles, three sacks, 15 quarterback pressures, three quarterback hits and three tackles for losses in the contest. It was his most productive night of the season, as his sack total was a personal best for 2021. Donald also achieved a rare feat, as he became the only player to record a sack on both the first and last scrimmage plays of an NFL game in the last 30 years.
The two also went head to head on a few occasions, but the most notable of those was Conner’s first score of the night. On that play, a hole opened up in the Cardinals line, allowing Donald to break through. He tracked down Conner behind Cardinals right guard Max Garcia and got a hand on him, but Conner slipped away and scored. However, Donald would have the last laugh, as the Rams ultimately took down the Cardinals 30-23.
Conner and Donald both played at Pitt in the 2010s, with the end of Donald’s career overlapping with the beginning of Conner’s. The two natives of western Pennsylvania played on the same Pitt team in 2013 under Paul Chryst, and Conner even joined Donald on the defensive line. But despite the star power on that team, which also featured future NFL players Tyler Boyd, J.P. Holtz and K’Waun Williams, the Panthers went 7-6 that year.
With the game in the books, Conner now ranks second in the NFL in combined rushing and receiving touchdowns, with 16, and Donald ranks 10th in sacks, with 10 in 13 games. Donald has also secured his fifth straight season with a double-digit sack total and is 4.5 sacks away from tallying 100 in his career.