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 EYES ACC COASTAL DIVISION TITLE WITH WIN AT WAKE FOREST
“Next time we’ll see you is in Charlotte for the ACC championship game because we’re going.”
Those were the words spoken by Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi during the ACC Kickoff Luncheon back on August 24th.
Seemingly lifeless at 2-3 after suffering back to back losses to North Carolina and UCF, many in the Pittsburgh Media had their laughs at the expense of Narduzzi and his prediction.
Who is laughing now?
With a victory this Saturday, the Pitt Panthers (6-4, 5-1) will win the Coastal Division Title and face Clemson in the ACC Championship on December 1st in Charlotte.
First things first. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-5, 2-4) stand in the direct path of a Panther rushing attack that is chewing up 256.9 yards per contest on the ground, good for 10th in the Nation.
Even if Wake Forest is able to put some points up this Saturday, Pitt’s offense is beyond confident that they can control the clock and dominate the line of scrimmage as they have since this winning streak began. That includes getting a passing game that showed signs of in Pitt’s rout of Virginia Tech 52-22 last week.
“It’s not about the passing game, the running game,” Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said after practice Wednesday. “What does it take for us to win in a game? Everybody has bought into, ‘What does it take to win.’
“Our kids believe in it because they’re living it now. They understand the value of what team means now. Before it was words. It’s become really real.”
For the season, Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall have combined for 1,898 yards. The offensive line, led by four seniors and the bruising blocking of full back George Aston, have imposed their will upon teams the past three games. Still…
“We have to present a passing game,” Watson said of his signal caller in Kenny Pickett.
“He’s growing. It’s a process,” Watson continued. “He had a great game against Miami (last year), and everybody had these expectations.
“I’m reminded by several people in my life l really trust as mentors (who say), ‘Hey, this is the year he will grow. He has to go through all the things he didn’t go through last year.’
“l love the fact that every day he comes in here and competes in the classroom, competes on the field.
“The desire to get better, he’s got it.”
The Demon Deacons run the type of hurry up offense that has given the Panthers problems in the past, but they are confident they have put those problems to rest.
“Their tempo is as fast as anybody in the country,” Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly news conference.
Pitt’s biggest priority will be stopping Wake’s dynamic WR Greg Dortch, who has 75 receptions for 921 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018.
“Greg Dortch, their wideout, is ‘Waldo’ this week,” Narduzzi said. “You’d better know where that guy is.”
Dortch normally lines up in the slot, so look for Pitt free safety Damar Hamlin to be very busy Saturday afternoon.
“Same number, I guess,” Hamlin said when asked if Dortch reminded him of Duke’s T.J. Rahming. “I don’t know if they’re too much alike. … He gets a lot of targets from their offense. He’s got basically double the targets from any other receiver on their team, so definitely have to be ready to lock in.”
Rahming was able to snatch nine receptions in Duke’s 54-45 loss to Pitt a few weeks ago, good for 78 yards and a pair of scores.
“Our safeties and corners have got to man up,” said Narduzzi, who also gave Wake Forest credit for using deceptive run-pass option fakes as well as any opponent this year. “We’re basically going to be man across the board the whole day, and we’ve got to see if we can make some plays. But they’re going to make their plays and they’re going to get their yards. We’ve got to limit them and try to get off the field.”
Pitt Keys to Victory
- Demoralize Wake Forest’s run defense.
- Keep the Demon Deacons honest with a few deep passes by Kenny Pickett.
- No turnovers.
- Hit and keep hitting. Bring the pain, especially every time Jamie Newman drops back to pass.
- Play with some swagger!
- Limit splash plays by Greg Dortch.
When a team is running the ball the way Pitt is, it takes a total team effort to be as dominating as possible. Everyone has to be on the same page, from the offensive line, to the fullback, to the running back toting the rock.
One position that is often overlooked in attaining a successful running play is the blocking by the wide receivers.
Well, except here in Pittsburgh, where many remember former Steelers great Hines Ward as much for his crushing blocks as they did for the 1,000 receptions he had.
Meet Hines Ward II, as in Pitt’s Aaron Mathews. While Mathews has only caught 8 receptions for 107 receiving yards on the season, he has stood out for his contributions to the vaunted Panther’s rushing attack.
“I think guys are seeing that it really pays off when you work hard. Aaron’s been playing unbelievable,” said redshirt freshman Carson Van Lynn, a tight end that adds an extra blocker to the offensive line. “You look on the film, half of the runs we get are because of Aaron blocking. He’s going so hard, corners and safeties have to see that and say, ‘Man, this guy [stinks]. I don’t want to have to go against him.’ Because he’s 40 yards downfield blocking, and Darrin or Q or [Maurice] Ffrench gets down all the way to the end zone, it’s really because of him. If he’s just down there pitter-pattering with them and not really going hard, then that doesn’t happen. He’s been huge.”
Mathews has been able to use his 6’4, 215 pound frame to out-physical opposing DB’s.
“Being one of the bigger guys out there, the DBs aren’t always 6-4 and as big as me,” said Mathews, who weighs 215 pounds. “I’ve just taken advantage of that all the times I could.”
Pitt’s wide-outs are a versatile group, contributing to the offense via catch, rushing attempts, and by blocking.
“When called upon, they’ve got to be like a Navy SEAL,” Watson said of the pieces to his passing offense. “They’ve got to be ready to go and perform, whatever that means. … A lot of guys only catch passes. They’ve all bought into it in that room, and Aaron Mathews has led the charge because they see how much fun he’s having, and how he impacts the game, so they want to have the same impact and same value to our team in team wins.”
What more can you ask for if you are Pitt? All they have to do is win one of their final two games against Wake or Miami to take the ACC Coastal Division.
Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good, as Michael Douglas said in Wall Street. It’s time for this program to be greedy and finally take the step forward everyone has been waiting on for what seems like a lifetime. This is Pitt’s time to shine, and for that to happen, they have to beat lesser teams such as Wake Forest and Miami.
The entire team could’ve shut it down and felt sorry for themselves after that 2-3 start, but will to overcome adversity was instilled into this team from the beginning of training camp by the coaches. Now the proof is in the pudding.
“It’s just persistence. It’s our kids believing in there,” Narduzzi said. “Everybody talks about, ‘Oh, you guys got a tough schedule.’ In June and July, I talked about it. But the reality was that schedule prepared us for where we are today, and win or loss, doesn’t matter. Our kids were prepared. Iron sharpens iron, and I think that’s really where our kids are.”
With Jamie Newman now in at quarterback and a defense that is lacking depth due to various injuries, Wake Forest’s head coach Dave Clawson decided to slow down his team’s play calling vs North Carolina State, as they ran only 71 plays in the game, compared to the 85 they average.
Clawson was worried about keeping the Wolfpack’s offense in check.
”If we do what we normally do … there’s no way we hold them to 23 points,” Clawson said.
That sounds like a team playing scared and against their strengths, despite their win.
Look for Ollison and West to lead the way for the Panthers, who are heating up at the right time of the season. Wake Forest may keep it interesting for a while, but in the end, Pitt’s rushing attack will be too much for the Demon Deacons to contain. Pitt will be your ACC Coastal Champions when this one ends.
Pitt 38 Wake Forest 24
NCAA Week 12
Pitt Panthers at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Venue: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC.
Game-time: Saturday, November 17th, 12:00 pm
TV: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh | Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play) Takeo Spikes (analyst) | Stormy Buonantony (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: XM Channel 380, Internet Channel 971
Weather at Kickoff: 52 and sunny.
Vegas Line: Pitt -6.5
Pitt vs Wake Forest History
- Series History: 1st Meeting Ever
- Pitt is 0-0 overall vs Wake Forest
- Pitt is 0-0 on road vs Wake Forest
- Pitt is 0-0 at home vs Wake Forest
- Streak: N/A
- Last Regular Season Meeting: N/A
- This is the first meeting between Pitt and Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are the only ACC team the Panthers have not played since joining the conference for the 2013 season.
- The Panthers’ winning streak has been fueled by a powerful rushing attack. Over the past three games, Pitt is averaging an incredible 410 rushing yards per game.
- For the season, Pitt is churning out 256.9 yards per contest on the ground. That average ranks 10th nationally and second in the ACC (trailing only Georgia Tech’s spread-option attack).
- Pitt is producing at its highest rate on the ground since the Tony Dorsett era of the 1970s. The Panthers’ average of 256.9 rushing yards per game is their highest since the 1976 national championship season. That year, the Heisman-winning Dorsett powered a run game that averaged 290.5 yards per contest.
- The Panthers boast a formidable senior tailback tandem in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. Pitt has never had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season but Ollison (1,054) and Hall (844) are on the cusp of that historic first.
*Courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com
A look at the Pitt Panthers!
- Overall Record: 6-4 | ACC Record: 5-1 | Rank: #
- Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (4th Season with Pitt)
- Lifetime Record: 27-21 (.553)
- 2018 Pitt Panthers Roster
- Pitt Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Week: Pitt 52 Virginia Tech 22
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. Jeff George has risen to the #2 spot.
Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison 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 was expected to see time this year, but it looks as if 2019 will be his time to shine. V’lique Carter was unleashed against Duke and ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries, an incredible average of 19.6 per rush!
Pitt is deep at WR, with senior Rafael-Araujo Lopes, juniors Tre Tipton, Maurice Ffrench, and Aaron Mathews, freshman Shocky Jacques-Louis, and Indiana sophomore transfer Taysir Mack. Araujo Lopes, Ffrench, and Mack are the top trio for Pickett. Mathews may not see many passes, but he is an absolute beast blocking downfield in the rushing attack.
At tight end, sophomore Tyler Sear transferred out, leaving the job to Arkansas transfer Will Gragg and Grant Carrigan.
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 Camp 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 was the starter in the middle till he was injured at mid season at practice. Elias Reynolds and Chase Pine are rotating in Wirginis’ absence. 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. He’s been a little inconsistent at times, but has nailed four field goals from beyond 50 yards, including a Heinz Field record 55 yarder.
Maurice Ffrench and Rafael Araujo-Lopes will provide the return duties for the Panthers. Ffrench has already returned two kicks to the house in 2018.
- Kenny Pickett (1,379 yards passing | 9 TD passes | 5 interceptions | 19 sacks | 214 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD)
- Qadree Ollison (1,054 yards rushing | 10 rushing TD’s | 10 receptions | 50 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Darrin Hall (844 yards rushing | 8 rushing TD’s | 9 receptions | 55 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- V’Lique Carter (142 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 1 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- AJ Davis (103 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 17 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- George Aston (3 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 14 receptions | 65 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Rafael Araujo-Lopes (22 receptions | 217 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s | 17 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
- Maurice Ffrench (21 receptions | 377 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s | 111 yards rushing | 2 TD’s)
- Taysir Mack (16 receptions | 354 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Aaron Matthews (8 receptions | 107 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Shocky Jaques-Louis (9 receptions | 76 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 58 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
- Dontavius Butler-Jenkins (4 receptions | 12 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 0 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
- Tre Tipton (3 receptions | 20 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Will Gragg (5 receptions | 31 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Jim Medure (1 receptions | 15 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 34-35 | FG: 9-12 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 1-1 | 30-39: 1-3 | 40-49: 3-4 | 50+: 4-4 | Long: 55)
- Maurice Ffrench (29.7 yards per kickoff return | 2 return TD’s)
- Rafael Araujo-Lopes (9.2 yards per punt return | 1 return TD’s)
A look at the Wake Forest Demon Deacons!
- Overall Record: 5-5| ACC Record: 2-4 | Rank:
- Head Coach: Dave Clawson (5th Season with Wake Forest)
- Lifetime Record: 116-114 (.583) | 26-34 (.657) with Wake Forest
- 2018 Wake Forest Demon Deacons Roster
- Wake Forest Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Week: Wake Forest 27 N.C. State 23
Scouting the Demon Deacons
Sam Hartman was the starter till he was injured two games ago. All Jamie Newman did was go 22 of 33 for 297 yards with three touchdowns vs N.C. State. He likes to go downfield.
Matt Colborn II and Cade Carney are Pitt’s version of Ollison and Hall. The duo have combined for 1,364 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns. Neither are really a threat catching the ball out of the backfield.
Greg Dortch is the straw that stirs the Demon’s drink. He’ll line up in the slot and try to cause as much havoc as possible with his speed. Sage Surrat and Alex Bachman are Wake’s #2 and #3 choices at WR, with Scotty Washington also in the mix. Dortch has 75 receptions for 921 yards and seven touchdowns.
Jake Freudenthal is Wake’s pass catcher from the tight end position.
The Demon Deacon’s are giving up 28.4 PPG and 421.6 a game in total yards.
- *Sam Hartman (1,984 yards passing | 16 TD passes | 8 interceptions | 22 sacks | 275 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD)
- Jamie Newman (372 yards passing | 3 TD passes | 81 interceptions | 5 sacks | 0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD)
- Matt Colborn II (695 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s | 7 receptions | 83 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Cade Carney (669 yards rushing | 6 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 23 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Christian Beal-Smith (221 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 6 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Greg Dortch (75 receptions | 921 receiving yards | 7 receiving TD’s)
- Sage Surrat (33 receptions | 478 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Alex Bachman (23 receptions | 294 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
- Scotty Washington (15 receptions | 166 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Jake Freudenthal (14 receptions | 192 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
- Nick Sciba (Extra Point: 38-38 | FG: 13-16 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 6-7 | 30-39: 6-8 | 40-49: 1-1 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: 47)
Pitt – Wake Forest: Offense vs Defense Match-Ups
Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 367.7 YPG | Wake Forest allows 421.6 YPG
Rushing: Pitt averages 230.8 YPG | Wake Forest allows 177.8 YPG
Passing: Pitt averages 136.9 YPG | Wake Forest allows 243.9 YPG
Scoring: Pitt averages 27.4 PPG | Wake Forest allows 28.4 PPG
Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 415.2 YPG | Wake Forest averages 431.1 YPG
Rushing: Pitt allows 169.8 YPG | Wake Forest averages 166.9 YPG
Passing: Pitt allows 245.4 YPG | Wake Forest averages 264.3 YPG
Scoring: Pitt allows 30.4 PPG | Wake Forest averages 30.8 PPG
Injury Report (11/15/2018)
- Out: LB Quintin Wirginis (Knee), DL Keyshon Camp (Upper Body)
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: None
- Probable: None
- Out: QB Sam Hartman (Leg), LB Nate Mays (Foot), OL Justin Herron (ACL), DB Coby Davis (Knee), LB Chase Monroe (?), LB Jeff Burley (Knee)
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: WR Kendall Hinton (Hip), DB Peyton Woulard (Hamstring)
- Probable: None
Pitt Panthers 2018 Schedule
Regular Season (Overall: 6-4 | ACC: 5-1)
Sept. 1 Albany (ACCNE) | W- 33-7
Sept. 8 #13 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 | L- 45-14
Oct. 6 Syracuse* (HC) | W- 44-37
Oct. 13 at #5 Notre Dame | L- 19-14
Oct. 27 Duke* | W- 54-45
Nov. 2 (Fri.) at #25 Virginia* | W- 23-13
Nov. 10 Virginia Tech* | W- 52-22
Nov. 17 at Wake Forest* at 12:00 p.m.
Nov. 24 at Miami* at 3:30 p.m.
*ACC game / (HC) Homecoming / Ranking as of this week
Bold = Home Game
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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