College Football (Div-I)

Pitt Panthers vs Penn State Nittany Lions Preview!

Welcome to the most comprehensive Pitt Panthers Game Day Preview on the internet! 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 Game Preview, Pitt’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Game Information, Individual Stats, and Team Stats. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!


It once was one of college football’s greatest rivalries… Pitt vs Penn State. It was thee game. Sure, Pitt vs West Virginia is, and was a huge game as well, but it didn’t quite rival the feel of this game.

Then arrogance ruined it all. Arrogance from a University that considers itself “Unrivaled”. Arrogance from an AD that says they want to schedule the best games for their program, and then go out and sign a home and home series vs Temple. “Clap-Clap” for the Turnstile Champions!

This was a game as much for the fans as it was for the players and coaches. Friends and family members became one day enemies on Game Day. It was “Us vs Them”…

Now, in what will be the 99th meeting between Pitt and Penn State, it looks as if #100 will be the last go around between the two teams for the foreseeable future.

That, my friends, is a shame.

After Penn State defeated Pitt 33-14 last year, Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin said, “It was just like beating Akron.”

Now Pitt is ready to stun Penn State for the 2nd time in three years, perhaps announcing this team as one to contend with for the 2018 College Football Season. This game may not be looked at as a rivalry anymore from the folks across the state, but don’t tell that to junior safety Damar Hamlin.

“Just the way the city and the fans react to it,” Hamlin said, “It makes it seem like you’re a part of something that is way bigger than you and came way before you. And just seeing how all the old guys come back and tell us how much that game means, it makes you feel good to be a part of it.

“The whole city will be shut down.”

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi watched these two teams tangle year in and year out as a kid in Youngstown, Ohio.

“I knew (about the importance of the game) a long time ago,” said Narduzzi. “It wasn’t something I had to be a head coach to figure out what a rivalry game is. I grew up with this game back in the day.”

“It’s important in the state of Pennsylvania,” the Panthers coach continued. “You either walk the streets, or you’re going to walk the alleys after the game.

“Are you going to sneak out of Heinz Field and walk down where you don’t have to see anybody? Or are you going to walk out with your chest up and your chin up and walk right down the middle of everybody and say, ‘Hey, here we are. Let’s go.’

“To me, it means a lot.”

Both teams enter the game with 1-0 records. Pitt thrashed Albany 33-7, while Penn State barely escaped Appalachian State, defeating the Mountaineers 45-38 in overtime.

“You want to teach your kids to get revved up for every game,” Narduzzi said. “It’s sometimes harder to get up for Albany. It will be easier to get revved up, but you better play with a little anger.”

Franklin, in his press conference, is more of a week-to-week guy when it comes to talking opponents. That said, the Penn State coach understands what this game brings to the table come kickoff at 8:00 pm on Saturday.

“This is the biggest game in the world,” he said. “This is the Super Bowl for us. It is the most important game on our schedule.

“Why? Because it’s the game we’re playing this week. Last week was the Super Bowl for us. It was the most important game in the universe. This week is a huge game for us. I’ve never denied that, from the very beginning.”

If only Sandy Barbour could understand that.

“It’s sad to even think about it,” Narduzzi said about the series ending next year. “It’s a huge part of the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh.”


Pitt Keys to Victory


  • Control The Line of Scrimmage
  • Time of Possession
  • No Costly Turnovers


  • Keep McSorley Contained In The Pocket
  • Pressure McSorley Into Bad Throws
  • Limit Splash Plays From Miles Sanders



Pitt used 14 redshirt freshman last week vs Albany. They were able to utilize a three man rushing attack with Qadree Ollison, Darren Hall, and A.J. Davis, with Ollison leading the team with 73 yards rushing on just seven attempts. Kenny Pickett completed 16 passes to 10 different receivers. The defense got to Albany QB Vince Testaverde five times.

That was just a taste of what Pitt has to offer.

“We were holding back for you guys,” said defensive end Rashad Weaver. “That was nothing. It’s going to be lot more fun throughout the year. That was just a little taste. We have lot more coming.”

Pickett will play a big role if the Panthers are to defeat Penn State this Saturday night.

“He can make the throws that he needs to make,” coach Franklin said of Pitt’s signal caller. “He’s got enough mobility to keep you honest, knows things not only in the pocket, but also breaking the pocket. He seems to have a good feel for the game, as well, so I’ve been impressed with him. I think he’s just going to continue to get better and better, the more he plays.”

Penn State had problems in containing Appalachian State’s passing attack the opening week.

We saw some adjustments we have to make and corrections we have to make,” Lions cornerback Lamont Wade said. “We already handled that, so now we’re looking to improve from that.”

Another factor will be Pitt’s secondary. The much maligned unit has improved, but still allowed a few big plays last week vs the Great Danes.

“They’re an aggressive group,” Lions QB Trace McSorley said. “They’re comfortable being put on islands, being in one-on-one situations. They kind of thrive in that.

“That [reflects] their confidence, what they feel they can do. Also, the scheme is pretty good for them. … They’re physical guys. They’re aggressive.”

McSorely knows Pitt’s safeties can bring a wallop against the rushing attack.

“Their safeties … are not afraid to stick their nose in there,” McSorley said. “They’ll come flying in and tattoo a running back in the hole.”

This is going to be a great game. The atmosphere will be electric. Two teams that really don’t like each other all that much, and that’s putting it mildly.

Penn State is hoping to rebound from the sleepwalk game they had last week, a game by all accounts they deserved to lose. But, in the end, they found a way to overcome all of the mistakes, and even a late game deficit to find a way to win. That’s what great teams do.

Pitt is looking to do the same. They’ve always had exceptionally talented players in the program. For some insane reason, they have never been able to find a way to put it all together for an entire season.

This is their chance. This is the start of it all. A win here, in Prime Time, on National Television, will almost certainly vault them into the Top 25 next week.

This could be a game where they build off of heading into ACC play next week at home vs Georgia Tech, and a run at the Coastal Division Title.

The Nittany Lions are a very good team. They are lead by a coach that brings a winning attitude to the program. Even with a loss to Pitt, they could very well go on to win the rest of their games and make a run at the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoffs.

But… this Pitt team feels different. The attitude around camp, the locker-room, and campus is one of positively.

Look for Pitt to mount a balanced attack behind Pickett’s arm and solid running game against Penn State, as well as throwing in a few wrinkles (Jet Sweeps by Maurice Ffrench, Shocky Jacques-Louis, and… perhaps Paris Ford?) to keep the tough Lions defense on their heels.

Controlling the clock will be a big factor, too.

The Panther’s defense definitely needs to limit splash plays by Miles Sanders, and keeping McSorley contained in the pocket. McSorley is sneaky good at taking off and gaining positive yards.

The key is the turnover battle, of which I believe Pitt will win, ultimately leading the Panthers to…

Pitt 31 Penn State 27

Game Information

NCAA Week 2

Pitt Panthers vs Penn State Nittany Lions

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Game-time: Saturday, September 8th, 8:00 pm

Game Tickets Link

TV:  ABC-TV | Announcers: Sean McDonough (play-by-play) Todd Blackledge (analyst) | Holly Rowe (reporter)

Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers:  Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Pat Bostick (analyst) | Larry Richert (sideline)

National Radio: Sports USA | Announcers: Josh Appel (play-by-play) Brandon Noble (analyst)

Sirius XM Satellite Radio: XM Channel 392, Internet Channel 986

Weather at Kickoff: 65 with a 100% chance of rain.

Vegas Line: Penn State -8.5


Pitt vs Penn State History

  • Series History: Began in 1893
  • Pitt is 43-51-4 in the series vs Penn State
  • Pitt is 36-28 at home vs Penn State
  • Streak: Pen State won last game
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Sept. 9, 2017 (Penn State 33 Pitt 14)

Game Notes* 

  • Pitt and Penn State meet for the 99th time in a series widely regarded as one of college football’s classic rivalries. The Panthers have won two of the past three encounters, claiming victories of 42-39 in 2016 and 12-0 in 2000. The Nittany Lions won last year in Beaver Stadium, 33-14.
  • Pitt sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett will be making just his third career start when the Nittany Lions visit Pittsburgh. While Pickett’s starting experience is meager, the same cannot be said for his scoring production. Pickett has accounted for six touchdowns (three passing and three rushing) in his past two games.
  • Pitt’s rushing production has been a key indicator for victory under Pat Narduzzi. The Panthers are 13-3 in games in which they rush for more than 200 yards. Pitt had 238 in its opening win over Albany. Two years ago, Pitt’s 42- 39 win over Penn State was fueled by 341 yards on the ground.

    *Courtesy of



A look at the Pitt Panthers!

Scouting the Panthers


Kenny Pickett played in four games last year, making one start as a true freshman…completed 39-of-66 passes (59%) for 509 yards with one touchdown and one interception on the year. Now he is set to lead the Panthers to great heights in this second season. Gifted with a strong arm and the ability to go mobile, Pickett has the possibility of being Pitt’s best QB since Dan Marino.

Running Backs

Darrin Hall (1,045 career rushing yards) and Qadree Ollison (1,646) will give the Panthers a 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Consider Hall lightning to Ollison’s thunder. George Aston is back at fullback after missing most of 2017. Aston was a beast in 2016 finishing third on the team in scoring (tied) with 60 points on 10 touchdowns (five rushing and five receiving). A.J. Davis will see plenty of time as well, and is excellent out of the backfield catching short passes from Pickett.

Wide Receivers

Pitt is pretty deep at WR, with Rafael-Araujo Lopes, juniors Tre Tipton, Maurice Ffrench, and Aaron Mathews, freshman Shocky Jacques-Louis, and Indiana transfer Taysir Mack, a sophomore who excelled in the Blue-Gold Game this past Spring. Mack played in 12 games, starting eight contests in 2017 for the Hoosiers…had 23 receptions for 310 yards (13.5 avg.) and three touchdowns.

Tight Ends

At tight end, sophomore Tyler Sear scored in his final two games last season and will start, but Arkansas transfer Will Gragg has really opened some eyes in camp.


Look for the versatile Paris Ford to see snaps at H-Back for the Panthers as Jordan Whitehead was known to do for the past two years. Ford is a threat to make a difference every time he touches the ball.


Dewayne Hendrix and Rashad Weaver are solidified as Pitt’s defensive ends.

Senior Shane Roy was a starter at nose tackle last year, Amir Watts and redshirt sophomore Keyshon Camps to see time as well. Jaylen Twyman, has been pushing the whole group as a redshirt freshman.

At LB, Oluwaseun Idowu is the starting outside “star” linebacker. Quintin Wirginis is your starter in the middle, with Redshirt senior Elijah Zeise and redshirt junior Saleem Brightwell battling for the “money” spot.

Redshirt junior Dane Jackson started all 12 games last year and will assume the same duties as a starting cornerback in 2018. Redshirt senior Phillipie Motley, sophomores Damarri Mathis and Jason Pinnock, and redshirt freshman Paris Ford are all battling for that 2nd spot.

Junior Damar Hamlin starts at free safety, with Dennis Briggs and redshirt sophomore Phil Campbell battling for the starting role at strong safety.


Alex Kessman took over Pitt’s starting placekicking duties in his first active season…converted 11-of-19 field goals (58%) and 34-of-34 PATs (100%) for a team-high 67 points. Now he looks to improve on those stats in year two.

Kick/Punt Return

Maurice Ffrench and Rafael Araujo-Lopes will provide the return duties for the Panthers. Ffrench returned the opening kickoff vs Albany, 97 yards to the house.

Individual Stats


  • Kenny Pickett (154 yards passing | 2 TD passes | 1 interceptions | 0 sacks | 42 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD)

Running Back

  • Qadree Ollison (73 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • AJ Davis (46 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 19 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Darrin Hall (22 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)


  • *George Aston (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 8 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Rafael Araujo-Lopes (3 receptions | 50 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s | 17 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Taysir Mack  (3 receptions | 44 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Tre Tipton (2 receptions | 14 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Aaron Matthews (1 receptions | 9 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Maurice Ffrench (1 receptions | 4 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 17 yards rushing | 1 TD’s)
  • Shocky Jaques-Louis (1 receptions | 3 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 21 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Paris Ford (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 0 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)

Tight Ends

  • Tyler Sear (1 receptions | 3 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Jim Medure (1 receptions | 15 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Will Gragg (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)


  • Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 3-4 | FG: 0-0 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  0-0 | 30-39:  0-0 | 40-49:  0-0 | 50+:  0-0 | Long: N/A)

Kickoff Returner

  • Maurice Ffrench (49.0 yards per kickoff return | 1 return TD’s)

Punt Returner

  • Rafael Araujo-Lopes (1.0 yards per punt return | 0 return TD’s)





A look at the Penn State Nittany Lions!

Scouting the Nittany Lions


Trace McSorley is an excellent quarterback that can beat you through the air or via the ground. Opposing defenders need to be wary of his deceptive speed when leaving the pocket to run.

Running Backs

Miles Sanders isn’t Saquon Barkley, but he’s pretty damned good. Gifted with speed and agility, he’s a nightmare to bring down one on one. Ricky Slade and Mark Allen will spell Sanders, who had a team-high 91 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries last week.

Wide Receivers

Juwan Johnson leads the team with six receptions, but K.J. Hamler is regarded as the Lions best pass catcher. Expect a little more action to Brandon Polk, DeAndre Thompkins, and Mac Hippenhammer.

Tight Ends

Jonathan Holland and Danny Dalton are McSorely’s targets at tight end in the PSU passing game. Holland snagged two receptions for 36 yards last week.


Usually the backbone of the team, the unit was gashed last week by Appalachian State for 451 yards, 292 of it through the air.


Individual Stats


  • Trace McSorley (229 yards passing | 1 TD passes | 0 interceptions | 2 sacks | 61 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD)

Running Back

  • Miles Sanders (95 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 20 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Ricky Slade (39 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Mark Allen (25 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 18 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Juwan Johnson (6 receptions | 67 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • K.J. Hamler (3 receptions | 67 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Brandon Polk  (2 receptions | 19 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • DeAndre Thompkins (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Mac Hippenhammer (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Cam Sulliva-Brown (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

  • Jonathan Holland (2 receptions | 36 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Danny Dalton (1 receptions | 2 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)


  • Jake Pinegar (Extra Point: 6-6 | FG: 1-1 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  0-0 | 30-39:  1-1 | 40-49:  0-0 | 50+:  0-0 | Long: 32)



Pitt – Penn State: Offense vs Defense Match-Ups

Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 407 YPG | Penn State allows 451 YPG

Rushing: Pitt averages 238 YPG | Penn State allows 159 YPG

Passing: Pitt averages 169 YPG | Penn State allows 292 YPG

Scoring: Pitt averages 33 PPG | Penn State allows 38 PPG


Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 323 YPG | Penn State averages 434 YPG

Rushing: Pitt allows 60 YPG | Penn State averages 204 YPG

Passing: Pitt allows 263 YPG | Penn State averages 230 YPG

Scoring: Pitt allows 7 PPG | Penn State averages 45 PPG


Injury Report (9/6/2018)

Pitt Panthers

  • Out: N/A
  • Doubtful: N/A
  • Questionable: OL Alex Bookser, DB Dane Jackson, DB Jason Pinnock, DB Phil Campbell III

Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Out: LB Manny Bowen
  • Doubtful: N/A
  • Questionable:DT Kevin Givens


ACC Standings

























Pitt Panthers 2018 Schedule

Regular Season (Overall: 1-0 |  ACC: 0-0)

Sept. 1 Albany (ACCNE) | W- 33-7
Sept. 8 #13 Penn State (ABC) at 8 p.m.
Sept. 15 Georgia Tech* (RSN) at 12:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 at North Carolina* at TBA
Sept. 29 at #19 UCF at TBA
Oct. 6 Syracuse* (HC) at TBA
Oct. 13 at #8 Notre Dame (NBC) at 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 27 Duke* at TBA
Nov. 2 (Fri.) at Virginia* (ESPN2) at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 #12 Virginia Tech* at TBA
Nov. 17 at Wake Forest* at TBA
Nov. 24 at #22 Miami* at TBA

*ACC game /  (HC) Homecoming  / Ranking as of that week

Bold = Home

Author Profile

Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

There's nowhere on earth that is more dedicated to its sports teams like Western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. The passion and pride of Pittsburgh's fan base is second to no one. From the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, to W.P.I.A.L. high school sports, "The City of Champions" has it all!

As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.

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