If you were to exit the Steelers’ Acrisure Stadium out onto Art Rooney Avenue, running 320 yards would only get you to about the middle of the underpass on Allegheny Avenue, just below Pennsylvania Route 65. So in a broad sense, running for 320 yards is not all that impressive. Running for 320 yards in a college football game in the Steelers’ stadium? Now that is impressive.
That’s what Israel Abanikanda did yesterday. The junior from Brooklyn rushed all the way to Route 65, scoring six touchdowns along the way to the Pitt Panthers’ 45-29 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies. It was a pretty nice homecoming day for Pitt.
Abanikanda’s big day broke Tony Dorsett’s school record of 303 yards, set in 1975, and tied a Pitt record for touchdowns that was set in 1910. That mark, six TDs by QB Norman “Bill” Budd, came in a 71-0 win over Ohio Medical College. We can safely ignore it. (“Team Which Represents College At Athens Is Unmercifully Slaughtered by Wearers of Blue and Gold,” the Pittsburgh Post wrote at the time.)
It’s safe to say if Norman “Bill” Budd saw Abanikanda’s feats, he would spontaneously combust. (Before that, he’d probably be stoked that Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens were still around.) Abanikanda averaged 8.9 yards a carry, scoring on runs of 38, 17, 29, 5, 10, and 80 yards.
“I was just showing them me,” Abanikanda said postgame. “This isn’t new to me. Like I said every time, I’ve been doing this.” Abanikanda had 36 carries; Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said he could’ve given the ball to him 10 more times. Pitt doesn’t have any gimme games left on its schedule, but a 50-carry, 500 yard game for Abanikanda is coming. I can feel it.