Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner had a big game Thursday night, helping his team beat Virginia Tech, 21-16, at Heinz Field.
Conner rushed 16 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which came on a 15-yard scamper late in the second quarter that gave Pitt a 14-3 lead.
“It was a play that I felt comfortable with, that the whole team felt comfortable with,” Conner said on Ferrall on the Bench. “And I broke a couple tackles and got to run in the end zone free. It was a good run. It felt good.”
Conner also found the end zone early in the fourth quarter. His 13-yard run gave Pitt a 21-9 advantage.
“It was actually the same play call, just the opposite way,” Conner said. “I felt real good about that play. It was nice to get a comfortable lead.”
Conner averaged 5.3 yards per carry and also caught two balls for 10 yards.
“I just try to do everything I can,” he said. “If coach calls my number, I just try to make a play and do everything I can to put my team on top.”
Pittsburgh quarterback Chad Voytik can say the same. The sophomore had a solid all-around game, going 10-of-17 for 92 yards, one touchdown and one interception and also rushing 19 times for a game-high 118 yards.
His top target, Tyler Boyd, finished with six catches for 86 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter that gave Pitt a 7-0 lead. Boyd even threw a pass on a trick play, finding Voytik for a 29-yard gain.
“(Boyd is) the best receiver in college football, so I expected all that from him,” Conner said.
Defensively, Pitt limited Virginia Tech to just 26 rushing yards on 22 carries (1.2 yards per carry), as the Panthers’ dominance of the Hokies continued. Virginia Tech has not won at Heinz Field since 1999.
“I guess we just come to play when we’re on the big stage,” Conner said.
The Panthers entered the game on a three-game losing streak, including two losses by a combined nine points (Iowa and Virginia), and were desperate for a win.
“Coming into that game, it was a statement game and it was also must-win,” Conner said. “Everything we want to accomplish in the ACC is still attainable, and so it was a must-win game and I’m glad we came out on top.”
Pitt improved to 4-3 (2-1) and plays Georgia Tech (5-1, 2-1) and Duke (5-1, 1-1) at home each of the next two Saturdays.
“These next two are also must-win games, and we want to protect our house,” Conner said. “It’s good to be at home.”