Welcome to the Pitt Panthers vs North Carolina State Wolfpack Preview! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about Pitt and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a detailed breakdown of each team, game outlook, score prediction, individual stats, team stats, and even the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a ticket into the stadium!
A look at the Pitt Panthers!
Overall Record: 2-4 | ACC Record: 1-2 | Rank: N/A
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (3rd Season with Pitt)
Lifetime Record: 18-14 (.562)
Last Week: Syracuse 27 Pitt 24
Breakdown of the Panthers
Quarterback- Senior graduate transfer Max Browne was the starter at the beginning of the season, but his career is now over after getting surgery on his injured shoulder. Ben DiNucci is the next man up, and is probably a better all-around QB than Browne, but only because of his ability to take off and run if none of the passing lanes are open. The future of the program belongs to Kenny Pickett. The young freshman is now one snap away from being the starter, and given his abilities, the sooner that happens, the better for both him and the program.
Running Backs- Pitt plenty of guys who can tote the rock, but none are making a difference. Qadree Ollison is the starter for now. He is more of a bruiser, as is Darrin Hall. Chawtez Moss had worked his way into the mix with his abilities, but now finds himself suspended indefinitely. AJ Davis has played sparingly. Fullback George Aston is back from injury but hasn’t been involved much in the offense since his return. Despite playing defense and missing three games, SS Jordan Whitehead is 2nd on the team in rushing with 132 yards.
Wide Receivers- Jester Weah caught 36 passes for 872 yards and 10 scores last year. He has struggled to emulate those numbers in 2017. Quadree Henderson is a dynamic playmaker but hasn’t seen anywhere near the touches needed to produce. When he has gotten the ball, he hasn’t done much. Maurice French contributes on both the ground and in the air, as he employs a style similar to Hendersen. Aaron Mathews is getting better and Raphael Araujo-Lopez is the team leader with 26 receptions on the year.
Tight Ends- Matt Flanagan and Chris Clark are hoping to be a dynamic duo at tight end for the Panthers. Flanagan has put up decent numbers so far in 2017, and Clark, a huge target, is starting to make his presence known in the Pitt offense.
Defense- Dewayne Hendrix and Rashaad Weaver are co-starters at defensive end, with Allen Edwards on the other side. James Folston, Jr. and Patrick Jones II will also see plenty of action. In the middle, you’ll find Shane Roy and the impressive freshman Keyson Camp. Amir Watts and Kam Cater will be in the rotation.
At linebacker, Elijah Zeise, Saleem Brightwell, and Seun Idowu are the starters. Anthony McKee, Jr. and Chris Pine will get plenty of chances to make an impression, too.
The secondary was scorched game after game last year, and that trend has continued into 2017. Help is on the way as star safety Jordan Whitehead is back after being suspended for the first three games. Avonte Maddox will start at corner on one side and expect to see a rotation of Dane Jackson and Damarri Mathis until one stands above the other. With Whitehead back at SS, Dennis Briggs returns to being a back-up. Bricen Garner and highly touted Damar Hamlin will rotate at FS. Top recruit Paris Ford enrolled late, but his talent will eventually rise to the top and he will see action sooner than later.
Kicker- Freshman Alex Kessman takes over the kicking duties for Pitt and is getting better each week. Has already nailed a 55 yarder this year.
Kick/Punt Return- Quadree Henderson will be back deep for every kick.
A look at the North Carolina State Wolfpack!
Overall Record: 5-1 | ACC Record: 3-0 | Rank: #20
Head Coach: Dave Doeren (5th Season with NC State)
Lifetime Record: 53-31 (.630) | 30-27 (.526) at NC State
Last Week: NC State 39 Louisville 25
Breakdown of the Wolfpack
Quarterback- Ryan Finley has had a pretty good year amassing 1,770 yards passing and 10 TD passes. He has yet to throw an interception.
Running Backs- Nyheim Hines is the lead rusher with 513 yards rushing yards and five scores. Reggie Gallaspy sees plenty of snaps as well.
Wide Receivers- The Wolfpack have a nice trio of receivers in Kelvin Harmon, Stephon Louis, and Jakobi Myers. Harmon leads the bunch with 33 receptions, 434 receiving yards, and two receiving TD’s.
Tight Ends- Jaylen Samuels is a do-all tight end for the Pack. Samuels has one pass completion for 25 yards, has run for 129 yards with five scores, and, oh yeah, leads the team with 50 receptions, good for 425 receiving yards and another three touchdowns.
Defense- The Wolfpack are stingy against the run, but can be had through the air… they are giving up an average of 296 yards per game.
The 2017 edition of the Pitt Panthers is looking like one that will end as a disappointing year. Though Pitt expected this to be a transition year, no one expected such paltry results from both the offense and defense. Some would be happy with seeing a young team struggle, but showing improvement from week to week, offering hope for a brighter future. Such is not the case… for now.
The Panther’s best players are mostly freshmen and sophomores. The defense only starts two seniors in corners Avonte Maddox and Allen Edwards. Pat Narduzzi is in his 3rd season as head coach of the Panthers, but truthfully, he’s only had two full season’s of recruiting classes completed. No one can accurately judge a head coach of a program unless you see results from about five to six years from the initial hiring.
Narduzzi is doing his best to build a program that is built around discipline and leadership.
“Like I said in the past: We will be a disciplined football team,” Narduzzi said. “We’re going to do little things right, from tucking our shirts in on trips. I think as soon as you let some of those things go — and obviously (Moss’) was not a tucking-your-shirt-in problem — but those are how small the details are that we’re working on and developing.”
‘Moss’, the player he was referring to is running back Chawntez Moss, who has been suspended indefinitely. Moss joins a bevy of other players who have been suspended in the 2017 season.
Narduzzi believes a small senior class could be partly to blame for the lack of unity and leadership within the team.
“I think when you’re a young football team, and you don’t have a lot of seniors sitting in that front row that have command of the (meeting) room like we did a year ago, that there’s always going to be those issues.”
The future of this team and program is starting to make their appearances in the field of play as the season grows older. Freshman A.J. Davis is one of those players, but when he gets in the game, he needs to make a difference. Davis ran the ball one time against Syracuse despite Moss being suspended.
“He’s supposed to break it outside. He cuts it back inside,” Narduzzi said. “He’s still a young guy that I want to get him more carries, and I told him before the game, ‘We want to get you more carries,’ and, then, I’m not subbing guys in. My coaches have to go with who they feel understands what they’re doing. I want to see the guy go and see if he can be a difference maker for us. But I wish he’d get more reps. I really do.”
Now with senior Max Browne’s career over after getting shoulder surgery this week, Ben DiNucci assumes the full-time roll at starting quarterback with frosh slinger Kenny Pickett being just a play away from being the Man.
DiNucci has provided a spark a few times he has been out there running the show, but his 55.4 completion rate needs to rise dramatically if he is going to impress coach Narduzzi.
“What you’ve done so far is OK, but we need more. He’s got more,” Narduzzi said. “Ben DiNucci’s the guy. Ben’s got a ton of ability. He needs to relax in the pocket and identify who he’s supposed to read and throw the ball and manage the run game properly so everything clicks.”
The future at quarterback is undoubtedly Pickett, who definitely has the admiration of his coach.
“We have a lot of confidence in Kenny Pickett,” the coach said. “Kenny is probably as mentally prepared as any freshman quarterback in the country. He’s way ahead of where DiNucci was as a freshman, mentally.”
Youth movement aside, Pitt faces a tall task in facing North Carolina State this Saturday at Heinz Field. It is Homecoming and the emotions will be high at the start, but after awhile, the better overall team will usually prevail in the end. Patience is a virtue for everyone, including the players, coaches, and fans when it comes to this team. The talent is there. Fresh, future talent will be brought in in upcoming recruiting classes. It’s a bumpy road at the moment for the young Panthers, but when this team finally realizes it’s potential and has some experience under their belts, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Wolfpack are a well balanced offensive team led by QB Ryan Finley, who has tossed 10 touchdown passes with no interceptions in 2017. Nyheim Hines is the lead rusher with 513 yards rushing and five rushing TD’s. NC State has a nice trio of receivers in Kelvin Harmon, Stephon Louis, and Jakobi Myers, but their best player is Jaylen Samuels, a do-all tight end for the Pack. Samuels has run for 129 yards with five scores, leads the team with 50 receptions, good for 425 receiving yards and another three touchdowns.
The Pack is looking to make their mark in the Atlantic Division, where #2 Clemson, #17 Louisville, and a wounded Florida State team reside.
“We just put the pieces of the puzzle together and believed that we could really make something happen,” receiver Kelvin Harmon said. “As the season goes on, it keeps growing.”
State has a solid defensive line, and is one of the best teams in the country in stopping the run. They are only giving up 90.7 yards per game.
One player who can make a difference for the Panthers is two-way star Jordan Whitehead. Despite being the starting strong safety and being suspended for the first three games of the year, Whitehead is 2nd on the team in rushing with 132 yards. He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
“I don’t want to wear the kid out,” Narduzzi said. “We’ll do what we need to do, but he’s a super kid who’s all in.”
For Pitt to pull of the upset, they would have to play mistake free ball and start playing the type of physical defense they promised to play in 2017. Too often, in crucial situations, the young defense has been pushed around at the worst possible moment in the game. DiNucci has to improve his play as well. His running ability is an asset, but placing the ball on target to his receivers is a must if this offense is to ever get going again. Everyone would like to see Pickett get behind center sooner than later, so he can begin being groomed into the starting role for 2018.
The Panthers will hold tough for awhile in the game, but in the end, the Wolfpack will win in decisive fashion.
Prediction: NC State 45 Pitt 24
NCAA Week 7
Pitt Panthers (2-4, 1-2) vs #20 North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-1, 3-0)
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
Game-time: Saturday, October 14th, 12:00 pm
TV: ACC Network (ATT SportsNet) | Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play) Takeo Spikes (analyst) | Amanda Kuhl (reporter)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Bill Osborne (analyst) | Larry Richert (sideline)
National Radio: Sirius XM Satellite Radio- Sirius Channel 108, XM Channel 193, Internet Channel 955
Weather at Kickoff: 78 and sunny.
Vegas Line: NC State -11
Pitt vs NC State History
- Series History: Began in 1952.
- Pitt is 5-3-1 overall against NC State.
- Pitt is 4-0 at home against NC State.
- Streak: NC State won the last meeting.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Sept. 26, 2009 (NC State 38 Pitt 31)
Redshirt freshman placekicker Alex Kessman has displayed a powerful leg in his debut season. He has made four consecutive field goals covering 55, 49, 42 and a school record-tying 56 yards.
Pitt’s rushing attack has received an unlikely spark from junior safety Jordan Whitehead. Pulling double duty in last week’s Syracuse contest, Whitehead rushed seven times for 73 yards (10.4 avg.), including a 35-yard touchdown, and also ran for a 2-point conversion. On defense, he collected nine tackles.
Pitt and NC State meet for the first time in eight years when the Panthers host the Wolfpack. The Panthers and NC State have played nine prior times. The 2017 encounter will be the first ACC game between the two schools.
QB- Max Browne (997 yards passing | 5 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 12 sacks | -74 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD)
QB- Ben DiNucci (442 yards passing | 2 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 6 sacks | 23 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD)
QB- Kenny Pickett (13 yards passing | 0 TD passes | 0interceptions | 0sacks | 0 yards rushing | 0rushing TD)
RB- Qadree Ollison (249 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 16 receptions | 134 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
RB- Jordan Whitehead (132 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
RB- Chawntez Moss (113 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 5 receptions | 75 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
RB- Darrin Hall (91 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 8 receptions | 55 receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
RB- AJ Davis (16 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
FB- George Aston (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Rafeal Araujo-Lopes (26 receptions | 335 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
WR- Jester Weah (18 receptions | 278 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s
WR- Maurice Ffrench (15 receptions | 118 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Aaron Matthews (12 receptions | 150 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Quadree Henderson (9 receptions | 124 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 94 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s)
WR- Ruben Flowers (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
TE- Matt Flanagan (15 receptions | 138 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
TE- Chris Clark (8 receptions | 39 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
K- Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 16-16 | FG: 3-7 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 2-4 | 30-39: 0-0 | 40-49: 2-3 | 50+: 2-3 | Long: 57
North Carolina State Wolfpack
QB- Ryan Finley (1,770 yards passing | 10 TD passes | 0 interceptions | 7 sacks | 70 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD )
RB- Nyheim Hines (513 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s | 14 receptions | 84 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
RB- Reggie Gallaspy (203 rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 13 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Kelvin Harmon (33 receptions | 434 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Stephon Louis (25 receptions | 352 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Jakobi Myers (21 receptions | 257 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
TE- Jaylen Samuels (50 receptions | 425 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s | 129 rushing | 5 rushing TD’s )
K- Carson Wise (Extra Point: 25-27 | FG: 6-10 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 3-4 | 30-39: 2-5 | 40-49: 1-1 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: 48
Pitt – NC State: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison
Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 358.8 YPG | NC State allows 387 YPG
Rushing: Pitt averages 116.8 YPG | NC State allows 90.7 YPG
Passing: Pitt averages 242 YPG | NC State allows 296.3 YPG
Scoring: Pitt averages 24.3 PPG | NC State allows 23.7 PPG
Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 444.5 YPG | NC State averages 471 YPG
Rushing: Pitt allows 164.2 YPG | NC State averages 165.7 YPG
Passing: Pitt allows 280.3 YPG | NC State averages 305.3 YPG
Scoring: Pitt allows 30.8 PPG | NC State averages 35.5 PPG
Pitt Panthers 2017 Schedule
Regular Season (Overall: 2-4 | ACC: 1-2)
Saturday, September 2 Youngstown State W- 28-21 OT
Saturday, September 9 at #6 Penn State (ABC) L- 14-33
Saturday, September 16 #9 Oklahoma State (ESPN) L- 21-59
Saturday, September 23 at Georgia Tech* (ACC Network) L- 35-17
Saturday, September 30 Rice (ATT SportsNet) W- 42-10
Saturday, October 7 at Syracuse* (ATT SportsNet), L- 24-27
Saturday, October 14 #20 NC State* (HC) (ATT SportsNet) at 12:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 21 at Duke* at 12:20 p.m.
Saturday, October 28 Virginia* at TBA
Thursday, November 9 North Carolina* (ESPN) at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 18 at #15 Virginia Tech* at TBA
Friday, November 24 #11 Miami* at TBA
*ACC game / (HC) Homecoming / Ranking as of that week
Bold = Home
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