ACC

Pitt Panthers at Miami Hurricanes 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!

 

COASTAL DIVISION CHAMPS TAKE ON THE HURRICANES IN REGULAR SEASON FINALE

My have times changed.

Last season, the Miami Hurricanes strolled into Heinz Field undefeated and ranked #2 in the country. The Hurricanes were primed for a chance at the College Football Playoffs.

The Pitt Panthers had other ideas. Pitt, behind a stellar effort by Quarterback Kenny Pickett dominated the ‘Canes 24-14, and sent them into a tailspin from which the have yet to recover.

This year, it’s the 24th ranked Panthers who head to Miami as ACC Coastal Division Champions, a week away from a meeting with Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

Pitt (7-4, 6-1) is hungry to keep their winning ways going, especially against a quality program like Miami (6-5, 3-4).

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi is making sure his team’s focus doesn’t wander any farther than the game at hand.

“We’re putting all our effort into this week, this Miami Hurricane football team,” Narduzzi said. “We have plenty of time for that next one.

“If you guys (reporters) keep relaying that message around, I’ll have to brainwash these kids in this meeting room. We won’t be talking about (the ACC championship). It won’t be mentioned in here.”

Pitt’s offense has been running roughshod over their opponents the past six games, winning five of them. Behind the 1-2 punch of Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison, Pitt is averaging 247.5 yards a game on the ground.

They will have their hands full against the country’s #3 ranked defense, who are only allowing 274.5 yards a game total. Only Clemson and Michigan rank higher.

“I feel like Warren Sapp came back and he’s playing in all four of those down positions for Miami,” Narduzzi said. “They are as good a defense as you’re going to find.”

This will be a good test on how well Pitt will fare when they do meet Clemson a week from Saturday. Narduzzi reiterated his point that this game is all about Miami though…

“If we don’t’ get focused, we’ll get smacked in the mouth and next week won’t even matter. I hate to tell you that. This (Pitt) football team doesn’t like to lose. It gives you a bad taste in your mouth.”

Pitt was once one the brink of disaster this season. They fell to 2-3 after dropping two straight to North Carolina and UCF. This team plays in Pittsburgh, however, and this group of young men took on the mentality that this city was built on, as in never giving up and fighting back no matter what the odds were.

They earned every win that lead them to the Coastal Division Title.

“We never lost faith,” Narduzzi said. “Somebody else may have, OK, and I don’t point any fingers, but we never lost faith. So there’s never a point. That’s the God’s honest truth right there. We never lost faith.

“There’s going to be ups and downs. You can’t beat everybody. You can’t be perfect. But there’s — I don’t think anybody lost faith in this room, and we kept them together, and that’s how you have success.”

Last week, when Wake Forest was having success in stopping Pitt’s running game, Kenny Pickett upped his game throwing for 316 yards and three touchdowns in Pitt’s 34-13 romping of Wake Forest.

“We know how capable he is,” Narduzzi said of Pickett. “He’s accurate. He’s smooth. He’s still young. I think everybody wants instant gratification, and he’s a great football player.

“We’ve never lost faith in him.”

Miami’s head coach Mark Richt has had a bit of a quarterback problem all season long. Freshman N’Kosi Perry will start, but senior Malik Rosier was the starter at the beginning of the year, and the two have been rotating in and out since. Three of four University of Miami scholarship quarterbacks were suspended at various times this season.

Perry will be the guy against Pitt.

“He’s getting better and more and more confident,” Richt said after his young QB threw for 171 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a third in the win over Virginia Tech. “There were some times where he missed a guy here and there, but he managed the game well. He didn’t throw any picks, didn’t fumble the ball. You could just see his comfort level rising.

“One day, I believe you’ll see him really come into a zone, and he’s working to that right now.”

Perry will be without two of his best pass catchers, as ‘Cane’s leading receiver WR Jeff Thomas left the team this week, and tight end Brevin Jordan was lost to injury vs the Hokies.

That leaves a void of 65 receptions, 837 yards and seven touchdowns in the Miami passing game. Jordan’s injury also leaves the U without one single scholarship tight end on the roster.

To make matters worse, Miami also lost linebacker in Mike Smith who was also injured against Virginia Tech.

Pitt will be with starting center Jimmy Morrissey, who was hurt late in the Wake Forest game.

Connor Dintino will assume the starting duties. Morrissey is never far away to give advice to his fellow teammate.

“Jimmy’s always in my ear, whether I liked it or not,” Dintino said, laughing.

Dintino was the starting left guard for the vaunted Pitt offensive line. That allows versatile sophomore Bryce Hargrove to assume Dintino’s guard duties.

“I’ve always practiced it,” Dintino said about playing center. “What if the worst case happened? I’ve done stuff after practice (with quarterback Kenny Pickett). We’re used to each other now.

“We’ve taken enough snaps through the years. He was taking snaps from me last year before he moved up to a starter. He knows how I’m different than Jimmy. We had one bad snap (Tuesday) and that was in pre-practice before we even warmed up.”

This close-knit unit won’t let anything, including injury, to keep them from attaining their goals. Though hurt, Morrissey will continue to be a leader off the field.

“Jimmy has been tremendous for us this year, both as a player and a leader,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “We all share his disappointment, but I know this will only be a temporary setback for him.

“In the meantime, I know he will continue to do all he can to help our offensive line perform at the same high level. That’s the type of person and teammate he is.”

 

 

Pitt Keys to Victory

Offense

  • Be creative with the running game. Keep Miami on their heels.
  • No turnovers. Miami feeds off of them.
  • Keep Kenny Pickett rolling.

Defense

  • Limit splash plays.
  • Make Miami one dimensional. Contain the running game and make N’Kosi Perry beat you.
  • Tackle and hit hard. Knock the swagger right out of them.

 

Prediction

What a turnaround for the Panthers. This team could’ve tossed in the white towel a long time ago, but they fought through adversity and learned from their mistakes. Now they are one of the hottest teams in the country, excelling their game both offensively and defensively.

Neither a win or a loss here means anything in regards to the ACC, but great teams refuse to lose no matter what the situation. 8-4 looks much tastier than 7-5. This program wants to keep trending upwards, and sending Miami to .500 both overall and in the ACC is a nice feather in the cap before embarking into the ACC Championship Game next Saturday night. Plus, the ACC Tier I Bowls will be looking closely at this game and how Pitt plays. Pitt has one helluva challenge vs Clemson, and no one wants a team with the possibility of a two game losing streak highlighting their game.

Pitt, simply, is better, and if they keep their focus as Narduzzi promised, they will head into the game of their lives with a five game winning streak, and a boatload of confidence.

Miami presents a great challenge defensively, but with how dominating Pitt’s running game has been, along with an improving passing game behind Kenny Pickett, the Panthers can now bring a balance that opposing teams haven’t seen all year.

As good as the offense has been, the defense has really come together, especially the last three games. Miami is a wounded animal without the services of two of it’s best offensive players in Jeff Thomas and Brevin Jordan. N’Kosi Perry is a talented player, but if Pitt continues to get to the quarterback as they have been, it could be along and miserable day for Perry.

This is a game of how much do you really want it for Pitt.

“We’ve got to come down there with the same energy [as last year] because we know they’re probably going to be trying to come at us,” Pitt defensive end Patrick Jones said. “Because we took a lot away from them.”

Pitt 27 Miami 17

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Game Information

NCAA Week 13

Pitt Panthers at Miami Hurricanes

Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL.

Game-time: Saturday, November 24th, 3:30 pm

Game Tickets Link

TV:  ESPN | Announcers: Anish Shroff (play-by-play)  Ahmad Brooks (analyst) | Roddy Jones (reporter)

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

National Radio: N/A | Announcers: 

Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 113, XM Channel 194, Internet Channel 956

Weather at Kickoff: 84 with a chance of storms.

Vegas Line: Miami -4.5

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Pitt vs Miami History

  • Series History: Began in 1950
  • Pitt is 11-25-1 overall vs Miami
  • Pitt is 5-11-1 on road vs Miami
  • Pitt is 6-14 at home vs Miami
  • Streak: Pitt won last meeting.
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Nov. 24, 2017 (Pitt 24, Miami 14)

Game Notes* 

  • With a ticket already punched to the Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game, Pitt heads to Miami intent on earning an eighth win and enhancing its bowl profile. The Panthers clinched the Coastal Division and ACC title game appearance with a 34-13 victory at Wake Forest last week.
  • Pitt has not defeated Miami in consecutive games since the 1970 and 1976 meetings.
  • Sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett was Pitt’s catalyst in the Wake Forest win. The first-year starter threw for a career-high 316 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-30 passing.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Taysir Mack is emerging as the Panthers’ top vertical threat. Mack, in his first season at Pitt following a transfer from Indiana, is averaging 24.16 yards per catch, tops in the ACC and second nationally.
  • Pitt boasts a formidable senior tailback tandem in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. Pitt has never had a 1,000-yard rushing duo in the same season but Ollison (1,106) and Hall (888) are on the cusp of that historic first.

    *Courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com

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A look at the Pitt Panthers!

Scouting the Panthers

Quarterback 

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. Jeff George has risen to the #2 spot.

Running Backs

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!

Wide Receivers

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.

Tight Ends

At tight end, sophomore Tyler Sear transferred out, leaving the job to Arkansas transfer Will Gragg and Grant Carrigan. Jim Medure is also in the mix.

Defense

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.

Placekicker

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. This year, he’s has nailed four field goals from beyond 50 yards, including a Heinz Field record 55 yarder.

Kick/Punt Return

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.

Individual Stats

Quarterback

  • Kenny Pickett (1,695 yards passing | 12 TD passes | 5 interceptions | 22 sacks | 220 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD)

Running Back

  • Qadree Ollison (1,106 yards rushing | 10 rushing TD’s | 10 receptions | 50 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Darrin Hall (888 yards rushing | 9 rushing TD’s | 12 receptions | 68 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)

Fullback

  • George Aston (3 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 14 receptions | 65 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Rafael Araujo-Lopes (28 receptions | 290 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s | 28 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Maurice Ffrench (27 receptions | 453 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s | 111 yards rushing | 2 TD’s)
  • Taysir Mack  (19 receptions | 459 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • Aaron Matthews (9 receptions | 120 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Shocky Jaques-Louis (9 receptions | 76 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 58 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Tre Tipton (5 receptions | 42 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Dontavius Butler-Jenkins (4 receptions | 12 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 0 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)

Tight Ends

  • Will Gragg (5 receptions | 31 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Jim Medure (3 receptions | 29 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

Placekicker

  • Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 38-40 | FG: 9-12 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  1-1 | 30-39:  1-3 | 40-49:  3-4 | 50+:  4-4 | Long: 55)

Kickoff Returner

  • Maurice Ffrench (29.7 yards per kickoff return | 2 return TD’s)

Punt Returner

  • Rafael Araujo-Lopes (8.6 yards per punt return | 1 return TD’s)

*Injured

 

A look at the Miami Hurricanes!

Scouting the Hurricanes

Quarterback

Freshman N’Kosi Perry will start, but Malik Rosier will also see time in the game. Against Virginia Tech, Perry threw for just 171 yards, completing 21 of 34 passes, and two touchdowns.

Running Back

Travis Homer is the lead back and has rushed for 801 yards and three touchdowns. DeeJay Dallas will see plenty of action spelling Homer.

Wide Receivers

Jeff Thomas was Miami’s leading receiver, but left this team after the VaTech game. That leaves Lawrence Cager, Mike Harley, and Darrell Langham to pick up the void left by Thomas. Cager has 19 receptions for 344 yards, but six of those catches ended up in the end-zone.

Tight Ends

Brevin Jordan was 2nd on the team in reception with 30, but is out after suffering an injury vs the Hokies. Jordan’s injury now leaves the Hurricanes with any scholarship tight ends on the roster.

Defense

Miami allows just 19.5 points per game, but will be without top linebacker Mike Smith who is out with a knee injury.

 

Individual Stats

Quarterback

  • N’Kosi Perry (1,037 yards passing | 13 TD passes | 5 interceptions | 14 sacks | 112 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD)
  • Malik Rosier (1,007 yards passing | 6 TD passes | 5 interceptions | 10 sacks | 210 yards rushing | 6 rushing TD)

Running Back

  • Travis Homer (801 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 15 receptions | 161 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • DeeJay Dallas (570 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s | 10 receptions | 85 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Cam’ron Davis (152 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 25yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • #Jeff Thomas (35 receptions | 563 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
  • Lawrence Cager (19 receptions | 344 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
  • Mike Harley (19 receptions | 222 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Darrell Langham (12 receptions | 150 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

  • *Brevin Jordan (30 receptions | 275 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)

Placekicker

  • Bubba Baxa (Extra Point: 42-43 | FG: 7-10 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  2-3 | 30-39:  4-4 | 40-49:  1-3 | 50+:  0-0 | Long: 47)

*Injured

#Left Team

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Pitt – Miami: Offense vs Defense Match-Ups

Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 403 YPG | Miami allows 274.5 YPG

Rushing: Pitt averages 247.5 YPG | Miami allows 132.8 YPG

Passing: Pitt averages 155.5 YPG | Miami allows 141.7 YPG

Scoring: Pitt averages 30.3 PPG | Miami allows 19.5 PPG

 

Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 404.9 YPG | Miami averages 377.3 YPG

Rushing: Pitt allows 163.5 YPG | Miami averages 188.6 YPG

Passing: Pitt allows 241.4 YPG | Miami averages 188.6 YPG

Scoring: Pitt allows 28.1 PPG | Miami averages 31.5 PPG

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Injury Report (11/22/2018)

Pitt Panthers

  • Out: LB Quintin Wirginis (Knee), DL Keyshon Camp (Upper Body), C Jimmy Morissey
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: None
  • Probable: None


Miami Hurricanes

  • Out: LB Mike Smith (Knee), TE Brevin Jordan (Ankle), TE Will Mallory (Knee)
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: WR Jeff Thomas (?)
  • Probable: QB Jarren Williams, LB Michael Pinckney

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ACC Standings

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Pitt Panthers 2018 Schedule

Regular Season (Overall: 7-4 |  ACC: 6-1)

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* | W- 34-13
Nov. 24 at Miami* at 3:30 p.m.

Dec. 1 ACC Championship Game in Charlotte: vs Clemson at 8:00 p.m.

*ACC game /  (HC) Homecoming  / Ranking when game was played

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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