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!
PITT LOOKS TO REBOUND AFTER EMBARRASSING LOSS TO PENN STATE
The conditions were horrible, but the atmosphere was electric. In the waning minutes of the 1st half, the Panthers were poised to take some sort of lead into the half vs Penn State. It was 4th and 3 from the Penn State four yard line, and the smart choice, despite missing an earlier field goal, was to kick the ball and take a 9-7 lead. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, however, decided to go for it after a timeout, and the ensuing play, a ridiculous dive play, was stopped by Penn State, and the momentum swung back to Penn State.
That was just the beginning of the end. Pitt’s defense would force Penn State to punt, but the Nittany Lions did the same to the Panther’s offense… when Pitt went to punt, the ball slipped through Kirk Christodoulou’s hands, and PSU recovered with great field position. Three plays later, Trace McSorley fired a touchdown pass to give Penn State a 14-6 lead going into halftime, where the Panthers left their mojo, and all sense of playing the game, allowing the Lions to embarrass the Panthers 51-6 on a miserable rainy night.
Now the Panthers have to have a short memory, learn from their mistakes, and start with a clean slate, as ACC play begins, with Georgia Tech invading Heinz Field Saturday afternoon.
“We have a lot of maturity in the room,” linebacker Elijah Zeise said. “We got our butts beat a little bit. It sucks, but at the same time, where we want to go this season, our goals are right in front of us. We can’t dwell on it.”
Narduzzi, now just 22-18 in his 4th season with the Panthers, was asked where he felt the program was during his tenure.
“You know, we’re not going to measure anything after a game, OK? One game, two games, three games. Nothing is measured like that,” he said. “You are where you are. Everybody has got goals, but Georgia Tech is the most important game right now.
“Goals are great things to talk about during summer camp, but when you get to this time of year, it’s about — we break down every day, ‘Beat Georgia Tech.’ Game 1 doesn’t matter, and Game 2 doesn’t matter. I can guarantee you that. The only thing that matters is Game 3 and Georgia Tech. We can’t have a hangover.”
Narduzzi was more concerned in getting his passing game going than anything.
“It starts with the protection and making sure Kenny (Pickett) feels confident in the pocket,” he said. “Kenny’s pressing a little bit. He’s got to relax and just do his job.”
In last week’s debacle, Pickett completed just 9 of 18 passes for 55 yards and an interception against Penn State. He was sacked four times.
“There were receivers open,” the Narduzzi continued. “I don’t know if he gave it as much time as he needed to.”
“He feels like he’s the man, and he has to do it himself. He’s not by himself. He internalizes it and tries to put more pressure on himself and we can’t do that as coaches, either.
“We can’t force-feed it down anybody’s throat. That’s where he is. He will be great and he will be better this week. I promise you that.”
On the defensive side, some were wondering about the absence of Paris Ford, the talented DB out of Steel Valley,
“I love that kid,” the coach said of Ford. “He’s going to be a great football player. When you have older guys out there who have more experience and you’re playing a big game, you guys would be the first one if he fails, screaming, ‘Why was Dane not in there?’
“He’s still learning. It’s not easy to play. There are a lot of things you have to adjust to, and he’s a smart kid, and he’s picking it up better and better.
“But we can’t have busts in the back end.”
Pitt Keys to Victory
- No Turnovers
- Give Pickett Time In The Pockett
- Establish The Running Game
- Stay In Your Defensive Lanes
In their ACC Season Opener, the game-plan doesn’t get any simpler for the Panthers to defeat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Execute your plays.
Pitt needs to get it’s passing game active as South Florida’s Blake Barnett was able to pass for 207 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulls 49-38 victory over Tech. The offensive line needs to allow Pickett enough time to find his receivers, and when given time, Kenny Pickett needs to get the ball to them on target, in stride. The rushing attack should be fine behind Qadree Ollison and A.J. Davis. Darrin Hall has been MIA so far in 2018.
Everyone and their mother knows what Tech brings to the game with their triple-option. The defense has to be patient and disciplined in their approach, staying in their lanes and focusing on their assignment in who has the ball between TaQuon Marshall and his talented group of running backs. It will be a little easier without the services of KirVonte Benson to rely on, who roasted the Panthers time and time again last year in Atlanta.
Expect a high scoring affair with the better team leaving the field with the victory in hand.
Pitt 41 Georgia Tech 31
NCAA Week 3
Pitt Panthers vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
Game-time: Saturday, September 15th, 12:30 pm
TV: RSN (AT&T SportsNet in Pittsburgh) | Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) James Bates (analyst) | Rebecca Kaple (reporter)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Pat Bostick (analyst) | Larry Richert (sideline)
National Radio: N/A | Announcers:
Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 138, XM Channel 380, Internet Channel 969
Weather at Kickoff: 81 and sunny!
Vegas Line: Georgia Tech -3.5
Pitt vs Georgia Tech History
- Series History: Began in 1918
- Pitt is 7-5 in the series vs Georgia Tech
- Pitt is 4-1 at home vs Georgia Tech
- Streak: Georgia Tech won last game
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Sept. 23, 2017 (Ga. Tech 35 Pitt 17)
- Senior tailback Qadree Ollison is off to a strong start to his final season. Ollison rushed for a game-high 119 yards on 21 carries (5.7 avg.) against Penn State. He is averaging 96 yards per game.
- Senior middle linebacker Quintin Wirginis is coming off the most productive game of his career. Wirginis, whose 2017 season was lost to injury, compiled nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack against Penn State.
- Both teams enter ACC play coming off disappointing outings. Pitt trailed Penn State at intermission, 14-6, but crumbled in the second half, 51-6. Georgia Tech led host USF by 10 in the fourth quarter but three unanswered touchdowns resulted in a 49-38 defeat.
*Courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com
A look at the Pitt Panthers!
- Overall Record: 1-1 | ACC Record: 0-0 | Rank: N/A
- Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (4th Season with Pitt)
- Lifetime Record: 22-18 (.564)
- 2018 Pitt Panthers Roster
- Pitt Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Week: Penn State 51 Pitt 6
Scouting the Panthers
Kenny Pickett played in four games last year, making one start as a true freshman. Gifted with a strong arm and accurate arm and the ability to run with the ball, Pickett has the possibility of being Pitt’s best QB since Dan Marino.
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. Don’t be surprised if Davis becomes the #1 back before the end of the season.
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.
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.
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.
- Kenny Pickett (209 yards passing | 2 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 4 sacks | 72 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD)
- Qadree Ollison (192 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 3 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- AJ Davis (84 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 19 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Darrin Hall (50 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 4 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- George Aston (-2 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 4 receptions | 22 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Taysir Mack (4 receptions | 53 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Rafael Araujo-Lopes (3 receptions | 50 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s | 17 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
- Shocky Jaques-Louis (3 receptions | 24 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 60 yards rushing | 0 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)
- Paris Ford (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 0 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
- 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: 3-5 | FG: 0-1 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 0-0 | 30-39: 0-0 | 40-49: 0-0 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: N/A)
- Maurice Ffrench (300 yards per kickoff return | 1 return TD’s)
- Rafael Araujo-Lopes (12 yards per punt return | 0 return TD’s)
A look at the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets!
- Overall Record: 1-1 | ACC Record: 0-0 | Rank: N/A
- Head Coach: Paul Johnson (11th Season with Georgia Tech)
- Lifetime Record: 183-94 (.656) | 76-55 (.685) at Georgia Tech
- 2018 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Lions Roster
- Georgia Tech Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Week: South Florida 49 Georgia Tech 38
Scouting the Yellow Jackets
TaQuon Marshall is a typical Yellow Jackets QB…. he has decent ability throwing the ball when he has to, but why bother? Tech is famous for their triple-option rushing attack, and Marshall doesn’t disappoint with 190 yards rushing and two scores.
Pick one! The big news is that KirVonte Benson is out injured. Without him, Tech will rely on Jordan Mason and Tobias Oliver. Qua Searcy will be featured plenty of times as well, as will Clinton Lynch who has turned three receptions into 111 yards and a score.
Brad Stewart and Jalen Camp have combined for eight catches and 84 yards between them.
Tech does not utilize any tight ends.
Tech’s defense was torched for 49 yards last week vs South Florida, but two of those touchdowns were returns by Terrence Horne of the Bulls. Still, that is still 35 defensive points given up by the Yellow Jackets. Pitt should be able to launch a balanced attack with success if they hold on to the ball.
- TaQuon Marshall (287 yards passing | 2 TD passes | 3 interceptions | 2 sacks | 190 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD)
- Jordan Mason (180 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Tobias Oliver (169 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- KirVonte Benson (116 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Qua Searcy (108 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 4 receptions | 75 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Clinton Lynch (27 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 111 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Nathan Cottrell (27 yards rushing | 45 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 6 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Brad Stewart (5 receptions | 55 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Jalen Camp (3 receptions | 29 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Malachi Carter (1 receptions | 13 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Brenton King (Extra Point: 9-9 | FG: 1-2 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 0-0 | 30-39: 1-1 | 40-49: 0-0 | 50+: 0-1 | Long: 35)
Pitt – Georgia Tech: Offense vs Defense Match-Ups
Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 353.5 YPG | Georgia Tech allows 286 YPG
Rushing: Pitt averages 241.5 YPG | Georgia Tech allows 148 YPG
Passing: Pitt averages 112 YPG | Georgia Tech allows 138 YPG
Scoring: Pitt averages 19.5 PPG | Georgia Tech allows 24.5 PPG
Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 356.5 YPG | Georgia Tech averages 572.5 YPG
Rushing: Pitt allows 135.5 YPG | Georgia Tech averages 429 YPG
Passing: Pitt allows 221 YPG | Georgia Tech averages 143.5 YPG
Scoring: Pitt allows 29 PPG | Georgia Tech averages 39.5 PPG
Injury Report (9/13/2018)
- Out: N/A
- Doubtful: N/A
- Questionable: PK Jake Scarton
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
- Out: RB KirVonte Benson
- Doubtful: N/A
- Questionable: OL Kenny Cooper
Pitt Panthers 2018 Schedule
Regular Season (Overall: 1-1 | ACC: 0-0)
Sept. 1 Albany (ACCNE) | W- 33-7
Sept. 8 #11 Penn State (ABC) | L- 51-6
Sept. 15 Georgia Tech* (RSN) at 12:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 at North Carolina* at 12:20 p.m.
Sept. 29 at #18 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 #13 Virginia Tech* at TBA
Nov. 17 at Wake Forest* at TBA
Nov. 24 at #21 Miami* at TBA
*ACC game / (HC) Homecoming / Ranking as of that week
Bold = Home
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.
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