Pitt Football Notebook: Miami Week
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Pitt travels to Dade County to take on the Miami Hurricanes Saturday in a season finale that could earn the Panthers bowl contention.
The Panthers (5-6, 3-4 ACC) might have to face Miami (6-5, 3-4 ACC) without their banged-up tailback James Conner, who was lifted in the first quarter of Pitt’s previous game against Syracuse because of a hip injury.
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst did not rule Conner out heading into the matchup.
“We’ll see obviously how he goes,” Chryst said Monday of the sophomore sensation Conner, who is third nationally in rushing yards (1,600 yards). “After the [Syracuse] game he felt alright. He was hurting yesterday, but all the guys who are injured, we’ll see how they do today.”
Chryst’s final statement applies to a hefty list of battered Panthers consisting of defensive tackle Darryl Render (ankle), outside linebacker Bam Bradley (stinger), left tackle Adam Bisnowaty (unspecified), nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett (unspecified) and wide receiver Manasseh Garner (unspecified).
In the wake of Conner’s absence, freshman running back Chris James took 19 carries for 122 yards and senior Isaac Bennett received 11 rushes for 77 yards in a 30-7 win over the Orange.
After the game, James said that he and running backs coach John Settle have stressed the importance of patience on runs in recent weeks. Settle preaches that James and his other backs follow the rule “slow to, fast through,” and Chryst said the freshman has fully embraced the expression.
“You’ve got to be patient, and then when you see it, trust it and go,” Chryst said. “[James] had some moments where he had to be patient with it, and I thought he ran really hard.”
Led by 2014 Butkus Award (top linebacker) finalist Denzel Perryman, the Hurricanes boast a defensive brigade that ranks 15th nationally in total defense.
A loss for Pitt would mean an end of a career for safety Ray Vinopal and 10 other seniors. Vinopal said he’s aware of the stature that Miami carries, and he’s just trying to pass on a we-can-play-with-anybody mentality to underclassmen as Pitt prepares for the matchup this week.
“They play with confidence, they play with swag, they have a lot of great athletes, and they carry themselves like ‘The U,’” Vinopal said. “You can’t be intimidated by the emblem.”
Kickoff has been announced for 7 p.m.