Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Running Game's Lack of Success Frustrating

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Running Game's Lack of Success Frustrating

Article excerpt

If not for a backup quarterback, a wide receiver, a safety and an offensive lineman, Pitt's rushing total would have looked pretty bad in the Panthers loss Saturday against N.C. State.

Instead, it just looked kind of bad.

But, after failing to run for 100 yards for the third time in the past four games, the Panthers tailbacks - who combined for 35 of the 95 yards - haven't found it difficult to stay patient.

"It's not tough at all," said junior Darrin Hall, who apparently is the No. 1 back now after starting Saturday. "I have trust in our offensive line. I know they're working their butt off, and we're gonna run hard, so we're gonna be fine in the run game."

Their position coach might not be quite as relaxed, and his frustration showed a bit when explaining how Hall earned more snaps after receiving just four rushes over the previous four games.

"Thought we needed a little spark," running backs coach Andre Powell said Tuesday. "We didn't think it would get worse, so we gave it a whirl."

Powell indicated that Hall will likely remain the starter this weekend at Duke, for whatever that's worth. Qadree Ollison began the year with back-to-back 90-yard games but hasn't seen double-digit carries since. Chawntez Moss is suspended, and coach Pat Narduzzi had no update on his status Monday.

Add that up, and you get a feeble running attack, now led by pseudo-running back Jordan Whitehead, that has just 796 yards through seven games, not even half the 1,674 at this point in the season a year ago. In 2015, Narduzzi's first season, Pitt had rushed for 1,202 yards after Week 7. These Panthers rank 114th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 113.7 yards per game, and nine individual FBS players have more yards total on the ground.

"What bothers me the most? That's an easy question," Powell said sarcastically. "The bar is high. Expectations are high. . Just getting the guys to understand every yard matters."

Indeed, the standard always is lofty for Pitt backs, and it seems this team has missed James Conner even more than most projected. Despite all the experience in the room, Powell is still trying to teach his pupils the nuances of their role, so that little things can help lead to big plays. …

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