ACC

Pitt Panthers vs North Carolina Tar Heels Preview

Pitt Panthers

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 (@PghSportsNet) brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a game story, Pitt’s key’s to success, score prediction, game information, a detailed breakdown of each team, including individual stats, team stats, and team injury reports. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!

 

PANTHERS TRY TO END CURSE VS TAR HEELS AND THEIR OFFENSIVE MISCUES

Pittsburgh’s two football teams share the same headquarters and practice facilities. Both teams have storied histories and Hall of Fame players. Both teams feature defenses that are playing at a championship level.

Both teams also have offenses that are it’s own worst enemies.

In this preview, we are referring to the Pitt Panthers and an offense that can make you pull your hair out at times.

Drops have plagued the Panthers all season long, but lately the turnover bug has hit the offense as well. Instead of showing improvement as the season has gotten older, Kenny Pickett and his unit have been treading water, have lacked splash plays, and can never put two halves of football together.

“Kenny has played really good at times and played average at times, which is kind of the game of football,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said of Pickett.. “He’s not going to be perfect. There’s nobody in this room perfect. Certainly, I’m not perfect.”

Pitt passes the ball much more than they do running it. You know the old saying about passing… there are three outcomes to passing the ball, and only one ends up being positive.

“We know things are going to happen,” Narduzzi said. “Nobody is perfect, but we’ve been a turn-over-the-ball-in-the-first-half type of team the last couple weeks, and we’ve got to get that out of our system.”

Overall, Pitt has committed 16 turnovers, eight via Pickett interceptions, and its defense, although playing as outstanding as they have, have picked up only 11. That’s minus five in the books, which isn’t a winning number or a plan to be successful.

“We have to stop the turnovers,” the coach continued, “but one of them, we tip it to them. One probably is a bad throw. He kind of looked the receiver down, which brought the free safety over there, which are little details we can correct.”

Will Pitt be looking to run the ball a little more often?

“It would make me want to hand the ball off to someone I trust,” Narduzzi said. “Once you run a zone blitz, and it gets you beat, what? Is it going to slow you down from zone blitzing? Heck, yeah. If you rush the punter, and you run into him, do you think we’re going to rush the punter the next time? Probably not.

“I think any time things happen in games, it’s natural for you to go, ‘OK, hold on. What can we do? What are our guys capable of doing right now, and how do I not throw the game by just chucking it as deep as I want to or doing things that really hurt the football team?’

“I think it’s just being smart.”

 

Pitt’s Key’s to Success

  1. End the Miscues: Enough is enough with the turnovers and dropped passes. Do your job!
  2. Establish the Ground Game: Best way to do this is to connect on a few long pass plays. UNC can be had running ball, so Pitt’s RB’s better be ready to play.
  3. Make Sam Howell uncomfortable: Contain UNC’s best player by hitting him early and often.
  4. Hello Splash Plays: Kenny Pickett is in dire need of connecting for a few long passing plays. Time for Maurice Ffrench and Taysir Mack to elevate their games even more.

 

Prediction

It’s more than a little annoying that the NFL decided to schedule the Pittsburgh Steelers to play the Cleveland Browns on the same night Pitt hosts North Carolina.

First, it keeps this reporter from getting to watch both games, as I, as usual, will be down on the sidelines for the game. I could go to the Press Box and enjoy the warmth, hot dogs, the Pitt game in front of me, and the Steelers on TV, but I like it down in the jungle, where I can get the best feel for the game.

Coach Narduzzi isn’t pleased either.

“They have to start to look and say, ‘What makes sense for the city of Pittsburgh?’ and that obviously wasn’t done,” Narduzzi said Monday at his press conference.

“I really don’t think about it much — until this week, I thought about it.

“What are we doing here?” he wondered. “You look at it and say it’s not good for the ACC playing on the same night as an NFL franchise in your same city.”

“It’d be different if the Cowboys were playing the Seattle Seahawks or the New England Patriots. Same city, two hours away. Our schedule came out before theirs (January, compared to April).”

It’s a tough spot for the program that doesn’t sell out it’s stadium like the state schools do. City schools have always had attendance issues, and when the city’s NFL team is also playing a pivotal game that same evening, it’s going to hamper butts in the seats in a major way.

Nevertheless, no matter how big the crowd will be on a very chilly November night in Pittsburgh, the players are hoping it’s loud and boisterous, as the team is looking for every advantage to end it’s curse at the hands of the North Carolina Tar Heels, who are 6-0 vs Pitt since the Panthers joined he ACC.

UNC has tortured Pitt in every fashion and way possible in those six defeats. Almost every game comes down to the last few minutes where the game ends and Pitt leaves the field stunned.

Pitt still has a good chance of winning the ACC Coastal Title… all they have to do is win their final three games vs UNC, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, and hope that same VaTech teams trips up Virginia along the way.

UNC’s QB, Sam Howell, leads the ACC with 26 touchdown passes, but has also been sacked 28 times. You can bet the house that Pitt’s defense, with 40 sacks, will be coming after Howell with vigor. Pitt is 2nd in the nation averaging 4.44 sacks per game. It will be especially bad for Howell if tackle Charlie Heck is unable to play.

It would behoove Pitt’s offense to start making some big plays and learn a killer instinct as well.

“It’s going to be an emphasis moving forward,” Pickett said of capitalizing splash plays. “If we make one guy miss, we can have some really explosive plays in the pass game. Those guys are working really hard, so I know it’ll happen sooner or later.”

All bad things must end, and on this Thursday night, so will the UNC Curse.

Pitt 31 North Carolina 20

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Game Information

Pitt Panthers vs North Carolina

  • Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA. | Field: Natural Grass
  • Game-time: Thursday, November 14th, at 8:00 p.m. ET
  • Game Tickets Link
  • TV: ESPN | Announcers: Adam Amin (play-by-play) Matt Hasselbeck and Pat McAfee (analysts) | Molly McGrath (reporter)
  • Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers: Larry Richert (play-by-play) Pat Bostick (analyst) | Jeff Hathhorn (reporter)
  • Online Radio: 937thefan.radio.com
  • Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 84, XM Channel 84, Internet Channel 84
  • Weather at Kickoff: 36 and clear. Winds SW 5 MPH
  • Vegas Line: Pitt -4.5

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Pitt vs North Carolina History

Series History: Began in 1974

Pitt is 3-10 overall vs UNC

  • At Home: 2-4
  • On Road: 0-6
  • Neutral Site: 1-0
  • ACC Series: 0-6
  • Streak: UNC won last six meetings.
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Sept. 22, 2018 (UNC 38, Pitt 35)

 

Did You Know?* 

  • A national ESPN Thursday night spotlight will shine on Heinz Field when Pitt hosts ACC foe North Carolina. This will be the Panthers’ 24th all-time appearance on ESPN’s Thursday package.
  • Narrow margins have been the rule during recent Pitt-UNC series history. The past eight meetings have been decided by a combined 31 points (3.9 points per game). The Tar Heels edged Pitt last year, 38-35, in Chapel Hill.
  • Pitt’s last victory in the series occurred in the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. Dave Wannstedt’s Panthers edged the Tar Heels (coached by Butch Davis), 19-17, on a field goal with 52 seconds left.
  • Pitt boasts the country’s top pass rush. The Panthers lead the nation in total sacks (40). Defensive end Patrick Jones II and tackle Jaylen Twyman lead Pitt with seven sacks each.
  • The Panthers have the most productive pass-catching duo in the country. Maurice Ffrench (75) and Taysir Mack (53) have combined for 128 receptions this season, the most of any Football Bowl Subdivision receiving duo.

    *Courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com

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Pitt

Scouting the Pitt Panthers!

Overall Record: 6-3 | ACC Record: 3-2 | Rank: N/A

Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (5th Season with Pitt)

  • Lifetime Record: 34-27 (.557)

2019 Pitt Panthers Roster

Pitt Team Statistics

Previous Game: Pitt 20 Georgia Tech 10

 

OFFENSE (Pro Style)

Quarterbacks

Kenny Pickett*

Tough kid, good arm, and getting better each week under Mark Whipple’s offense. Utilizes his legs well and scrambles for extra yards.

Passing Yards: 1,952

  • TD Passes: 9
  • Interceptions: 8
  • Sacks: 20

Yards Rushing: 89

  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Receptions: 1

  • Receiving Yards: 3
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

Nick Patti

Filled in well for Pickett when he was out for the Delaware game.

Passing Yards: 287

  • TD Passes: 3
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Sacks: 0

Yards Rushing: 24

  • Rushing TD’s: 0

 

Running Backs

A.J. Davis*

Talented ball carrier who is dangerous on the ground and through the air, especially on screens.

Yards Rushing: 407

  • Rushing TD’s: 3

Receptions: 17

  • Yards Receiving: 209
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Vincent Davis

The ultra quick Vincent Davis looks to utilize his speed and agility to be a game-breaker for the Panthers.

Yards Rushing: 179

  • Rushing TD’s: 3

Receptions: 1

  • Yards Receiving: 0
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Todd Sibley, Jr.

Has done well when his number has been called.

Yards Rushing: 249

  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Receptions: 2

  • Yards Receiving: 18
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

 

Wide Receivers

Maurice Ffrench*

Once one of the best returners in the game. Has taken his receiving game to the next level in 2019.

Receptions: 75

  • Receiving Yards: 606
  • Receiving TD’s: 3

Taysir Mack*

Runs great routes and makes the big catches in traffic.

Receptions: 53

  • Receiving Yards: 610
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

Aaron Mathews*

Great blocker who would like to incorporate a few more catches intro his arsenal. Part time QB…

Receptions: 10

  • Receiving Yards: 170
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

V’lique Carter

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

Receptions: 14

  • Receiving Yards: 149
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

Yards Rushing: 184

  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Dontavius Butler-Jenkins

Butler-Jenkins has stepped up his game in the absence of the injured Tre Tipton.

Receptions: 6

  • Receiving Yards: 65
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

Shocky Jaques-Louis

Has all the talent in the world. Being implemented into the passing attack more each week.

Receptions: 5

  • Receiving Yards: 50
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Yards Rushing: 36

  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Tre Tipton

Injured and out for the season.

Receptions: 7

  • Receiving Yards: 81
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

 

Tight Ends

Nakia Griffin-Stewart*

Physical player, but drops way too many passes.

Receptions: 13

  • Receiving Yards: 126
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

Will Gragg

Trying to become a reliable target across the middle for Kenny Pickett.

Receptions: 14

  • Receiving Yards: 96
  • Receiving 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

Defensive Tackle: Amir Watts/Devin Danielson

Defensive End: Deslin Alexandre

Money LB: Kylan Johnson

Mike LB: Saleem Brightwell/Chase Pine

Star LB: Phil Campbell III/Cam Bright

Cornerback: Dane Jackson

Strong Safety: Paris Ford

Free Safety: Damar Hamlin

Cornerback: Damarri Mathis/Jason Pinnock

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker

Alex Kessman

Had some early misses, but has been back on track since the UCF game. 

Extra Points: 20-21

FG: 14-21

  • 0-19:  0-1 | 20-29:  6-6 | 30-39:  3-4 | 40-49:  4-7 | 50+:  1-3
  • Long: 54

 

Punter

Kirk Christodoulou

Yards per Punt: 42.7

 

Kickoff Returner

Maurice Ffrench

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

Yards per Kickoff Return: 17.3

  • Return TD’s: 0

 

Punt Returner

Maurice Ffrench

Yards per Kickoff Return: 6

  • Return TD’s: 0

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Scouting the North Carolina Tar Heels!

Overall Record: 4-5 | ACC Record: 3-3 | Rank: N/A

Head Coach: Mark Brown (11th Season with UNC)

  • Lifetime Record: 248-127-1 (.659) | 73-51-1 (.584 with UNC

2019 North Carolina Tar Heels Jackets Roster

UNC Team Statistics

Previous Game: Virginia 38 UNC 31

OFFENSE (Pro)

Quarterbacks

Sam Howell

Howell can get it rolling if he is given time… has been sacked 28 times so far.

Passing Yards: 2,472

  • TD Passes: 26
  • Interceptions: 5
  • Sacks: 28

Yards Rushing: -16

  • Rushing TD’s: 1

 

Running Backs

Javante Williams*

Tough back who has good quickness and speed.

Yards Rushing: 738

  • Rushing TD’s: 3

Receptions: 11

  • Yards Receiving: 110
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Michael Carter

Yards Rushing: 629

  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Receptions: 15

  • Yards Receiving: 123
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

 

Wide Receivers

Dazz Newsome*

UNC’s leading receiver.

Receptions: 46

  • Receiving Yards: 647
  • Receiving TD’s: 6

Dyami Brown*

UNC’s deep threat. 21.2 yards per catch.

Receptions: 32

  • Receiving Yards: 679
  • Receiving TD’s: 8

Beau Corrales

Receptions: 27

  • Receiving Yards: 342
  • Receiving TD’s: 5

Rontavius Groves

Receptions: 21

  • Receiving Yards: 212
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

Antoine Green

Receptions: 5

  • Receiving Yards: 194
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

 

Tight Ends

Garrett Walston*

Receptions: 8

  • Receiving Yards: 71
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

*Denotes Starter

 

DEFENSE (Base 4-3)

UNC allows 27.1 points per game and gives up almost 400 yards a game to opposing offenses. Decent getting to the QB as they have 24 sacks on the year. Below average vs the run allowing 161.4 yards per game on the ground.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker

Noah Ruggles

Extra Points: 25-25

FG: 13-19

  • 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 6-6 | 30-39: 4-6 | 40-49: 3-6 | 50+: 0-1
  • Long: 49

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Injury Report (11/12/19)

Pitt

  • Out: DL Rashad Weaver (ACL), DE Keyshon Camp (Knee), WR Tre Tipton (knee)
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: RB Todd Sibley
  • Probable: None

North Carolina

  • Out: CB Patrice Rene, TE Brandin Fritts
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: WR Antoine Green, T Charlie Heck, QB Jace Ruder, G Nick Polino, DB Trey Morrison
  • Probable: None

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Offensive Stats

Total Yards per game 

  • Pitt: 380
  • North Carolina: 445.9

Passing Yards per game

  • Pitt: 249.1
  • North Carolina: 277.4

Rushing Yards per game

  • Pitt: 130.9
  • North Carolina: 168.4

Points per game

  • Pitt: 20.9
  • North Carolina: 27.9

 

Defensive Stats

Total Yards per game allowed

  • Pitt: 280.2
  • North Carolina: 396.3

Passing Yards per game allowed

  • Pitt: 194.3
  • North Carolina: 234.9

Rushing Yards per game allowed

  • Pitt: 85.9
  • North Carolina: 161.4

Points Allowed

  • Pitt: 20.1
  • North Carolina: 27.1

Sacks

  • Pitt: 40
  • North Carolina: 24

Interceptions

  • Pitt: 8
  • North Carolina: 8

Fumbles Recovered

  • Pitt: 4
  • North Carolina: 4

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ACC Standings

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Pitt Panthers 2019 Schedule

Regular Season: Overall: 6-3 |  ACC: 3-2

August 31: Virginia*, L- 30-14
September 7: Ohio, W- 20-10
September 14: at #13 Penn State, L- 17-10
September 21: #15 UCF, W- 35-34
September 28: Delaware, W- 17-14
October 5: at Duke*, W- 33-30
October 18: (Friday) at Syracuse*, W- 27-20
October 26: Miami*, L- 16-12
November 2: at Georgia Tech*, W- 20-10
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 High School Football.

For a refreshing view of sports, mixed with humor and uncensored opinions, check out Pittsburgh SportsNation today on Facebook, Twitter @PghSportsNation and videos with over 1,000,000 views on YouTube!
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