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Pitt Panthers vs Virginia Cavaliers Game Preview

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

 

PANTHERS OUT TO PROVE DOUBTERS WRONG AS 2019 SEASON OPENS VS VIRGINIA

When it comes to Pitt Panthers football, you’ll never have to look far to find doubters and naysayers about the program. If it’s not hate from rivals, or the local media, it’s their own self loathing group of fans who will expect Murphy’s Law to take effect eventually on any given Saturday.

The Panthers enter the 2019 season as defending Coastal Division Champions, but it’s the Virginia Cavaliers who are the trendy pick to take that title away from Pitt in 2019… and as for Pitt?

Most people predict a 3rd or 4th place finish at best.

Why so low, you ask? Pitt lost two 1,000 yard rushers from last season, and the passing game under Kenny Pickett last year was abysmal, not to be critical or anything.

On Saturday night at Heinz Field, Pickett and his Panthers will have a chance to make a big statement when the ball is kicked off at 7:30 pm against those very same Cavaliers, who are favored by 2 1/2 points.

“There’s always a chip on your shoulder,” Pickett said. “We have a lot of doubters out there. That’s OK. We’re just working on ourselves.”

Pickett enters this season full of confidence, thanks to new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.

Pitt was 7-4, 6-1 in the ACC, before dropping their final three games of the season to Miami, Clemson, and Stanford, in which the offense only produced 23 points–not  one earned through the passing game.

Whipple, who has built a reputation as a passing-game savant, is looking to jump-start that part of the offense. Wherever Whipple goes, eye-popping yardage totals always seem to follow. UMass averaged 283.8 yards through the air during Whipple’s tenure as head coach.

Receiver Maurice Ffrench has witnessed the difference Whipple has made in just a few months.

“Coach Whipple, his offense is like more ‘Get the playmaker the ball and find that spot that’s open in the defense,’” Ffrench said. “It’s just up to Kenny and wherever he wants to throw, because a lot of people are open on every play. So Kenny’s just got to make the decision.”

Receivers have now been conditioned to play to the whistle, something that didn’t happen all too often last year according to Pickett, who didn’t elaborate on who.

“Sometimes in the game, I’m going to look there, and my read takes me there and I look there and he’s not giving 100% and he’s covered, you’re kind of in a tough situation,” Pickett said. “Now every guy is getting full-go every single play because they want the ball and they know they have a chance to score a touchdown.”

Whipple, whose has previous NFL experience in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, now provides Pitt with pinch of the unpredictable.

“The system he’s run in the past is explosive and very difficult to stop,” Virginia HC Bronco Mendenhall said. “How much of that is now tilted towards Pitt’s past identity of running the football and how much that’s emphasized, we can only speculate.”

Pitt will certainly look to dominate with it’s running game, a program staple since Tony Dorsett in the 70’s, but don’t sleep on the passing game, which will be much improved under Whipple’s tutelage.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi expects a complete offense when the Panthers take the field in 2019.

“Our passing game has to be dynamic, too,” Narduzzi said. “When we throw it, let’s complete it, you know? I guess we find out Saturday night.”

Game Notes

Before the kickoff, Pitt will pay tribute to three-time, first-team All-American offensive tackle Bill Fralic, who died Dec. 13.

Fralic’s brother-in-law, former Pitt fullback Tom Brown of Lower Burrell, will be an honorary captain. Other members of Fralic’s family will also attend. Pitt will pass out commemorative rally towels with Fralic’s #79 on it to people as they enter Heinz Field.

“It will be an incredible sight to see all those 79 towels waving at Heinz Field,” Narduzzi said.

 

Pitt Keys to Victory

  1. Run a Balanced Offense: Be Unpredictable.
  2. Ball Control: No untimely turnovers.
  3. Contain Bryce Perkins: Pitt’s D needs to lay the wood to Virginia’s talented QB.

 

Prediction

Most seasons begin with a cupcake to start off the year.

Not this time.

Pitt kicks off the 2019 campaign against ACC foe Virginia, who were picked by many to supplant the Panthers as Coastal Division champs. Pitt will have a chance to prove all doubters wrong, and take the first step in repeating as Coastal champions.

Out are vaunted 1,000 yard rushers in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. In are A.J. David and Todd Sibley, both of who are eager to prove their mettle.

“We challenged ourselves as a group,” Sibley said. “We told ourselves we weren’t going to fill their shoes. We’re going to try to be better.”

Don’t count out freshman Vincent Davis either.

“That guy can run fast,” Sibley said. “He makes people miss. He’s all over the field. One minute, he’s in the hole. The next minute, he’s outside. “I think he will be a big addition to the offense this year.”

Like the receivers, the running backs are just as excited about the addition of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.

“With coach Whipple, you have to be ready for anything,” Sibley said. “He’s constantly coming up with new schemes, new plays. He’ll have you lined up in the slot one moment. He’ll have you in the backfield. He’ll motion you out one play.

“Knowing your plays and being on top of things is the biggest thing with coach Whipple because you never know what you’re going to get with him.”

Offense aside, it will be the defense that will have a big say on if Pitt will start off the year 1-0. They have the task of covering Heisman Candidate Bryce Perkins.

Perkins was one of only two quarterbacks last season to throw for 2,600 yards plus run for 900. The other? That was Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

“He can run it. He can throw it. He’s accurate. He’s smart,” Pitt defensive coordinator Randy Bates said. “And they put him in great positions to make plays. It’s a great challenge to keep him in the pocket, let alone tackle him.”

The Panthers recorded five sacks against Perkins in last year’s game. Defensive ends Dewayne Hendrix and Rashad Weaver were busy hunting down the talented QB. This season Hendrix is with the Miami Dolphins, and Weaver sustained an ACL injury in Camp. In their place is Patrick Jones II and Deslin Alexandre. Jones, secured 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks last season.

“It’s a challenge for everybody on that field. Deslin isn’t rushing all by himself,” Narduzzi said when asked if containing Perkins would be a challenge for Alexandre. “It’s going to take all four of them. … The linebackers, as well.”

The pressure is on both Pitt and Narduzzi, who enters his 5th season as Panther’s head coach, to have a successful season. That means producing better than a 7-7 record and another Bowl loss.

Attendance, which has always been an issue regarding Pitt, could be greatly affected the rest of the year based on the result of the very first game. A win Saturday night would provide a huge boost in fan morale, not to mention confidence to a team that will face #15 Penn State and #17 UCF later in September.

Look for a much improved offense to take a tough Virginia defense by surprise, as well as a solid Pitt defense that returns several starters from last year’s unit, which also added Florida transfer Kylan Johnson to the mix.

Kenny Pickett is the key to the Panther’s fortunes. He looks completely different under Mark Whipple than the horror show Pitt fans witnessed last year. Look for Pitt to pull away in the 2nd half.

Pitt 27 Virginia 17

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Game Information

Pitt Panthers vs Virginia Cavaliers

  • Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA. | Field: Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Game-time: Saturday, August 31st, at 7:30 pm ET
  • Game Tickets Link
  • TV: ACC Network | Announcers: Adam Amin (play-by-play) Tim Hasselbeck (analyst) | Katie George (reporter)
  • Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Pat Bostick (analyst) | Larry Richert (reporter)
  • National Radio: N/A | Announcers: 
  • Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 138, XM Channel 193, Internet Channel 955
  • Weather at Kickoff: 70 and sunny. Winds N 5-10 mph.
  • Vegas Line: Virginia -2.5

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Pitt Panthers vs Virginia Cavaliers History

Series History: Began in 1953

  • Pitt is 8-3 overall vs Virginia
  • At Home: 5-0
  • On Road: 3-2
  • Neutral Site: 0-1
  • ACC Series: 5-1
  • Streak: Pitt won last four meetings.
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Nov. 2, 2018 (Pitt won, 23-13)

Did You Know?* 

  • Pitt opens its 130th season of intercollegiate football when the Panthers host ACC foe Virginia at Heinz Field. The game will serve as Pitt’s initial appearance on the newly launched ACC Network.
  • In a preseason media poll, Virginia was picked to win the 2019 Coastal championship. Pitt was voted fourth.
  • The Panthers are 5-1 against Virginia in ACC play, the lone loss occurring during the 2014 season in Charlottesville. Pat Narduzzi is undefeated (4-0) against the Cavaliers during his Pitt tenure.
  • Pitt is 84-43-2 (.659) all-time in openers. Since the 2000 season, the Panthers are 14-5 (.737) in their initial game, including 4-0 under Pat Narduzzi.
  • Pitt last opened the season with a conference game on Sept. 2, 2013. Playing in their inaugural ACC game, the Panthers lost 41-13 to visiting Florida State, that year’s eventual national champion. (That 2013 game against the Seminoles also marks the last time Pitt lost a season opener.)
  • The Panthers are the defending ACC Coastal Division champion. Pitt finished with a 6-2 conference mark last season to claim the division and advance to the ACC Championship Game.

    *Courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com

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Pitt

A look at the Pitt Panthers!

Scouting the Panthers

OFFENSE (Pro Style)

Quarterback

Kenny Pickett*

Good arm and accurate when playing Pro Style QB. Utilizes his legs well and scrambles for extra yards.

  • Passing Yards: 0 | TD Passes: 0 | Interceptions: 0 | Sacks: 0 | Yards Rushing: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

 

Running Backs

A.J. Davis*

Talented ball carrier who looks to make his mark in the 2019 season.

  • Yards Rushing: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0 | Receptions: 0 | Yards Receiving: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0

Todd Sibley

Like his fellow back Davis, yearning for a breakout season toting the rock for the Panthers.

  • Yards Rushing: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0 | Receptions: 0 | Yards Receiving: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0

 

Wide Receivers

Maurice Ffrench*

One of the best returners in the game. Looking to take his receiving game to the next level.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0  | Rushing TD’s: 0

Taysir Mack*

Reliable in his route running and hands.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0  | Rushing TD’s: 0

Tre Tipton*

Enters this season looking to have a breakout season for the Panthers.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

Dontavius Butler-Jenkins

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0  | Rushing TD’s: 0

V’lique Carter

Versatile player who also moonlights as a RB and at cornerback. Special athlete.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

Shocky Jaques-Louis

Has all the talent in the world. Will this be the year he displays all of it. Starts season not listed on the Two-Deep roster…

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

Aaron Matthews

Great blocker who would like to incorporate a few catches intro his arsenal.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

John Vardzel

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

 

Tight Ends

Will Gragg*

Hoping to bring the position out of the lost and found.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0  | Rushing TD’s: 0

Grant Carrigan

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

Nakia Griffin-Stewart

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

*Denotes Starter

OFFENSIVE LINE

Left Tackle: Carter Warren | Left Guard: Bryce Hargrove | Center: Jimmy Morrissey | Right Guard: Gabe Houy | Right Tackle: Nolan Ulizio

DEFENSE (Base 4-3)

Defensive End: Patrick Jones II | Defensive Tackle: Jaylen Twyman/Amir Watts | Defensive Tackle: Keyshon Camp | Defensive End: Deslin Alexandre

Money LB: Kylan Johnson | Mike LB: Elias Reynolds | Star LB: Cam Bright/Phil Campbell III

Cornerback: Dane Jackson | Strong Safety: Paris Ford | Free Safety: Damar Hamlin | Cornerback: Jason Pinnock

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker

Alex Kessman

  • Extra Points: 0-0 | FG: 0-0 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  0-0 | 30-39:  0-0 | 40-49:  0-0 | 50+:  0-0 | Long: 0

 

Punter

Kirk Christodoulou

  • Yards per Punt: 0

Kickoff Returner

Maurice Ffrench

Ffrench averaged 27.4 yards per return last year with two touchdowns.

  • Yards per Kickoff Return: N/A | Return TD’s: 0

 

Punt Returner

Maurice Ffrench

  • Yards per Kickoff Return: N/A | Return TD’s: 0

 

Pitt Injury Report (8/29/19)

  • Out: DL Rashad Weaver (ACL)
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: None
  • Probable: None

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Pitt vs Virginia

A look at the Virginia Cavaliers!

Scouting the Cavaliers

OFFENSE (Multiple Sets)

Quarterback

Bryce Perkins*

Heisman candidate who can kill you through the air and ground.

  • Passing Yards: 0 | TD Passes: 0 | Interceptions: 0 | Sacks: 0 | Yards Rushing: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

 

Running Backs

Wayne Taulapapa*

Making his first start at RB for the Cavaliers.

  • Yards Rushing: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0 | Receptions: 0 | Yards Receiving: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0

PK Keir

Ran 21 times for 68 yards in 2018.

  • Yards Rushing: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0 | Receptions: 0 | Yards Receiving: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0

Jamari Peacock

  • Yards Rushing: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0 | Receptions: 0 | Yards Receiving: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0

Wide Receivers

Hasise Dubois*

Lead WR for Virginia. Nabbed 47 receptions for 521 yards and five scores in ’18.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0  | Rushing TD’s: 0

Joe Reed*

24 catches for 455 yards last year and seven touchdowns.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0  | Rushing TD’s: 0

Terrell Jana

Jana contributed 11 catches for 151 yards and a TD in 2018.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

Dorien Goddard

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0  | Rushing TD’s: 0

Chuck Davis

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

Terrell Chatman

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

 

Tight Ends

Tanner Crowley*

Four receptions in 2018 for 68 yards.

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0  | Rushing TD’s: 0

Grant Misch

  • Receptions: 0 | Receiving Yards: 0 | Receiving TD’s: 0 | Rushing Yards: 0 | Rushing TD’s: 0

*Denotes Starter

DEFENSE (Base 3-4)

The Cavaliers ranked 20th nationally last season in yards allowed per game (330.5) and 21st in scoring defense (20.1). Good linebackers and secondary.

Charles Snowden, the 6-foot-7 former basketball player, now a converted linebacker, will be the key to stopping Pitt’s improved passing attack and limiting the long, explosive runs that helped the Panthers defeat Virginia last year.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker

Brian Delaney

Good, accurate kicker. Made all 21 extra point attempts and was 12 of 15 in field goals.

  • Extra Points: 0-0 | FG: 0-0 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  0-0 | 30-39:  0-0 | 40-49:  0-0 | 50+:  0-0 | Long: 0

Virginia Injury Report (8/29/19)

  • Out: DB Darrius Bratton (Knee)
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: None
  • Probable: None

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OFFENSIVE & DEFENSIVE STATS

Total Offense: Pitt averages 0 YPG | Virginia averages 0 YPG

  • Rushing: Pitt averages 0 YPG | Virginia averages 0 YPG
  • Passing: Pitt averages 0 YPG | Virginia averages 0 YPG
  • Scoring: Pitt averages 0 PPG | Virginia averages 0 PPG

 

Total Defense: Pitt allows 0 YPG | Virginia allows 0 YPG

  • Rushing: Pitt allows 0 YPG | Virginia allows 0 YPG
  • Passing: Pitt allows 0 YPG | Virginia allows 0 YPG
  • Scoring: Pitt allows 0 PPG | Virginia allows 0 PPG

Defensive Stats

  • Pitt- Sacks: 0 | Interceptions: 0 | Fumbles: 0
  • Virginia- Sacks: 0 | Interceptions: 0 | Fumbles: 0

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ACC Standings

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Pitt Panthers 2019 Schedule

Regular Season: Overall: 0-0 |  ACC: 0-0

August 31: Virginia* (ACCN), 7:30 p.m.
September 7: Ohio (ACCN), 11 a.m.
September 14: at #15 Penn State (ABC), Noon
September 21: #17 UCF, TBA
September 28: Delaware, TBA
October 5: at Duke*, TBA
October 18: (Friday) at #22 Syracuse* (ESPN), 7 p.m.
October 26: Miami* (HC), TBA
November 2: at Georgia Tech*, TBA
November 14: (Thursday) North Carolina* (ESPN), 8 p.m.
November 23: at Virginia Tech*, TBA
November 30: Boston College*, TBA

*ACC game | (HC) Homecoming | 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.

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 Football.

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