McDowell graduate James Conner did not carry again after fumbling during the second quarter of Pitt’s 24-21 loss to Navy on Saturday.
Conner, who was returning from a shoulder injury, had 28 yards on seven carries before he was removed from the game.
On Monday, Panthers coach Paul Chryst was unclear about why Conner was benched after the fumble.
“We didn’t put him back in right away after that. Then we only had seven plays in the third quarter,” Chryst said Monday. “James ran really hard; I like the way that he ran. But we have to keep talking to him about taking care of the ball.”
Conner was the team’s leading rusher through three games with 326 yards, including a pair of 100-yard games. However, in three games since then he has just 56 yards on 24 carries. He also missed a game with the injury.
Junior Isaac Bennett has taken over as the team’s primary rusher. He had 527 yards on 99 rushes, including 240 yards against Old Dominion.
“It gets lost that Isaac [Bennett] had a pretty good week the week before [against Old Dominion],” Chryst said. “We like how James is running, but we wanted to make sure Isaac had enough kicks at the can. It wasn’t just because (Conner) fumbled that he sat the rest of the game. We have to help these guys grow and get through these things. We have a lot of guys that make mistakes, and we have to help them learn and get better.”
Pitt (4-3 overall, 2-2 ACC) will visit Georgia Tech (5-3, 4-2) Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised on ESPNU.
Lakeview grad Cory King might return to the Pitt lineup this weekend. He is listed as the starting right guard this week after missing the past two games with an undisclosed injury.
King, a 6-foot 6-inch, 325-pound senior, started every game at left tackle in 2012, and had started every game at left guard this season before his injury.
– Jeff Kirik, sports editor