The Pitt News

James Conner out for year with torn MCL

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However, a second quarter injury against the Penguins resulted in an MCL injury that led Conner to miss the rest 2015 year, Pat Narduzzi's first. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

However, a second quarter injury against the Penguins resulted in an MCL injury that led Conner to miss the rest 2015 year, Pat Narduzzi's first. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

However, a second quarter injury against the Penguins resulted in an MCL injury that led Conner to miss the rest 2015 year, Pat Narduzzi's first. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

By Dan Sostek / Sports Editor

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Following an injury against Youngstown State University on Saturday, Pitt junior running back James Conner will miss the remainder of the season because of a torn MCL in his right knee, head coach Pat Narduzzi announced at his weekly press conference on Monday.

Narduzzi said while the severity of the injury wasn’t immediately apparent, a medical examination on Sunday revealed damage.

“We thought he was okay. He was jumping around and bringing a lot of enthusiasm, and said, ‘Coach, I’m fine,’” Narduzzi said. “But after further evaluation, doctors looked at him on Sunday. We’ll probably lose him for the entire season with an MCL.”

Narduzzi later confirmed the injury was a tear.

The injury occurred with 10:54 remaining in the second quarter, when Penguins cornerback Kenneth Durden brought Conner down from behind on a 9-yard run. Conner jogged to the sideline with a hurried limp and a quick grimace and would not see the field again.

Conner remained on the sideline in pads during the remainder of the first half as team trainers examined him. He returned to the sideline for the second half in street clothes.

Pitt confirmed Conner will undergo surgery for the injury, which will end the star running back’s season. Narduzzi said the surgery would “probably” take place sometime this week.

“I greatly appreciate everyone’s support and well wishes,” Conner said via a school release. “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 is the reigning 2014 ACC Player of the Year after amassing 1,765 yards and a school record-breaking 26 touchdowns last season. He was named to the 2015 Maxwell Award watch list in July, which the Maxwell Football Club presents annually to the nation’s best football players.

While average recovery time for a torn MCL is typically around six weeks according to the University of California- San Francisco, doctors and Conner determined surgery was the best course of action for his specific injury, effectively ending his season.

“Again, I’m not a doctor, there are different ways to deal with it,” Narduzzi said. “But when you look at it, for his safety, for his health, the doctors made that call, and ultimately James made that call.”

The Panthers have already lost junior running back Rachid Ibrahim for the season to a torn Achilles tendon suffered in training camp. The Panthers’ remaining backfield options are sophomore Chris James, redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison and freshman Darrin Hall.

Conner’s family also spoke about the injury, issuing a statement.

“As you all might imagine, the news that James has suffered a season-ending knee injury has left us with very heavy hearts,” the statement read. “James had such high hopes for this season, but we feel very confident that this is just a small setback for James. He will handle his recovery and rehabilitation with the same determination and force that he has displayed on the field.”

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James Conner out for year with torn MCL