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September 16, 2013

Pitt freshmen making early season impact

PITTSBURGH — Tyler Boyd knew Pitt needed a jolt after watching quarterback Tom Savage’s first pass against New Mexico end up in the hands of Lobos defensive back Dante Caro.

The freshman wide receiver provided one the next time Savage reared his right arm. Savage found Boyd down the middle of the field for 51 yards to set up a 4-yard touchdown toss to freshman Scott Orndoff and send the Panthers on their way to a 49-27 rout.

“I just wanted to spark it, spark it for my team,” Boyd said. “I wanted to make that play to get everything going. Once that happened, everything got rolling and everybody got pumped, excited and started making plays as well.”

And the freshmen led the way.

Pitt (1-1) recovered from a pounding at the hands of Florida State in the opener to bounce back behind a sea of new faces, including Boyd and running back James Conner, a graduate of McDowell High School in Erie.

Conner carried for 119 yards and two scores while Boyd scored twice and racked up 195 all-purpose yards.

“He was fun to watch,” Chryst said of Boyd. “I think he can still be better. I certainly appreciate the way he approaches the game and competes and plays.

“He’s fun to be around.”

Beyond the images of Conner running over Lobos defenders and Boyd running by them, there was also Orndoff’s first career score and Terrish Webb — one of Boyd’s high school teammates — fumble recovery. Dorian Johnson even saw time on the offensive line, and was on the field when Savage connected with Orndoff.

Orndoff is simply following Boyd’s lead. Boyd was arguably the best player in blue in the loss to Florida State and was even better against the Lobos.

“He just gets it,” Savage said of Boyd. “There are some kids like that, and he’s one of them. You get into a game and he just knows how to come down with the ball. He does it non-stop at practice, so I wasn’t surprised at all when he made that play.”

In the backfield with Savage, Conner bulldozed his way to his first 100-yard rushing performance as a Panther. After Pitt struggled to establish itself on third down, Chryst made it a point to get the ball in the hands of Conner and other backs early.

“We were able to get him a few more rush attempts,” Chryst said. “I thought that was the way he ran last game, so that’s good.”

More attempts gave the Panthers ground game more results. Conner left most of New Mexico’s front seven on the ground Saturday, using his 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame to plow through tackles and also broke out a nifty spin move to elude a few others.

“I just wanted it real bad,” Conner said. “It was a game we felt we could take advantage of and coach thought we could do some things.”

The Panthers play at Duke on Saturday.

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