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Pitt's Conner to undergo season-ending surgery

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Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi announced Monday that junior running back James Conner, the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, will undergo season-ending surgery on his right knee for a torn medial collateral ligament.

Conner (Erie, Pa./McDowell) sustained the injury during the second quarter of Pitt’s 45-37 win over Youngstown State. Initially thought to be less severe, further testing and evaluation on Sunday revealed the MCL tear.

“Even with all of his success last year, James attacked his preparation for this season like he was fighting to earn a starting spot,” Narduzzi said. “He is a tremendous competitor and teammate. After he was injured on Saturday, James was constantly in the ear of his teammates, encouraging them and coaching them on the sideline. Our entire program shares his disappointment but we will also be behind him every step of the way in his recovery.”

“I greatly appreciate everyone’s support and well wishes,” Conner said. “This is a temporary setback and I’m going to work even harder to bounce back. Even though I won’t be able to play this season, I’m going to be right beside my teammates and help them every way I can to have a great season.”        

Conner entered this season as one of college football’s most decorated players. He was selected the 2014 ACC Player of the Year after rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns. Conner broke three Pitt season records—rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns (26) and scoring (156 points)—set by the legendary Tony Dorsett during his 1976 Heisman Trophy campaign.

Conner was named to seven postseason All-America squads as a sophomore, including first-team honors from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). He was the first Pitt running back to garner first-team All-America honors in 27 years, dating back to Craig "Ironhead" Heyward in 1987.

The Panthers (1-0) play at Akron (0-1) this Saturday at 6 p.m.

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