Pitt football running game is back

After the struggles Pitt football had running the ball in 2019, there were a lot of questions as to whether it would get back to the excellent ground game it had in 2018. The Panthers went from having two 1,000-yard rushers and over 3,000 yards on the ground in 2018 to only 1,544 rushing yards in 2019. It was clear the Panthers needed to get more of a run game going if they hoped to round out the offense. After their game against Austin Peay on Saturday, it feels safe to say that the run game is back and that it will be here to stay over the next few years.

Austin Peay is of course not exactly the best team in college football, and it is only playing three games so there is some question to how much motivation the team might have. Regardless of the fact that Pitt may have been playing bottom of the barrel competition, the run game looked solid and seems like it will be a big part of the offense this season.

The Panthers rushed for a total of six touchdowns with five players toting the ball across the goal line. Four of the five Pitt running backs who received carries found their way into the end zone, and senior quarterback Kenny Pickett also ran one in.

Pitt seemed to put more of an emphasis on getting the run game going on Saturday than it had last season, and it certainly helped the Panthers secure a dominant 55-0 win over the Governors.

The Panthers saw 10 players with a carry, led by Vincent Davis who had 11 carries for 43 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Davis put together a solid showing and appears to be the lead back for Pitt as of now.

First-year running back Israel Abanikanda had only five carries, gaining 26 yards and a touchdown. Despite the small sample size, he looked to be the most explosive back for the Panthers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he is in the No. 1 running back spot by the end of the season.

The success of the Pitt run game was crucial in the season opener and will become even more important as the season goes on. They will need to continue to control the game through running the ball and will also need to effectively run the ball to open the passing game for Pickett.

If Pitt can take what it did running the ball on Saturday and build on it, the offense could be deadly. A great running game to go along with quarterback Kenny Pickett and a top tier defense could lead to the Panthers being a top contender in the ACC.

Photo by Sarah Cutshall / The Pitt News