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Pitt's James Conner closing in on Tony Dorsett TD record

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Pitt's James Conner is among the nation's most productive running backs this season.

Pittsburgh's James Conner rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns Saturday, but no one noticed.

That's because his performance came in a loss -- and on a day that Melvin Gordon rushed for 408 yards (and two other backs topped 300).

Conner's performance against North Carolina means he has rushed for 483 yards and seven touchdowns in his past two games (both losses); he is third in the nation in rushing at 156.2 yards per game and also third with 21 rushing touchdowns. He is one touchdown away from tying Tony Dorsett for the school record for most rushing touchdowns in a season; Dorsett had 22 as a senior in 1976. The 21 TDs already is an ACC single-season record.

Dorsett won the Heisman and Pitt won the national title in 1976. Conner isn't winning the Heisman and Pitt isn't winning the national title this season; heck, the Panthers (4-6) don't look as if they even will be bowl-eligible. But it's not Conner's fault.

He has had three 200-yard games and seven 100-yard outings this season; he also has rushed for four TDs twice and three TDs three other times. Dorsett holds the single-season school record with four 200-yard games, also in 1976.

Conner (6-foot-2, 250 pounds) is a physical, downhill runner as apt to run over people as he is to run away from them. He has handled a heavy workload this season with 250 carries, third-most in the nation. He has had four games with at least 30 carries and three others with at least 21.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote earlier this month that Conner has "displayed the physicality, toughness and stamina that scouts covet in big-bodied runners."

Conner has 1,562 rushing yards this season, which already is sixth-most in school history; he passed LeSean McCoy (1,488 in 2008) with his performance against North Carolina. Next up is Dorsett, who had 1,686 yards in both 1973 and '75. Currently in third place is Craig "Ironhead" Heyward (1,791 in 1987), while Dion Lewis is in second (1,799). Dorsett had 2,150 in '76, including his numbers from Pitt's bowl win over Georgia.

Pitt's final two regular-season games are against Syracuse (allowing 127.3 rushing yards per game) and Miami (130.1 ypg). Those teams are fifth and sixth, respectively, in the ACC in rushing defense.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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