The passing game
The Pitt offense has been nothing short of explosive in its last two showings against New Mexico and Duke, scoring 49 points and then 58 last Saturday. Quarterback Tom Savage tied an ACC record against Duke's defense with six touchdown passes. Savage completed 23-of-33 passes for a career-high of 424 yards.
The new signal caller cleaned up his game against the Blue Devils. After throwing a pair of interceptions in his first two Panther starts, Savage learned from his mistakes and made 6 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
"It's stuff we already saw from Savage and continue to see in practice," said offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph. "It felt great that he was able to put that consistency in a game and tie the whole thing together. I love that about him and he works hard for it. The approach has been the same throughout even when he didn't have success. I really am starting to see that consistency come from him."
Rudolph's right about the quarterback becoming more consistent after completing nearly 70-percent of his passes on Saturday. To make it more clear, the last time Pitt had a quarterback with Savage's passing yardage against any opponent was in 1994. Savage is becoming more accurate with his passes, which gives his favorite targets, redshirt senior Devin Street and freshman Tyler Boyd, a better opportunity.
Street had two touchdown catches and finished with a career-high of 166 yards receiving against the Blue Devils. Boyd again surprised Pitt fans with an even better performance than his last with three touchdown catches for 154 yards. The last freshman receiver to catch three touchdown passes was Larry Fitzgerald against Virginia Tech in 2002.
With big playmakers like Street and Boyd, it can't be long before opposing teams start game planning to cover these main targets, but Rudolph is confident his players will have an answer regardless of what looks they see on defense.
"Sometimes the answer is the ball is going to have to go to different places and our guys just have to win in that situation," said Rudolph. "We're going to need everyone in different roles and we need everyone to make plays. Other guys will have an opportunity to step up and be in the position to make big plays."
The running game
Freshman running back James Conner is one of those players who took advantage of his opportunity and performed well enough to receive the bulk of the carries over junior Isaac Bennett. Before Duke, Bennett and Conner were pretty close to splitting carries, but Conner solidified himself as a workhorse against Duke.
Conner had 12 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns against New Mexico. The following week, he more than doubled his carries to 26 for 173 yards and one touchdown against Duke. Rudolph gave credit to Conner for having the hot hand this week, and going forward whoever is outperforming the other will get the most carries. He still claims to have just as much confidence in Bennett who was limited to only 12 carries for 38 yards this past Saturday. However, it looks like Conner will get the majority of the carries if he continues producing big plays.
"I thought Conner took advantage of some runs early and that's why he had more carries," said Rudolph. "I thought Bennett had a couple tough looks where it just wasn't clean, but I have all the confidence in the world when it comes to both of those guys. We will just keep working it like that, and I think they both played off each other pretty well."Rudolph breaks down the record breaking offense, including the offensive line and what tough looks they expect to see from Virginia this Saturday.