Pitt Football Notebook: UNC Week
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Conner emulates rushing title competitor
Heading into Pitt’s bye-week, James Conner was the nation’s leading rusher.
But while the Panthers sat idle Saturday, Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon claimed the title through week 11 with a 205-yard performance against Purdue. Gordon now has 1,501 yards on the season, and Conner carefully watched the 6-foot-1, 207-pound junior surpass his 1,342 yards from his living room couch.
“You can learn from guys older than you or younger than you,” Conner said. “I definitely like watching other college football backs. Melvin Gordon is one guy who I particularly like his style. He’s consistent every week.”
“You can take bits and pieces from everybody else and try to add it to your game… When I’m watching him, I look for certain things he does to help me with my game.”
And Conner’s game is already pretty solid, and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe would agree.
“He beats up a lot of people,” Cutcliffe said of Conner after Duke downed Pitt 51-48 last week. “We had a couple of defensive backs who came out of the game early after tackling him, but a better word is attempting to tackle him.”
Terrish Webb had surgery to repair his injured right ankle last week, and Pitt head coach Paul Chryst told reporters Monday that redshirt sophomore Reggie Mitchell will slide into his place.
“We’ll keep Reggie at safety. I thought he did some good things, and hopefully he would be more comfortable at that,” Chryst said.
Five Panthers defenders had totaled more tackles than Webb before he was injured. Webb also played special teams.
“We kind of went on a stretch to see if [Webb’s ankle] would heal on its own, and it looked like we had to assist,” Chryst added.
In addition, Chryst said that three additional Panthers are banged up. He is uncertain if senior receiver Manasseh Garner, nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett and defensive end Luke Maclean will play Saturday in Pitt’s 12:30 game at North Carolina.
It was just announced that freshman linebacker Zack Poker underwent season-ending surgery recently to heal an unspecified part of the body. Poker did not receive any action this season and will likely redshirt.
For what it’s worth…
North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora announced last week that tailback Romar Morris has been suspended for Saturday’s game for a violation of team rules. Morris was the Tar Heels third running back, tallying 44 carries for 162 yards on the season.