Pitt notebook: Conner quietly surpasses 1,000 yards rushing
James Conner on Saturday became the 13th running back in Pitt history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing, but hardly anyone knew or cared after the 56-28 loss to Georgia Tech.
Not only did Conner lose a fumble after a 74-yard run that robbed Pitt of a touchdown, but he also injured his right knee in the first quarter and needed help to reach the sideline.
“I was worried for a split second,” said Conner, who returned before halftime to score two of his three touchdowns. “For sure, I felt some pain. You never know what it is.”
The injury occurred in front of the Pitt bench, so coach Paul Chryst had a good view of a scary moment.
“You are hearing it,” he said. “You are certainly relieved that it wasn’t (more serious). I appreciated his efforts coming back.”
Conner, who hurt his left knee last spring, gained 120 yards on 10 carries for his fifth 100-yard effort of the season and ninth of his career. He came into the game as the ACC leader in rushing. He has 1,079 yards.
He reached 1,000 yards in his eighth game, the second fewest in Pitt history. Craig Heyward, Tony Dorsett, Dion Lewis and LeSean McCoy also did so in eight games.
Conner has 14 touchdowns, the most at Pitt since Lewis had 17 in 2009. Dorsett set the Pitt record (22) in 1976.
Sophomore safety Terrish Webb left the game with an ankle injury in the second half and returned only to watch the rest of the game in street clothes.
Quarterback Chad Voytik was injured while trying to recover a snap that sailed over his head in the fourth quarter. Chryst said trainers told him that Voytik had the wind knocked out of him.
Georgia Tech recovered the football on the play and quickly scored to increase its lead to 49-21. At that point, Chryst felt no urgency to keep Voytik in the game.
“It was an opportunity for Trey (Anderson, the backup) to get going,” Chryst said.
Anderson completed 8 of 15 pass attempts for 135 yards and a touchdown. Voytik was 15 of 20 for 193 and no scores.
“I talked to (Voytik) afterwards, and he said he’s fine,” Chryst said.
Sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd had nine catches for 137 yards, only his second 100-yard game of the season and seventh of his career. Boyd moved into 10th place on Pitt’s all-time receptions list with 130. He passed Oderick Turner, Greg Lee and Jon Baldwin. … Pitt compiled 526 yards of offense, dropping its record under Chryst to 6-2 when it gains more than 500. … Pitt announced a crowd of 44,734.
Pitt (4-4, 2-2) is among five ACC Coastal teams with two losses. Duke (6-1, 2-1), which was idle, visits Heinz Field on Saturday. “One more loss puts us out of ACC contention,” senior safety Ray Vinopal said.
— Jerry DiPaola