College football is one sport where the media and fans alike tend to overreact early in the season, but don’t tell that to Pittsburgh running back James Conner.
The former defensive end has catapulted himself into the way-too-early Heisman discussion with another monster performance.
Conner ran for 213 yards on 35 carries in Pittsburgh’s 30-20 victory over Boston College on Friday, leading the Panthers their first 2-0 start since 2011.
Conner accounted for more than half of his team’s offense in the game and his touchdown midway through the third quarter gave Pitt a 27-7 lead, putting the game essentially out of reach.
Last week, Conner ran for 153 yards and four touchdowns against 1-AA foe Delaware, but he proved he could perform against a team with more talent. Through two games, Conner has 366 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Boston College knows all about running backs with power.
The Eagles’ Andre Williams ran for over 2,000 yards last season and was invited to New York as a Heisman trophy finalist. Pittsburgh avoided BC on their schedule last year and the Panthers were able to show their opponents a reminder of what they had in 2013.
Pittsburgh’s quarterback observed something that opposing defenses will have to figure out. ”It’s hard to get him down,” said signal-caller Chad Voytik. “He breaks tackles left and right.” Pittsburgh is in its second season as a member of the ACC and is looking for a spark to ignite their program.
Since their co-Big East championship in 2010, the Panthers have stumbled to a 21-20 record. The school even cancelled its spring game in order to maximize practice time. Although it was a tactical decision to improve its team, how would you feel if you’re a fan, looking forward to a spring game that ultimately doesn’t happen?
Pittsburgh avoids defending national champion Florida State on this year’s slate, so that’s one less great defense Conner and company will have to face. Williams’ outstanding season in 2013 showed that Heisman voters value a dominating player that (literally) carries a team on their back.
However, no running back has won the Heisman trophy since Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.
Judging from the more than 700 rushing yards through Pittsburgh’s first two games, the Panthers will be relying on Conner to do some heavy lifting.
All eyes will be on No. 24 when Pittsburgh goes on the road to face Florida International next week. Pitt should be favored against FIU and it would be a disappointment if they aren’t 3-0 after next Saturday.
Get to know the name James Conner; he might be a household name soon.
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