Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda added his name to the program’s record books by breaking Tony Dorsett’s single-game rushing record with 320 yards in a 45-29 win against Virginia Tech. However, it wasn’t just the yards that made Abanikanda’s night historic; the junior also tied the ACC single-game record with six touchdowns.
Abanikanda’s performance came on 36 carries with an 8.9 yards-per-carry average that highlighted his ability to turn ordinary runs into extraordinary gains. Such was the case on his sixth and final touchdown, turning a routine run between the tackles into a record-breaking 80-yard touchdown run.
Abanikanda also had touchdown runs of 38, 17 and 29 yards while exploring weaknesses in a Virginia Tech that has previously been one of the better teams in the ACC against the run.
The record-setting performance will dominate the narrative, but Abanikanda’s performance also spotlight’s his importance to Pitt’s success. The Panthers running back was injured in last week’s loss to Georgia Tech, exiting in the second quarter of a game that Pitt would go on to lose 26-21.
The reigning ACC Coastal champions appeared to have a good shot at making the conference championship game again in this final season of division play, but the early ACC loss to the Yellow Jackets has dropped Pitt off the pace. In order to catch up, Pitt needs to avoid another loss and earn a head-to-head advantage against North Carolina when the two teams meet in Chapel Hill on Oct. 29.