Pittsburgh running back Darrin Hall seemed to be channeling Tony Dorsett on Saturday … or was it George McLaren? He certainly had the look of those two former Panthers running backs, who are both in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Hall, a junior, rushed for 254 yards, including touchdown runs of 79, 92 and four yards to rally the Panthers in a 24-17 victory over Duke. His 92-yard run cut Duke’s lead to 17-14 in the third quarter.
It also broke McLaren’s school record set a century ago, almost to the day. McLaren broke loose on a 91-yard run against Syracuse on Oct. 20, 1917.
That undefeated Pittsburgh team was called “The Fighting Dentists” because of the number of dental students in the lineup, including McLaren. Getting this Pittsburgh team to run the ball has been like pulling teeth for coach Pat Narduzzi.
The Panthers’ run game ranked 112th in the nation, averaging 113 yards per game, before Saturday’s game.
“We talked, the key to victory was being able to run the football,” Narduzzi told reporters postgame. “And I think we proved we can do that.”
Hall did, though he seemed like an unlikely solution. Hall, starting for the second consecutive week, had 108 yards rushing through the first seven games. Duke, meanwhile, ranked 16th against the run, allowing 108 yards per game.
Hall, though, announced his presence by bolting 79 yards in the first quarter. His four-yard touchdown run gave Pittsburgh a 21-17 lead with 10 minutes left. The Panthers added a field goal to pick up their first Atlantic Coast Conference victory.
“If he’s not the ACC player of the week on offense or the back of the week, I don’t know what’s going on,” Narduzzi said.
Hall, though, came up short on Dorsett’s single-game school record. Dorsett had 303 yards against Notre Dame in 1975.
The most intriguing thing about Columbia football isn’t that NFL Hall of Famer Sid Luckman played for the Lions, but that beat writer Jack Kerouac was a running back at the university for two seasons.
Kerouac quit the team in 1942, according to his autobiographical novel “Visions of Cody,” saying “I’m gonna sit here in this room and dig Beethoven, I’m gonna write noble words.”
But a new generation — one without ‘beat’ attached — of Columbia football has emerged. The Lions went on the road Saturday and returned alone atop the Ivy League standings after holding off previously undefeated Dartmouth 22-17 on Saturday.
The Lions led 22-7 in the second half, but the defense stopped Dartmouth inside the 10-yard line twice in the final three minutes. When Mike Hinton sacked Dartmouth quarterback Jack Heneghan with 17 seconds left, Columbia was 6-0 overall — its best start since going 7-0 in 1932 — and 3-0 in Ivy League play.
This is new territory for Columbia, once college football’s Dharma Bums. Even people at the school saw it as a joke. During the Lions’ 44-game losing streak in the 1980s, the school band would play the Mickey Mouse theme instead of the fight song when the team took the field. To prove that streak wasn’t a fluke, the Lions lost 24 consecutive games from 2012-15.
Fortunes changed when Al Bagnoli was lured out of retirement in 2015. Bagnoli won nine Ivy League championships as Penn’s coach. He has the Lions on track for only their seventh winning season since 1950. A league title would be the school’s second in 147 years of football. The Lions won the Ivy League in 1961.
At the center of the new-found success — or rather under center — is quarterback Anders Hill. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 298 yards and one touchdown in the Dartmouth victory, putting together the biggest drives to come out of Columbia since Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty.
What would Wisconsin be without a hammer at running back? Freshman Jonathan Taylor is the latest in the line that dates back to Alan “The Horse” Ameche and includes Melvin Gordon, Montee Ball and Ron Dayne.
Taylor had a modest day — for him — Saturday with 126 yards and one touchdown in the Badgers’ 38-13 victory over Maryland. He has had three 200-yard games this season.
“Part of the reason J.T. came here was he wanted to be a running back at a place where there have been some good running backs,” Wisconsin coach Paul Christ said after the game.
The victory left the fifth-ranked Badgers with a clear path to the College Football Playoff. Wisconsin doesn’t play No. 2 Penn State or No. 6 Ohio State during the regular season, but could meet one of them in the Big Ten championship game. The winner will likely go to the playoff.
Taylor, meanwhile, is chasing Peterson, who set the rushing record for a freshman with 1,925 yards for Oklahoma in 2004. Taylor averages 160 yards a game.
Rut 1, Rut 2
Rutgers is on a roll.
The Scarlet Knights survived for a 14-12 victory over Purdue on Saturday, after the Boilermakers failed on a two-point conversion try with 25 seconds left. It gave Rutgers back-to-back victories.
Now the Scarlet Knights won back-to-back games last season, but they came against Howard and New Mexico. This was the first time they have won back-to-back games in Big Ten play.
“I did not know it was the first time ever, but it’s huge,” said punter Ryan Anderson, normally Rutgers busiest player of game day. “We are definitely making a name for ourselves, we just need to keep going and do what we do.”
Coach Chris Ash credited the punt team’s work as a key to victory.
Ash, though, was not quite as giddy as his punter.
“Obviously, this is a first, being in here, back-to-back victories, so it’s a good feeling,” Ash said.
But he later added, “We’ll celebrate this one and we’ll move on to the next one.”
The next one, Ash is obviously aware, is against No. 19 Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is among the nation’s leaders with 23 touchdown passes. That number deserves an asterisk.
Lock tossed six touchdown passes in a 68-21 victory over Idaho on Saturday that ended the Tigers’ five-game losing streak. He had seven touchdown passes in a 72-43 victory over Missouri State in the season opener. Combined, Lock had 988 yards passing it those two games. He has 735 yards in the other five.
But a win is a win, right?
Missouri coach Barry Odom thought so. He entered the postgame news conference and said to the media gathered, “Quiet in here after a win. You guys, it’s OK to breathe a little bit.”
Maybe reporters were unsure how to act after a Missouri victory, or maybe they were still wondering why Lock was still in the game, and passing, with a 51-14 lead late in the third quarter.