Saturday night, the Pitt Panthers football team will essentially be playing a playoff game as a win vs. the Miami Hurricanes will get the Panthers bowl eligible while a loss will send Pitt home with a disappointing 5-7 record to a 2014 season that many felt had some promise coming in.
With that game just two days away, the Panthers still don’t know if they will be taking the field with one of their best offensive weapons.
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst has yet to confirm the status of running back James Conner, as Pitt will surely need Conner’s presence in between the tackles Saturday night in what amounts to their biggest game of the season.
“We’ll see how he goes,” said Pitt head coach Paul Chryst. “After the game he felt alright, but obviously it (hip) was hurting him. All of the guys that are injured, we’ll see where they’re at.”
The decision on whether Conner gives it a go or not may have an impact on more than just who wins the game.
It also could decide who ends the regular season as the 2014 ACC rushing champion. Conner, with 1,600 yards, holds a 169-yard advantage on Miami’s Duke Johnson.
The sophomore also needs one touchdown to break a tie with Tony Dorsett for the most rushing touchdowns in a single season in Pitt history.
If Conner does not play, the lead back likely would be freshman Chris James, who rushed for 122 yards in Conner’s absence against the Orange.
However with an extremely fast Miami defense, Conner’s toughness pounding the ball in between the tackles is pretty much irreplaceable.
Chryst didn’t rule Conner out on Saturday, but he also didn’t commit to him playing, which means the decision very well could be made closer to kickoff on Saturday night.
Whether Conner can go or not, expect Chryst to have this Pitt team ready to go at kickoff time.
“The biggest thing is playing Miami is great motivation,” said Chryst. “It’s a heck of a football team on all three sides of the ball. They’ve got some special players on their team. You see that, and like we’ve talked a lot about, at the end of the year you either earn the right for another game or you don’t. This week has enough merit. I know guys will be excited. I know they were after last week’s game.”
That would be easier said than done if No.24 is in the backfield.
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