Qadree Ollison

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Pitt loses RB Qadree Ollison to injury but leads Stanford in Sun Bowl

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Defense and running the football tend to be the keys to success for both Pittsburgh and Stanford. So far, after one half of play in the Sun Bowl, that recipe has been slightly more kind to the Panthers. Pittsburgh leads Stanford 10-7 at halftime of the Sun Bowl, a game that has not been full of much offensive flair.

Pitt was dealt a bit of a blow on offense with the loss of leading rusher Qadree Ollison. After five carries for 23 yards, Ollison was evaluated for an injury on the sideline and was seen taking his pads off and sitting on a cart.

After a scoreless first quarter, Pitt was the first to put a dent on the scoreboard in the second quarter with a 29-yard field goal by Alex Kessman. Stanford would take a 7-3 lead a few possessions later when they string together their first drive of the day. After being limited to just three yards of offense for the first 20 minutes of the game, the Cardinal orchestrated a 64-yard drive ending with a short touchdown run by Cameron Scarlett.

Pittsburgh regained the lead on the ensuing possession on the strength of quarterback Kenny Pickett utilizing his legs to provide a spark for the Panthers. Pickett had runs of 14 yards and 11 yards on the drive in addition to a few passes good for first downs. Darrin Hall would end the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.

With Bryce Love sitting out of the game to prepare for the NFL, Stanford’s leading rusher has been Scarlett, with 27 yards on seven carries. Hall has 89 yards for the Panthers.

Pitt gets the ball to start the second half.

Pitt teammates to race in support of James Conner

AP Photo/The News & Observer, Robert Willett
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As Pittsburgh running back James Conner continues with his battle against Hodgkin lymphoma, 12 of his teammates will compete in a charity race in his honor this weekend.

A dozen Panthers players will be a part of the #ConnerStrong team in this weekend’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual charity race at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The race is a six-hour stationary bike race and players will take turns on the bike as teams try to accumulate more miles than other teams. Of course, this being a charity event, there are no losers and there are only winners.

Members of the team include Nathan Peterman, Qadree Ollison, Matt Galambos, Jaryd Jones-Smith, George Aston, Rafael Araujo-Lopes, Pat Quirin, Tony Pilato, Kellen McAlone, Manny Stocker, Tristan Cunha and Nick Goldsmith, according to Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com.

Conner has already been seen working out with the Panthers this offseason and head coach Pat Narduzzi is optimistic Conner will be back on the field this fall.

Pittsburgh keeps pressure on UNC for ACC Coastal after 31-13 win at Duke

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The Pittsburgh Panthers (7-3, 5-1 ACC) may still need a little help from their ACC friends, but they certainly forced UNC to keep their foot on the gas pedal coming down the stretch of the regular season. Pitt’s 31-13 victory at Duke (6-4, 3-3 ACC) kept the Panthers one game in the loss column of the Tar Heels (UNC had not played yet) as quarterback Nathan Peterman threw three touchdown passes.

After going into halftime tied at 10-10, Pitt took care of business in the second quarter with Peterman tossing a short touchdown pass to J.P. Holtz to take a 17-10 lead at the end of a 10-play, 81-yard drive to open the half. The Panthers again scored through the air on their next possession with Peterman connecting with Dontez Ford. Star wide receiver Tyler Boyd did not put up huge numbers catching the football (three receptions for 38 yards), but Boyd did help out on the ground with 79 rushing yards. Boyd did not catch a pass in the second half. Qadree Ollison was the leading rusher in the game with 110 yards and a score. Pitt’s defense also got the job done, with three turnovers nd holding Duke without a touchdown since the first quarter. Outside of a 77-yard gain by Duke quarterback Parker Boehme, Pitt allowed just 36 rushing yards in the game.

With the win, Pitt continues to keep a shot at the ACC Coastal Division crown alive, depending on what North Carolina does. The Tar Heels have Miami today, with Virginia Tech and North Carolina State each on the road after today. Pitt started the day a game behind North Carolina, and UNC owns the head-to-head tiebreaker to make it more of a two-game lead on the Panthers. With home games against Louisville (next week) and Miami (Nov. 28), Pitt will have a chance to keep the pressure on UCN down the stretch.

Duke is now eliminated from winning the ACC Coastal Division. The loss to the Blue Devils also means we are guaranteed to see a new representative of the division in the  ACC Championship Game out of the Coastal Division. The only teams to represent the division since the first ACC title game in 2005 have been Virginia Tech (five times), Georgia Tech (four) and Duke (one). UNC, Pittsburgh and Miami have yet to play in the game, but are now the only possibilities to play Clemson this year.

Duke now has to shake off a three-game losing streak and will have to do so on the road for the remainder of the season. Duke visits Virginia next week and closes the regular season at Wake Forest.

Loss of James Conner (MCL tear) a significant blow to Pitt’s ACC Coastal chances

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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.