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Veteran QB Savage Leading Panthers

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Tom Savage has been all across the country, literally and figuratively all over the map. He has gone anywhere and everywhere a quarterback can go. This past weekend, he went off.

I liked the way he is approaching it and working. I think he did some great things, I really do.
~Paul Chryst

It has been a long, strange trip for Pittsburgh senior quarterback Tom Savage. The Pennsylvania-native initially headed just up the road before trekking out west and finally settling in back in his home state. Since 2010, Savage has served as the starting quarterback at Rutgers, the future starting quarterback at Arizona and the current starting quarterback for the Panthers. He has been all across the country, literally and figuratively all over the map. Savage has gone anywhere and everywhere a quarterback can go. This past weekend, he went off.

Leading a Pittsburgh offensive outburst that finished a stumble shy of 600 yards, Savage completed 23-of-33 passes for a personal-best 424 yards, tying an ACC mark with six touchdown passes in a 58-55 win at Duke. Each of his scores came in the game's first three quarters. Savage became the eighth quarterback all-time for the Panthers to top the 400-yard mark. He was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.  

“I thought he did some good things, absolutely. There are so many different variables and components to a game. I think you embrace each week and game. I liked the way he is approaching it and working," explained Pitt head football coach Paul Chryst. "I think he did some great things, I really do."

Savage, through three games, is leading the conference with 287 yards passing per game. His quarterback rating of 185.9 trails Florida State's Jameis Winston overall, but is good for tops in the ACC Coastal Division. Pittsburgh's senior signal caller has developed great chemistry with top NFL prospect Devin Street. The 6'4'' senior, who is from about an hour where Savage grew up, ranks first in the league in both yards per game with 129 and yards per catch at 22.8. Freshman Tyler Boyd had three scoring grabs against the Blue Devils and stands alongside Street as one of just four ACC receivers averaging over 100 yards a game. 

The Panther passing game will be put to the test in their next two games as Pittsburgh will face division rivals Virginia and Virginia Tech. Both teams boast one of the best pass defenses in all of college football. The Cavaliers currently rank second in the nation with an opposing quarterback rating of 80.2. Virginia is allowing a 37% completion percentage and merely 4.2 yards per throw, both good for second in the game. The Hokies are slotted sixth with a pass defense rating of 84.7 and are second with nine interceptions, number one in the country with a pick every 12 attempts. 

After not playing any live football for close to three years, it has not taken Savage long to make himself at home again under center. Success, for him, is nothing new. As a high school player, Savage was ranked by Tom Lemming as a top three pro-style prospect at quarterback. His first year in college, he recorded the most passing yards and passing touchdowns by a true freshman in Big East history. Savage was named a FWAA Freshman All-American that fall. Until recently, however, there had been more mileage measured than memories made along the way.

Pittsburgh's journeyman quarterback now sets the pace for an offense that has scored 107 points in its last two games, for a unit averaging about as many yards per play as Georgia, Louisville and Texas A&M. The Panthers, fresh off their first-ever ACC win, are ready for a conference run. Fittingly enough, Savage is pointing the way.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports