A weird thing happened as the Pitt Panthers dominated the Boston College Eagles Friday night at Alumni Stadium. The Panthers looked capable of winning the ACC Coastal Division during their 30-20 victory.
Three areas of the Panthers’ squad stood out during the impressive performance
First, the team established an identity on offense and his name is James Conner. The sophomore is also establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the nation. Conner ran for 214 yards on 36 carries Friday night. He now has 367 yards through two games. The identity is a reflection of head coach Paul Chryst‘s preference to be a hard-nosed, run-first football program. It’s taken the coach three seasons to mold the roster to his liking, but he now has a 250-pound freight train at running back and a talented offensive line to dominate at the point of attack.
Second, everything may start with the Panthers’ ground game, but they’re not limited to simply running the football. Tyler Boyd is one of college football’s most talented wide receivers. Boyd caught five passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns. The wide receiver also ran the ball twice for 23 yards. Boyd’s presence on the outside helps Pitt stretch the field and provide more space underneath to run the football. When a crucial third-down conversion is required, quarterback Chad Voytik can rely on his top target to make a play.
Finally, the Panthers are talented on special teams. It’s an often overlooked aspect of the game, but the team has complete confidence in sophomore kicker Chris Blewitt, who was 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts with a long of 49 yards against the Eagles. Redshirt freshman Ryan Winslow punted five times during the contest. The Eagles didn’t return a single punt.
The Panthers are also fortunate to have a favorable schedule. Pitt could easily be 5-0 before they reenter ACC play Oct. 4 against the Virginia Cavaliers.
premature to give Pitt the Coastal, but look at their schedule. Considering what we’ve seen over two games, could live up to darkhorse hype
— Jared Shanker (@JShankerESPN) September 6, 2014
There is a flipside to the Panthers’ success. For the team to live up to raised expectations, it must overcome three areas of concern.
First, Voytik must continue to mature as a passer. Second, the offensive line must remain healthy, which it didn’t do against Boston College. Starting center Artie Rowell injured his leg during the game and was seen wearing a massive knee brace during the second half. And the defense must continue to play at a high level against better competition. The unit has given up 333 yards through two games.
CFT chose Pitt to finish fourth in the ACC’s Coastal Division. We may have underestimated the talent on the Panthers’ roster this season.