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Darrin Hall Makes History… Again

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Pitt has a storied history of great running backs, but none since 2000 have done what Darrin Hall has, twice.

Pitt, a program with five running backs in the College Football Hall of Fame, the program of Tony Dorsett, of six 1,000+ yard rushers in the 21st century alone -- multiple of whom hit that mark more than once -- has hardly ever lacked for elite ball carriers.

Yet, out of the aforementioned six, from Kevin Barlow to LeSean McCoy to Dion Lewis to Ray Graham to James Conner to Qadree Ollison and then triumphantly back to Conner again, none of them ever had a performance quite like Darrin Hall’s against Virginia.

Even more unlikely, this arguably wasn’t even the best performance of Hall’s career.

The only one of the above backs, or any of Pitt’s backs since 2000, for that matter, to get to 200 yards in a single game as efficiently as Hall did either tonight or a season ago at Duke was his current backfield partner, Ollison, who managed only one touchdown in his breakout game against FCS Youngstown State in 2015.

Hall, meanwhile, racked up three apiece in each of his two highlight reel showings, joining Graham and Conner as the only Panthers to hit the bicentennial mark with multiple scores more than once.

Entering the game at Virginia, Hall and Ollison had spent most of the year sharing touches, but the latter had earned a considerably higher workload. Even so, Hall had clearly been the more efficient half of what has quietly been among the best rushing tandems in college football, ranking 12th in rushing S&P+, 8th in marginal efficiency, 13th in marginal explosiveness, and gaining at least five yards 55.1% of the time, good for 11th in the FBS.

Ollison, however, was gaining 5+ yards on just 49.1% of his carries, which is solid, but pales in comparison to the incredible 61.4% rate at which Hall was doing so. Still, Ollison generally adds a little more in the way of playmaking at the second level, but as clearly displayed by Hall’s showing versus the Cavaliers, he’s not incapable of some gamebreaking of his own.

On Pitt’s first possession, second and three from the opposing 41-yard line, Hall took a handoff off tackle, to the short side of the field, made one cut and ran away from one of the more playmaking defensive backfields in the country for a score, on his first carry of the evening.

They didn’t give him the ball on the next series and went three and out.

His next two carries each gained at least ten yards, but Pitt decided to start throwing the ball after that because they wanted to punt again for some reason.

More not giving him the ball on the next drive, save one carry, saw the trend continue.

The exact same thing happened on their first drive out of the halftime break.

Then, finally, it was on.

Hall ran eight times for 50 yards, including a two yard punch-in touchdown, to cap off a 15 play, 85 yard drive that lasted nearly nine minutes to retake the lead.

Virginia came back with a scoring drive of their own to pull within one, so, perhaps just for the pure aesthetic of it -- the juxtaposition of the prior methodical drive to this next majestic feat -- Hall, on the first play of the ensuing possession, broke through the middle of the UVA defense and raced 75 yards for the hat trick.

Noticing a trend?

For the game, Hall even managed to improve his incredible efficiency numbers, gaining at least five yards on 63.2% of his runs and bringing his season rate to 61.8%.

A few more nails in the coffin down the stretch, and the rest is, quite literally, history.

Now 4-1 in conference play and alone atop the bonkers ACC Coastal, if only for a day or so (depending on what Virginia Tech does), having beaten a Virginia team that had just taken on the moniker of “division favorite”, it is Pitt who may now hold that title.

In control of their own destiny within the conference, the future is as bright as Pat Narduzzi and company make it, and the storied running backs of program yesteryear, at least in some respects, now look up at Darrin Hall.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP