Pitt Panthers at Central Florida Knights 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!


Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi is counting to one.

“You’re going to have mistakes,” Narduzzi said, holding up one finger, “but one less mistake and you win the football game. That’s all it takes is one. Make one more (play) than you did.”

Narduzzi and his team are searching for answers after losing to previously win-less North Carolina 38-35 last week. The Tar Heels extended their winning streak vs Pitt to six games.

“There’s just little things, each play — you guys can put the tape on and point it out,” Narduzzi said. “We call cover two, man underneath, and my man Therran Coleman is in perfect coverage, Dane Jackson is in perfect coverage and the other corner just plays it different than the other two guys. But he didn’t do that in practice.”

“We don’t do everything perfect as coaches or players. We all make mistakes at times,” he continued. “Everybody has got a piece of it.”

Next up is Central Florida, who will be searching for their 17th straight win when they face Pitt this Saturday at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando.

UCF is led by Heisman Candidate McKenzie Milton, whose offense averages 80 plays a game with him under center.

“Our scout team will probably have wristbands,” Narduzzi said in preparation of UCF’s up-tempo, high powered offense. “We’re going to try to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. It’s not going to look like them. Just like Georgia Tech’s offense didn’t look like it.”

For the year, Milton’s Knights are scoring 50 points a game.

“These guys,” Narduzzi said, “they limit you to really doing much pressure-wise because you don’t have time to even communicate.”

The best way to keep UCF’s offense contained is to keep them on the sidelines.

Pitt is averaging 212.3 yards per game on the ground, while the Knights are giving up 283.7 yards per game to opposing runners.

If Pitt is to pull off the upset this Saturday, that will be the best game-plan to employ.

That said…

“Yeah,” Narduzzi said, “but the thing we don’t want to do is handcuff our offense to the point where, ‘Hey, we’ll run it three downs in a row, see if we can eat up the clock and don’t run out of bounds.’

“Nobody wants to coach that way. Nobody wants to play that way offensively.”

Knight’s head coach Josh Heupel is impressed with Pitt’s offensive line’s physicality.

“They’re thick, strong and physical up front,” Heupel said. “Extremely big. The biggest defensive front we’ve seen so far. On the backend, they again are going to contest things. They’ll load it up and make it difficult to run the football. You gotta win one-on-ones on the outside.”

A victory by Pitt would ease up some of the heat felt by Narduzzi and his staff by fans. Pitt has been big underdogs before, but has specialized in shocking teams out of nowhere. Ask Clemson and Miami.

Narduzzi and company had better figure out how to fix their 2nd Half woes as well. The Panthers have scored just 10 points in the final 30 minutes of their first four games total.

“I think the coaches have done a good job with the adjustments they’ve done,” starting center Jimmy Morrissey said Wednesday after practice. “Last year at halftime compared to this year, they’ve done a lot more. … They’ve talked to us, asked us what we like, asked us what we don’t like, take it out, put it in, call more other plays, and they’ve added plays, too, that we’ve asked them for at halftime.”


“It comes down to a certain point where a certain run call or pass call isn’t going to make or break, but a guy executing and doing his job is what’s really going to make it happen,” Morrissey said. “It’s just been ourselves, shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s more focusing on the details, being mentally tough, not getting exhausted or even lazy through the third or fourth quarter.”

Narduzzi summed it up best.

“Whether you win or whether you lose, whether you’re 4-0 or 2-2, there’s things you take from every game,” Narduzzi said Wednesday. “That’s probably the biggest thing is, ‘Hey, what have you learned from the game, what have you learned out of your team, what have you learned out of your particular positions and unit groups?’

“But we just need to be more consistent. I mean, at times, we’re playing really good football, and then at times, there will be a mental or physical breakdown that will cost you. Those are the little details where — I don’t care if it’s on offense and 10 guys are doing a great job and one is not, it only takes one guy to break a play down, and that’s kind of what you see in the first four games.”


Pitt Keys to Victory


  • Time of Possession!
  • Run the Ball!
  • 2nd Half Scoring!


  • Limit Splash Plays by McKenzie Milton!
  • Get off the Field of 3rd Down!



Pitt fans could use a pick-me-up here. Question is, can the Panthers provide it?

The blueprint to defeat the Knights is there for the taking for Pitt. The Panthers, if they utilize the running game behind Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, could control the tempo of this game and keep UCF’s high powered offense watching from the sidelines.

The biggest hurdle for Pitt will be solving the scoring drought they’ve encountered in the 2nd half of games this season. 10 points isn’t going to cut it vs a team like Central Florida.

A hunch says Pitt manages to keep this game within striking distance, possibly even taking the lead at various points in the game. In the end, though, the Knights will prove to be too much for Pitt to handle… a late score by UCF gives you:

UCF 45 Pitt 31

Game Information

NCAA Week 5

Pitt Panthers at Central Florida Knights

Venue: Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL.

Game-time: Saturday, September 29th, 3:30 pm

Game Tickets Link

TV:  ESPNU | Announcers: Mike Corey (play-by-play) Rene Ingoglia (analyst) |

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 111, XM Channel 196, Internet Channel 958

Weather at Kickoff: 91 with a slight chance of rain

Vegas Line: UCF -13.5


Pitt vs UCF History

  • Series History: Began in 2006
  • Pitt is 1-0 in the series vs UCF
  • Pitt is 1-0 on the road vs UCF
  • Streak: Pitt won last game
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 13, 2006 (Pitt 52 UCF 7)

Game Notes* 

  • This will be the second time in six games that Pitt will face an opponent riding the nation’s longest active winning streak. On Nov. 24, 2017, the Panthers halted Miami’s 15-game run of victories with a 24-14 upset.
  • The 2018 encounter is the first of two consecutive meetings between the Panthers and Knights. Pitt will host UCF at Heinz Field on Sept. 21, 2019.
  • Dating back to the 2008 season, the Panthers are 5-1 when playing road games in the state of Florida. During that stretch, Pitt went 3-0 at USF, 1-0 at FIU and 1-1 at ACC Coastal foe Miami. (The Panthers will visit the Hurricanes again this Nov. 24.)

    *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. Gifted with a strong arm and the ability to run with the ball if no receivers are open. Must work on accuracy and decision making.

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. Don’t be surprised if Davis becomes the #1 back before the end of the season.

Wide Receivers

Pitt is 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. This position needs utilized more often.


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 (580 yards passing | 4 TD passes | 3 interceptions | 7 sacks | 117 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD)

Running Back

  • Qadree Ollison (355 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 11 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Darrin Hall (163 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 7 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • AJ Davis (84 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 19 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)


  • George Aston (-2 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 9 receptions | 59 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Rafael Araujo-Lopes (11 receptions | 103 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s | 16 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Maurice Ffrench (11 receptions | 94 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s | 20 yards rushing | 1 TD’s)
  • Taysir Mack  (10 receptions | 224 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Shocky Jaques-Louis (4 receptions | 33 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 69 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Tre Tipton (2 receptions | 14 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Aaron Matthews (2 receptions | 21 receiving yards | 0 receiving 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: 11-12 | FG: 1-2 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  0-0 | 30-39:  1-2 | 40-49:  0-0 | 50+:  0-0 | Long: 33)

Kickoff Returner

  • Maurice Ffrench (27.0 yards per kickoff return | 1 return TD’s)

Punt Returner

  • Rafael Araujo-Lopes (12.0 yards per punt return | 0 return TD’s)





A look at the Central Florida Knights!

Scouting the Knights


McKenzie Milton is a Heisman Candidate, and he is living up to his billing. Milton has 895 yards passing, throwing nine touchdown passes and just three interceptions. He is dangerous on the ground as well, totaling 147 yards so far with another three scores.

Running Back

The Knights are deep at RB, with Adrian Killins, Jr. leading the way with 193 yards rushing and three TD’s. You’ll also see a mix of Greg McCrae, Taj McGowan, and possibly Otis Anderson and Bentavious Thompson.

Wide Receivers

Gabriel Davis is Milton’s favorite target, snatching up 20 receptions so far with three TD’s. Dedrrick Snelson and Tre Nixon will also roam Pitt’s secondary along with Marlon Williams.

Tight Ends

Michael Colubiale is the Knights pass catching tight end. He’s caught seven passes for 101 yards.


The Knights are giving up just 17.5 points per game, but they have faced the likes of UConn, South Carolina State, and Florida Atlantic, the latter putting up 36 points. UCF is susceptible to the run, giving up 283.7 yards per game on the ground.


Individual Stats


  • McKenzie Milton (895 yards passing | 9 TD passes | 3 interceptions | 1 sacks | 147 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD)
  • Darriel Mack, Jr. (17 yards passing | 0 TD passes | 0 interceptions | 0 sacks | 111 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD)

Running Back

  • Adrian Killins, Jr. (193 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 49 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Greg McCrae (140 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 36 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • Taj McGowan (102 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Otis Anderson (80 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 4 receptions | 20 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • Bentavious Thompson (77 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Gabriel Davis (20 receptions | 242 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
  • Dedrrick Snelson (15 receptions | 197 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • Tre Nixon (11 receptions | 187 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
  • Marlon Williams (6 receptions | 67 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

  • Michael Colubiale (7 receptions | 101 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)


  • Matthew Wright (Extra Point: 21-21 | FG: 1-1 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  1-1 | 30-39:  0-0 | 40-49:  0-0 | 50+:  0-0 | Long: 25)



Pitt – Central Florida: Offense vs Defense Match-Ups

Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 361 YPG | Central Florida allows 396.7 YPG

Rushing: Pitt averages 212.3 YPG | Central Florida allows 239 YPG

Passing: Pitt averages 148.8 YPG | Central Florida allows 157.7 YPG

Scoring: Pitt averages 24.5 PPG | Central Florida allows 17.7 PPG


Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 396.3 YPG | Central Florida averages 587.7 YPG

Rushing: Pitt allows 191 YPG | Central Florida averages 283.7 YPG

Passing: Pitt allows 205.3 YPG | Central Florida averages 304 YPG

Scoring: Pitt allows 28.8 PPG | Central Florida averages 50 PPG


Injury Report (9/26/2018)

Pitt Panthers

  • Out: N/A
  • Doubtful: N/A
  • Questionable: DB Phil Cambell III (Illness)

Central Florida Knights

  • Out: LB Demetreius Mayes (Suspended)
  • Doubtful: N/A
  • Questionable: OL Wyatt Miller (Leg), DB Aaron Robinson (Neck), OL Parker Boudreaux (Undisclosed)


ACC Standings


























Pitt Panthers 2018 Schedule

Regular Season (Overall: 2-2 |  ACC: 1-1)

Sept. 1 Albany (ACCNE) | W- 33-7
Sept. 8 #8 Penn State (ABC) | L- 51-6
Sept. 15 Georgia Tech* (RSN) | W- 24-19
Sept. 22 at North Carolina* | L- 38-35
Sept. 29 at #13 UCF at 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 Syracuse* (HC) at 12:20 p.m.
Oct. 13 at #8 Notre Dame (NBC) at 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 27 #22 Duke* at TBA
Nov. 2 (Fri.) at Virginia* (ESPN2) at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 Virginia Tech* at TBA
Nov. 17 at Wake Forest* at TBA
Nov. 24 at #16 Miami* at TBA

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

Bold = Home Game

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.

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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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