In the span of about five seconds, the waning moments of Pitt’s 34-13 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday went from sheer elation to immediate concern.
With the Panthers driving and threatening to score a game-breaking touchdown in the fourth quarter, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson dug deep into his bag of tricks and called a throwback lateral to left tackle Stefano Millin.
Millin rumbled toward the end zone with lead blocking from his linemates, diving through a tackle attempt and into the end zone for a score that all but assured Pitt of a win over the Demon Deacons, a share of the ACC Coastal Division title and a berth in the 2018 ACC Championship Game.
It was the also the first touchdown for the fifth-year senior, but mid-celebration, everything came to a halt.
Center Jimmy Morrissey, one of Millin’s lead blockers on the play, was still lying face-first in the end zone.
When Millin dove over the Wake Forest defender, he rolled up Morrissey’s ankle. The sophomore center’s right leg was bent backward underneath him and he went down in a heap.
Morrissey later needed assistance to leave the field. Pitt does not offer official updates on injured players. Millin said Morrissey was “fine — he’s good.”
Sources tell Pittsburgh Sports Now that Morrissey suffered an ankle injury on the play, the severity of which is still unknown.
If Morrissey were to miss time, the most likely option for Pitt at center would be redshirt senior guard Connor Dintino. Dintino spent most of 2017 as Morrissey’s backup at center before sliding into a starting role at guard this year.
Redshirt sophomore Bryce Hargrove would then fill in for Dintino at guard. Hargrove has gotten plenty of playing time this year as Pitt’s sixth offensive lineman.
The only other natural central the Panthers have on scholarship is redshirt freshman Owen Drexel, who saw his first playing action in mop-up duty against Virginia Tech.
With bowl eligibility and the Coastal Division locked up, Pitt does have the luxury of holding Morrissey out against Miami if he’s anything other than 100 percent.
The only non-non-senior starter on Pitt’s line, Morrissey has consistently been the highest rated by Pro Football Focus. His loss will certainly be felt if the Panthers have to move forward without him.
Starting defensive end Dewayne Hendrix did not dress for the game with a lower-body injury. He was replaced by James Folston in the starting lineup, with Patrick Jones II getting heavy playing time, as well.