Savage's confidence not shaken
In the ACC debut for Pitt against Florida State, red-shirt senior quarterback Tom Savage and the Panthers offense had an opening drive that gave fans immediate confidence. Savage who hadn't played college football in over two years threw his first touchdown pass as a Panther to tight end Manasseh Garner on the fourth play of the game.
However, Savage's strong start went south from there while FSU quarterback Jameis Winston was just getting started. Savage finished the night with only one touchdown plus two interceptions and 201 yards, compared to Winston's four touchdowns and 356 yards.
Despite the disappointing loss for the Panthers, Savage's confidence in himself and his team has yet to be shaken. In fact, Savage focused on the bright spots of this offense rather than pointing out the negatives from the Pitt-FSU game.
Panthers don't see inexperience as the problem
Inexperience is a common word that is associated with the Panthers 2013 offense, including Savage. The quarterback who was forced to sit out from college football last year due to the transfer rule hasn't played a full season a college football since 2010 when with Rutgers. Not to mention the amount of true freshman that were given reps in their first college game such as James Conner, Jaymar Parrish, Scott Orndoff and Tyler Boyd.
Savage is not blaming the loss on inexperience, instead he is praising his teammates for their efforts based on their lack of experience. FSU didn't take away this team's confidence and comfort level on the field, instead it gave them the game experience they were seeking.
"I feel just as confident now than I ever have before," said Savage. "I think that's the most fun I've ever had playing and who wouldn't want to play against a top team like Florida State. I'm comfortable and I know this team is ready to go. We are ready to get this team moving in the right direction."
Pitt runs behind young O-line
One factor of this offense that Savage feels is moving in the right direction is his offensive line, and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph agrees. Again, the offensive line can be also be associated with being inexperienced. The O-line has three lineman starting for the first time in their college careers. Regardless of their "inexperience", Savage is confident having this line in front of him.
"I think our offensive line is unbelievable," said Savage. "It's going to be fun to watch especially in the future. They're a really tight-knit group and they help hold this team together."
The last game was certainly not the outcome Savage and the rest of the Panthers were hoping for, but with the focus now on New Mexico the Panthers are ready to show what they can do on both sides of the ball.
"I think in the first game we still showed some of the upside to our team," said Savage. "Again, we have a lot of young guys playing, but they did a good job and that's a positive on our part."
Conner ready for more carries
One of those young players Savage was speaking about is running back true freshman James Conner. The young running back received 9 carries in his first college game against FSU. The running back group only had 18 carries, the other nine were made by junior Isaac Bennett. Conner has earned the second spot on the depth chart for running back in the upcoming New Mexico game.
"The offensive line played well in the first game. I think us as a running back group did well with the carries we were given," said Conner. "There are still a lot of questions we need to answer. In the first game, we went up 7-0 and when we got the ball again I wanted to go 14-0, but that didn't happen. We tried looking at the film, and we learned that we need get back to working on the basics for New Mexico."
Conner places very little pressure on himself compared to his high school playing days. Now Conner is more worried about earning the respect of his teammates and coaches rather than thinking too much at playing on a higher level of football.
As a true freshman Conner is happy with the amount of reps he received in the first game especially with not being able to practice much before FSU due to a shoulder injury. Conner did mostly individual work to get ready for the first game, and was thankful for the nine carries he received for 36 yards. Conner admitted he only felt about 60-70 percent during the Florida State game, but is now at 90 percent heading into the game against New Mexico. When asked if he was taking it easy this week because of his injury, Conner laughed and said absolutely not.
"I've been going hard this week and fighting through the pain, because I don't want to sit out too much and keep moving back on the depth chart," said Conner. "I want to keep working my way up to the top and get a lot more carries."