Abanikanda’s record-breaking performance garners national, conference recognition


Patrick Cavanagh | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior running back Israel Abanikanda (2) carries the football against the New Hampshire Wildcats at Acrisure Stadium on Sept. 25, 2021.

By Dalton Coppola, Sports Editor

Pitt junior running back Israel Abanikanda commanded the attention of Pittsburgh, the ACC and national media after a dominant performance against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday. After gashing the Hokies’ top 25 rushing defense for 320 yards and six touchdowns, Abanikanda won the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week Award. The foundation gives out the award weekly to the top-performing offensive player in the nation.

His performance against the Hokies was a record-breaking one. Abanikanda shattered Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett’s Pitt single-game rushing record of 304 yards. He also tied Norman Budd’s record of six rushing touchdowns in a single game — a mark set in 1910 against Ohio.

Not only did the junior break Pitt records, he became just the third Power Five running back in the last 25 years to run for 300 yards and six touchdowns in a single game. He joins the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher and NFL Hall of Famer Ricky Williams and NFL Hall of Famer Ladanian Tomlinson as the only running backs to achieve the feat. After the game, Abanikanda said the record-breaking performance was a team effort and thanked his teammates for giving him the opportunity.

“First and foremost, I want to thank God and my family,” Abanikanda said. “My O-Line, my whole team, running backs, quarterbacks, defense… thank everybody. I’m just thankful.”

On top of the national recognition, Abanikanda won the ACC Running Back of the Week award for the third time this season. The second-year starter comfortably leads the conference in rushing yards and touchdowns this year, with 830 and 12, respectively. Senior guard Marcus Minor garnered ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors for blocking for Abanikanda as well.

After serving as the workhorse for the Panthers’ offense, Abanikanda will get a much-needed break this week. Pitt has its bye week this weekend, giving the Panthers time to get healthy before taking on Louisville on Oct. 22.