Duke at Pittsburgh

Conner sets ACC's all-time TD mark, Pitt thumps Duke 56-14

AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) A year ago, James Conner spent the days before Thanksgiving wondering what was wrong with him. The answer came in the form of a cancer diagnosis that sent the Pittsburgh running back through months of debilitating treatment that threatened his blossoming career.

It's all behind him now. All of it. And that - more than the records he's breaking at an alarming rate - is what matters. It's why Conner didn't get wrapped up in his own hype after his pair of touchdowns in Pitt's easy 56-14 romp over Duke on Saturday made him the leading career touchdown scorer in Atlantic Coast Conference history.

''When I take the field, I put cancer and everything behind me and just play,'' said Conner, who left briefly after tweaking his right ankle in the second quarter but returned for the second half. ''I'm getting better every week.''

So are the Panthers (7-4, 4-3 ACC), who showed no signs of a letdown after stunning Clemson last week. Conner, as is his wont, led the way. He bulled over from 1 yard in the first quarter and again in the third to give him 50 rushing touchdowns for his career, breaking the previous mark set by N.C. State's Ted Brown between 1975 and 1978. Conner now has 53 touchdowns in all, eclipsing the old ACC mark of 52 set by Wali Lundy of Virginia from 2002-05.

Asked if any of them stand out over the others and Conner pointed to his 20-yard sprint in the fourth quarter against the Tigers, the one that put Pitt in position to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the program's recent history.

''Everything I've been through and me working on getting in a rhythm, my endurance playing 60 minutes of football,'' Conner said, ''it showed I can play 60 minutes of football at a high level, late in the game,'' Conner said.

For once such theatrics weren't necessary for Pitt. Not with Conner running for 101 yards. Not with Quadree Henderson returning a punt 65 yards for a score and adding another on a 52-yard jet sweep. Not with Nate Peterman throwing for three scores in the wind at wintry Heinz Field as the Panthers set a new school record with 432 points on the season.

''It was a good, comfortable win,'' Conner said. ''We've got to finish out the season strong.''


Daniel Jones completed 28 of 46 for 248 yards and a touchdown but Duke (4-7, 1-6) did little downfield against the nation's 127th-ranked pass defense. The Panthers sacked Jones five times, including two by senior defensive end Ejuan Price. After going over 200 yards on the ground in each of their last three games, the Blue Devils managed just 25 yards rushing against Pitt.

''They won the execution battle and that's why the score is so lopsided,'' Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. ''We also lost the kicking game. It wasn't our intention coming in, but we just got whipped.''


Henderson's zig-zag punt return in the third quarter put the Panthers up 42-14 and marked his fourth kick return for a score this year, tops in the nation. The Blue Devils found one way to keep it from Henderson, having Jones do a quick kick on a fourth-down later in the third quarter.

''I was sitting off to the sideline, waiting for (the snap) and he just kicked,'' Henderson said with a laugh. ''Definitely a sign of respect. I appreciate it.''


Duke: The only chance the Blue Devils have of making a fifth straight bowl game will be with a win at Miami next week and hope there aren't enough 6-6 teams to fill the bowl slots.

Pitt: While the defense is hardly stout, the Panthers have become opportunistic of late. An early fumble recovery by linebacker Matt Galambos on Duke's first play set up a touchdown and helped the Panthers set the tone. Pitt later turned a fumbled Duke kickoff return into another score.


Duke: travels to Miami in the regular season finale. The Hurricanes stunned the Blue Devils 30-27 last season, winning on the final play during a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that featured eight laterals. The ACC ended suspending officials for two games following a series of officiating errors during the return.

Pitt: will try to continue its mastery of Syracuse. The Panthers have won 10 of their last 11 against the Orange, including all three meetings since the schools joined the ACC in 2013.


More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25 .

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.

Related Video

May 24, 2017
ACC Strength of Schedule Rankings (1:07)
Duke  (4-7)770014
Pittsburgh  (7-4) «1414141456
Scoring Summary
PITTDontez Ford 16 yd pass from Nathan Peterman (Chris Blewitt kick)
DUKEChris Taylor 6 yd pass from Daniel Jones (AJ Reed kick)
PITTJames Conner 1 yd run (Chris Blewitt kick)
PITTQuadree Henderson 52 yd run (Chris Blewitt kick)
DUKEBryon Fields 36 yd interception return (AJ Reed kick)
PITTJester Weah 56 yd pass from Nathan Peterman (Chris Blewitt kick)
PITTJames Conner 1 yd run (Chris Blewitt kick)
PITTQuadree Henderson 65 yd punt return (Chris Blewitt kick)
PITTScott Orndoff 48 yd pass from Nathan Peterman (Chris Blewitt kick)
PITTQadree Ollison 2 yd run (Chris Blewitt kick)
Team Stats
First Downs1818
Third Down Efficiency4-149-13
Fourth Down Efficiency2-30-0
Plays-Net Yards68-26858-461
Passing Yds243237
Kick Return Yds19814
Punt Return Yds1265
Time of Poss.30:3729:23
Individual Stats
DUKE: Quay Mann 3-12, Shaun Wilson 8-11, Daniel Jones 11-2
PITT: James Conner 14-101, Quadree Henderson 5-73, Darrin Hall 5-17, Maurice Ffrench 3-17, Qadree Ollison 4-10, Manny Stocker 2-9, Nathan Peterman 4-3, Team 3--6
DUKE: Daniel Jones 28-46-243-0
PITT: Nathan Peterman 11-18-237-1
DUKE: T.J. Rahming 10-116, Erich Schneider 4-26, Johnathan Lloyd 4-21, Daniel Helm 3-16, Davis Koppenhaver 2-29, Aaron Young 2-21, Chris Taylor 2-16, Quay Mann 1--2
PITT: Jester Weah 2-95, Scott Orndoff 2-58, Dontez Ford 2-39, George Aston 2-23, Quadree Henderson 2-10, Darrin Hall 1-12
Duke6th Atlantic Coast Coastal1-74-8
Pittsburgh2nd Atlantic Coast Coastal5-38-5

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