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Pitt's James Conner named ACC Player of the Year

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Pitt sophomore running back James Conner, who broke Tony Dorsett's single-season scoring records as well as several conference records, has been named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year.

Pitt running back James Conner added another accomplishment to his historic sophomore season today when he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in a vote by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA).

In addition to his overall award, Conner was also named the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year. He is the first underclassman running back (freshman or sophomore) to win either honor.

Conner edged Florida State sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston for both awards. Conner compiled 16 votes to Winston’s 13 for Player of the Year, and had a 23 to 16 advantage in the top offensive player balloting. Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, was the 2013 ACC Player of the Year.

It is the latest postseason accolade for Conner, who earlier this week was selected first team All-ACC after leading all players with 164 votes.

This is the second consecutive year a Pitt player has earned one of the ACC’s top individual football honors. In 2013, tackle Aaron Donald was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

“I’m greatly honored and humbled to receive this honor,” Conner said. “I want to thank my coaches, teammates and especially my offensive linemen who did such a great job blocking this year. I also want to thank the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association for selecting me for this award. Finally, I want to thank all of our great Pitt fans for their support. They share in this honor, too.”

“We are tremendously proud of James and all that he achieved this season,” Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said. “In addition to his production on the field, James has been an excellent teammate and leader. I know our entire program takes pride in James receiving this prestigious honor.”

Conner, of Erie McDowell High School, is the nation's fourth-leading rusher with 1,675 yards on 277 carries (6.0 avg.). He ranks second nationally in rushing touchdowns (24), fifth in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and sixth in rushing yards per game (139.6 avg.). Among ACC players, Conner tops the league in each of those four categories.

Despite being hindered by a hip injury in his last two games, Conner achieved history by eclipsing three Pitt season records set by the legendary Tony Dorsett: rushing touchdowns (24), total touchdowns (24) and points (144). Dorsett held those records for 38 years, scoring 23 touchdowns (22 by rush) for 140 points during his Heisman Trophy season in 1976.

Conner spoke to Dorsett by phone following the Panthers’ 35-23 win at Miami this past Saturday. “It was an incredible honor to speak to a living legend,” Conner said. “He told me records were made to be broken.”

Conner also set ACC records for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns in a season. He surpassed Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams in both categories (22 total TDs, including 21 by rush, in 2009).

With their victory over Miami, the Panthers are bowl eligible for the seventh consecutive year. Pitt will learn its bowl destination on Sunday, Dec. 7.

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