James Connor

James Conner already with 100-yard afternoon as Pitt leads Iowa

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If you were looking for a match-up of a pair of sleeper picks in their respective conferences, you might have found it in western Pennsylvania this afternoon. Iowa was widely considered a trendy pick in the Big Ten heading into the season, but the Hawkeyes are coming off a loss at home last week against in-state rival Iowa State. This afternoon they take on a Pittsburgh team that has played well early on and has every bit a chance to win an up-for-grabs ACC Coastal Division. This game may not be generating much buzz, but it has been somewhat entertaining in the first half, with Pittsburgh holding the halftime advantage, 17-7.

Iowa and Pittsburgh have similar offensive philosophies, for the most part. Iowa is typically pretty good running the football, when healthy, but it is Pittsburgh that is excelling on the ground this afternoon. James Connor already has a 100-yard afternoon with 100 yards and a touchdown. Connor is averaging 5.9 yards per carry so far against the Hawkeyes and he is getting an extra push to move the piles at times as well.James Connor already has a 100-yard afternoon with 100 yards and a touchdown. Connor is averaging 5.9 yards per carry so far against the Hawkeyes and he is getting an extra push to move the piles at times as well.

Iowa turned the football over early on with a rather humorous interception when Damon Powell failed to keep his hands on a deep pass. the ball nearly slipped through his hands before his attempt to recover actually redirected the football straight into the hands of Pittsburgh defensive back Lafayette Pitts.

Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock came back later to try a pass down field, with much more success, but he has not been as locked in and accurate as his Pittsburgh counterpart, Chad Voytik. Voytik is not racking up the passing yards but he is finding receivers with consistency (12-of-14, 130 yards) and letting the running game take care of the rest. If Iowa cannot force Voytik to make some uncomfortable throws or slow down the running game, they could be heading home with a loss.

Pitt keeps bowl hopes alive with win over Notre Dame

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It was a back and forth game from start to finish Saturday night in the steel city. Notre Dame (7-3) and Pittsburgh (5-4, 2-3 ACC) traded blows all night long, touchdown for touchdown, until the Panthers broke the routine and took control in the fourth quarter. In the end, Pittsburgh scored a huge win to boost their postseason hopes, while crushing any slim hope even the most optimistic Notre Dame fans of returning to a BCS bowl game this January. Pittsburgh topped the visiting Irish 28-21.

Tommy Rees had another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type performance. The Fighting Irish quarterback completed just 18 of 38 pass attempts but did so for 318 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was also intercepted twice and struggled against a team that has a top 20 pass defense this season. His second interception of the game, in the fourth quarter, set Pittsburgh up for a short touchdown run by James Connor to break a 21-21 tie. The Panthers defense later came up with a fourth down stop late in the fourth quarter to seal the deal on a 28-21 victory.

Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage had a much better evening, completing 22 of 35 pass attempts for 243 yards and two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Devin Street had both touchdown catches on his four receptions for 76 yards.

Notre Dame’s offense rolled up 451 yards of offense  but three turnovers doomed the Irish’s chances. In the second half Notre Dame’s possessions resulted in a punt, touchdown, interception, interception, punt and a game-deciding turnover on downs. Notre Dame also missed a field goal in the first half and lost a fumble after moving the football 69 yards on a promising drive. the mistakes proved too much to overcome on the road as the Irish lost for the third time this season.

Notre Dame could have made a run for a potential BCS bowl spot with the win, but now the bowl outcome for the Irish appears to be much less rewarding than where this program was a season ago. Pittsburgh’s bowl picture is still in question as well, with the Panthers now needing just one more win to become bowl eligible and to enter the ACC bowl line-up. Pittsburgh has three games left to pick up one win. Two games will come at home, against North Carolina and a fading Miami team. A road trip to Syracuse comes in between the home dates.