Three and Out: James Conner carries Pittsburgh past Boston College
"I don't think either program is going to trick each other in this game," Addazio told reporters on Tuesday. "We have to play great defense and each team will try and establish a run in the same time."
Unfortunately for Addazio, his Eagles didn't execute that gameplan as effectively as the Panthers. Running back James Conner and Pitt steamrolled Boston College 30-20 in the first ACC meeting between the programs. Here are three thoughts from the Eagles’ Friday-night victory:
The James Conner Show
Pitt’s sophomore running back might not be most highly touted runner in the ACC, but maybe he should be. Conner ripped through Boston College’s defensive line for 214 yards on 36 carries, 5.9 yard-per-carry average, and one touchdown on Friday. He routinely spun his way out of tackles and extended for a number of first downs. The Eagles had no answer for Conner's running game, and the Panthers simply kept pounding the rock.
In last weekend's 62-0 win over Delaware, Pitt ran the ball 30 times while attempting only 16 passes. Coach Paul Chryst repeated that game plan on Friday, where the Panthers compiled 207 rushing yards in the first half and 303 for the game. Neither the Panthers nor the Eagles found success in the passing game, so running between the tackles became the difference-maker.
Conner has all the makings of a dominant sophomore running back at Pitt. Through two games, Conner has reeled off 367 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 50 carries. That's a remarkably efficient 7.3 yards per carry. Its clear the Panthers have an offensive weapon that could spell doom for plenty of ACC opponents this season.
Not enough from Tyler Murphy
Tyler Murphy is an unusual weapon for Boston College – that is, a quarterback who can run. Against Massachusets in Week 1, Murphy amassed 113 rushing yards on 13 carries and became the first quarterback in Eagles’ history to rush for 100 yards in a game. On Friday, Pitt forced Murphy to show off his arm, and Boston College paid for it.
Murphy rushed on 15 times for 104 yards and one garbage-time touchdown against Pitt, but a one-dimensional approach wasn't enough in the ACC opener, and Murphy struggled to find a rhythm through the air. At halftime, the Florida transfer had completed only four passes for 35 yards -- he completed only 10-of-28 passes on the night -- and his inefficiency continued into the second half. Murphy was picked off on Boston College’s first drive of the third quarter thanks, in part, to an overthrown pass. And the Eagles were forced to punt with a minute left in the third period after an under-thrown third-down screen pass from Murphy.
Murphy is a talented runner, but it might take more than that for Boston College to compete in the ACC. Last season we saw flashes of Murphy's ability as a thrower -- he threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns for the Gators in a win over Arkansas last October. But the rest of his career has been anything but consistent as a passer. If Addazio can somehow get his quarterback to succeed with his arm, these Eagles could look dangerous.
Many pegged Pitt as a darkhorse pick in the ACC’s Coastal Division, but the Panthers weren’t shocking anyone if they couldn’t get past Boston College. Chryst’s club managed to subdue the Eagles and now carry momentum into the rest of its ACC schedule.
The rest of Pitt’s early season schedule shouldn't look like a major challenge. With games against FIU, Iowa, and Akron remaining in September, Pitt could enter its Oct. 4 meeting against Virginia with a 5-0 record, or at least a 4-1 mark. Plus, the Panthers get Virginia Tech and Duke at home later in the season. It’s still early, but that could be a recipe for a surprising season in the Coastal Division for Pitt.