On Monday it was learned the Pitt Panthers will be forced to play the remaining 11 games on its schedule without one of the top running backs in the ACC, if not the entire nation. James Conner, the victim of an MCL tear in Pitt’s season-opening win over Youngstown State, will miss the remainder of the year.
Conner experienced the injury in the second quarter on Saturday, which led new Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi to keep him off the field for the rest fo the game as a precaution. The extent of the injury was not known until Sunday after Conner had a chance to undergo a more thorough examination from the Pitt medical staff.
“They say if you can find a path with no obstacles it probably doesn’t lead anywhere,” Conner said on his Instagram account Monday. “I came too far and beat adversity before in life and I’m ready to do it again. I never question the man above because his plan never fails. The show must continue I know my squad will take care of business!”
Conner was last season’s ACC Player of the Year after rushing for 1,765 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Panthers. Paired with wide receiver Tyler Boyd, Pitt had two of the top offensive players in the conference entering this season. Replacing the overall production Conner offered the Pitt offense will not exactly be easy, but the Panthers will likely hope redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison is up to the task. Ollison stepped in to replace Conner on Saturday, and he put together a 207-yard rushing performance off the bench. If Ollison can prove to be a reliable ball carrier, then Pitt could still have a chance to make a run in what could be another up-for-grabs ACC Coastal Division.
Georgia Tech is the defending conference champion, and the Yellow Jackets certainly got off on the right foot with a blowout victory against overpowered Alcorn State. Pitt’s schedule this year is not very kind with road trips to Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke to go with home games in aCC play against Louisville and Miami. If Ollison keeps Pitt’s ground game in good shape, then the Panthers may not be taking quite as big a hit as it may seem, but not having Conner for those games will be unfortunate for Pitt when those games come around. Against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke last season, Conner rushed for 468 yards and eight touchdowns.