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Pitt HC Narduzzi Expects RB Abanikanda to Play Next Week Against Virginia



PITTSBURGH — Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said that he expects junior running back Israel Abanikanda to play next week on the road against Virginia.

“I think he probably could have gone if we wanted to, but he’s smiling and he’s happy in the locker room and we got a win without him, and he’ll be — the thing I said to him is you’re going to be really healthy for this week,” Narduzzi said in a press conference following the Syracuse win. “So he’s not going to be sore on Tuesday.”

The Panthers announced Abanikanda would start against the Orange, as they named him a part of the starting lineup announcements. They said he suffered an injury late against North Carolina, leading to his absence in the game against the Orange, despite dressing prior.

Narduzzi also said that Abanikanda didn’t feel ready. He took the day off on Tuesday and didn’t go on Wednesday because he didn’t feel better. He also didn’t practice on Thursday and Narduzzi said that he would not put a player on the field that’s not physically ready to go.

Abanikanda is one of the best running backs in the nation this season, rushing 183 times of 1,086 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 1,086 rushing yards are third best in the FBS and the 16 touchdowns are the most.

In his absence, running backs in sophomore Rodney Hammond Jr. and redshirt senior C’Bo Flemister stepped up.

Hammond stared for the Panthers rushed for a career high 125 yards on 28 carries and scored a touchdown on the ground.

Flemister ran 10 times for 42 yards on a offensive possession for the Panthers in the third quarter, where he somersaulted into the end zone for the touchdown.

Pitt will need Abanikanda next week on the road against Virginia, as they look to end their season strong after a poor, 0-3 record in October.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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