The University of Pittsburgh has a tradition of excellence in football that dates back to the early 1900’s. The Pitt Panthers have won nine National Championships and have had some of the greatest players in the history of football call Pitt their alma mater. Pitt has 25 members in the College Football Hall of Fame and nine have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
NGSC Sports brings you the best Pitt Game Day Preview you will find anywhere! This is where true Panther fans come to find out about Pitt and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNation) brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a weekly game story, Pitt’s game plan for victory, score prediction, crucial game day information, a detailed breakdown of each team, and up to date team injury reports. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
Pitt defense hungry to stop vaunted Wolfpack rushing attack
Pitt’s defense is one of the best in the country. They rank at or near the top in almost every statistical defensive category.
Still, the AP and Coaches Poll aren’t giving the Panthers much respect when it comes to votes. After defeating #24 Louisville last week 23-20, the then #21 Panthers dropped to 24th in the poll.
“I think it just gives us more of a chip on our shoulders,” Pitt linebacker Phil Campbell III said. “We really believe we’re much better than where we’re ranked right now.
“We can’t do anything about where they ranked us. We just have to talk with our pads.”
The Panthers are experts getting to the quarterback where they have 17 sacks on the season. They are also adept at stopping the run, only giving up 56 yards per game.
On Saturday at Noon, Pitt (3-0) will face it’s toughest test, rushing-wise, when North Carolina State (1-1) visits Heinz Field. The Wolfpack are stacking up 204.5 yards per game on the ground on the legs of Zonovan Knight and Ricky Pearson, Jr..
“They’re a two-headed monster,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said, “and they’re both really good. They run a lot of inside zone, outside zone, some similar runs that we saw last week (against Louisville), even out of some similar formations. The offensive line is really good up front.”
Campbell and the Panthers feel they will be up to the challenge.
“They definitely can run the ball,” Campbell said. “We have to play our gaps, play our schemes and line up and play fast like we do.
“When everyone does their job on their side of the ball, it just comes together like a puzzle. Nobody’s going to outmatch us physically, so we have to be on top of the schematics and our jobs.”
Pitt is hopeful to finally have some fans in the stands this week. Something that the Panther players would love to see,
“I’ve heard the rumors,” Campbell said. “But right now I’m not really focused on that.
“There’s been a lot of uncertainty (about the coronavirus), and I’ve just learned to keep doing my job and stay focused on the task at hand.
“My parents would love to come. I would love to have the fans there. I’m sure all the teammates would love (it), too. It would definitely be a great atmosphere. But, if not, we can just bring the energy ourselves, just like we’ve been doing.”
The biggest hurdle in the way is Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, who has locked down his state and continues to think he is king, instead of an elected official.
Pitt AD Heather Lyke is doing her best to make fans in the stands a reality.
“We have submitted a plan for around 15 to 20% capacity,” Lyke said, adding that equates to 13,000 to 18,000 people.
“We’re ready. We’re anxiously awaiting.”
It’s mindboggling that Americans aren’t free to choose to attend a game or stay home during this never-ending COVID era. Fans, especially the player’s parents, are missing out on seeing their kids play at the highest level in college football.
“Being a parent myself, you can’t recapture those moments,” Lyke said. “We certainly hope that we have the privilege and opportunity to be part of a game-day environment in a reduced capacity, but in a very safe environment.
“People have a choice on whether or not they want to be in any environment. I prefer to give them that choice.”
Pitt tight end Grant Carrigan would be ecstatic to see his parents at the game.
“Even if there’s not a stadium full of people,” Carrigan said, “it’s still nice just to know the people you play for, the people that you love, are in the stands.”
Like last week against Louisville, Pitt is the superior team in this game. There is no doubt that the Panther defense will play to their usual levels of expectations, now it’s time for Kenny Pickett and Pitt’s offense to take a step forward and have this game wrapped up by the 4th quarter. Look for a big game by Pickett, a breakout game by Israel Abanikanda, and a 4-0 start to the 2020 season… Pitt 34 NC State 16
Pitt’s Game Plan for Victory
- Killer Instinct: This offense has talent, but it needs to put it all together and start putting teams away with back breaking touchdowns. Put up or shut up!
- Spread the wealth: NC State’s defense is bad, so Pitt needs to utilize all of it’s weapons, both in the air and on the ground.
- Make whomever is at QB uncomfortable: Who will start? Does it matter? Time for Pitt’s defense to punish the signal caller for NC State early and often.
- Shutdown NC State run game: The Pack have a two headed monster, but the Panther defense should be up to the challenge of making NC State one dimensional.
Game Day Information
#24 Pitt Panthers vs NC State Wolfpack
- Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA. | Field: Kentucky Bluegrass
- Game-time: Saturday, October 3rd at Noon ET
- Game Tickets Link
- TV: ACC Network (DirectTV 612) (Dish Network 402) | Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) Roddy Jones (analyst) | Eric Wood (reporter)
- Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Pat Bostick (analyst) | Larry Richert (reporter)
- Online Radio: 937thefan.radio.com
- Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Sirius 135, XM 194, Internet 956
- Weather at Kickoff: 59 and partly cloudy.
- Vegas Line: Pitt -13.5
Pitt vs NC State History
Series History: Began in 1952
Pitt is 5-4-1 overall vs NC State
- At Home: 4-1
- On Road: 0-2-1
- Neutral Site: 1-1
- ACC Series: 0-1
- Streak: NC State won the last two games.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 14, 2017 (NC State 35, Pitt 17)
Did You Know?*
- Pitt is 3-0 for the first time since 2014 and only the fourth time since 2000. Pitt last opened with four consecutive wins in 2000. Prior to that, Pitt last started 4-0 in 1991 (5-0).
- Since 2015, Pat Narduzzi has directed the Panthers to 26 victories in ACC play, the thirdhighest win total during that span, trailing only Clemson (39) and Miami (27).
- Freshman wide receiver Jordan Addison is off to an impressive start and leads Pitt with 21 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. The last freshman to lead Pitt in receiving was Tyler Boyd in 2013.
The Panthers’ heralded pass rush has produced 17 sacks through three games. Pitt ranks fifth nationally with an average of 5.67 sacks per contest. Defensive ends Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver pace Pitt with 3.5 sacks each.
Through three contests, the Panthers have surrendered only three points in the second half.
Pitt boasts top-10 national rankings in total defense (second, 177.0 yards per game), rushing defense (second, 56.0 yards per game), passing defense (third, 121.0 yards per game) and scoring defense (sixth, 10.0 points per game).
*Courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com
A look at the Pitt Panthers
Overall Record: 3-0 | ACC Record: 2-0 | Rank: #24
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (6th Season with Pitt)
- Lifetime Record: 39-29
Previous Game: Pitt 23 Louisville 20
Pitt Offense (Pro Style)
- Points per game: 33
- Total offense yards per game: 391.3
- Passing yards per game: 248
- Rushing yards per game: 143.3
Scouting report: Kenny Pickett is the starter for the Panthers. He has been accurate with his passes and can take off with the ball when needed. The Panther rushing attack is deep, with five guys having the ability to make big plays. Vincent Davis leads the team with 156 yards and two touchdowns. Israel Abanikanda is a special talent as a true freshman. He has 67ards rushing and one touchdown. A.J. Davis has 84 yards on the ground. Daniel Carter and Todd Sibley will also see time.
True Freshman Jordan Addison leads the team with 21 receptions for 169 yards and a score. Transfer D.J. Turner has 133 yards receiving on nine catches. Expect action from a bevy of players, including the ultra talented Shocky Jacques-Louis (7-117-0), as well as Taysir Mack (3-62-1), Jared Wayne (5-59-1), and Tre Tipton. Lucas Krull looks to make a difference at tight end for the Panthers, an area that has been severely lacking from the past few years, but it looks like he will miss his second straight game. Though the talent is there, this group has to stop dropping passes. That may not kill you vs Syracuse, but teams like Clemson feed off of mistakes..
Quarterbacks: Starter- Kenny Pickett | Davis Beville, Joey Yellen, and Eli Kosanovich
Running Backs: Vincent Davis, A.J. Davis, Todd Sibley, Daniel Carter, and Israel Abanikanda
Wide Receivers: (Outside) Taysir Mack, Shocky Jacques-Louis, Jared Wayne, Tre Tipton, and D.J. Turner
(Slot) Jordan Addison and John Vardzell
Tight Ends: Lucas Krull, Kyi Wright, Daniel Moraga, Grant Carrigan, and Jake Zilinskas
Left Tackle: Carter Warren
Left Guard: Bryce Hargrove
Center: Jimmy Morrissey
Right Guard: Jake Kradel
Right Tackle: Gabe Houy
Pitt Defense (Base 4-3)
Scouting report: One of the best defenses in the country, lead by hard hitting Paris Ford in the secondary, and a fearsome number of defensive lineman who enjoy eating opposing quarterbacks for lunch, which includes Patrick Jones II, Keyshon Camp, and Rashad Weaver.
- Points per game allowed: 10
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 177
- Passing yards allowed: 121
- Rushing yards allowed: 56
- Sacks: 17
- Interceptions: 6
Defensive End: Patrick Jones II
Defensive Tackle: Keyshon Camp
Defensive Tackle: Devin Danielson
Defensive End: Rashad Weaver
Money LB: Phil Campbell III
Mike LB: Chase Pine/Wendall Davis
Star LB: Cam Bright
Cornerback: Marquis Williams
Strong Safety: Paris Ford
Free Safety: Damar Hamlin
Cornerback: Jason Pinnock
Scouting report: Kicker Alex Kessman is 3-6 kicking field goals so far in 2020. WR Jordan Addison is averaging 19.5 yards a return on kickoffs and 7.5 on punt returns.
Placekicker: Alex Kessman
Punter: Kirk Christodoulou
Kickoff Returners: Jordan Addison and A.J. Woods
Punt Returner: Jordan Addison
A look at the NC State Wolfpack
Overall Record: 1-1 | ACC Record: 1-1 | Rank: n/a
Head Coach: Dave Doeren (8th Season with NC State)
- Lifetime Record: 71-47 | 48-43 (with NC State)
Previous Game: Virginia Tech 45 NC State 24
NC State Offense (Up-tempo Spread)
- Points per game: 34.5
- Total Offense per game: 424.5
- Passing yards per game: 220
- Rushing yards per game: 204.5
Scouting report: Bailey Hockman and the Wolfpack are averaging 34.5 points per game, but only managed 24 last week vs VaTech. Hockman has been below average, throwing for just 273 yards passing, with one touchdown and three picks. He was replaced by Devon Leary, who threw for 165 yards and a TD. Wolfpack QB’s have been sacked six times.
Devin Carter is NC State’s leading receiver with seven receptions for 109 yards and a score. TE Cary Angeline is 2nd on the team with 62 yards receiving and a TD. Fellow tight end Dylan Parham has three catches for 47 yards. The Wolfpack tend to spread the wealth in their passing game, with 10 players recording a catch in 2020.
Zonovan Knight and Ricky Pearson, Jr. lead a two headed rushing attack. Knight leads the team with 191 yards rushing, but Pearson, Jr. has 163 and three touchdowns. Jordan Houston has some meaningful carries and also has four receptions for 27 yards.
Quarterbacks: Bailey Hockman and Devon Leary
Running Backs: Zonovan Knight, Ricky Pearson, Jr., and Jordan Houston
Wide Receivers: Devin Carter, Thayer Thomas, Emeka Emezie, C.J. Riley, and Porter Rooks,
Tight Ends: Cary Angeline and Dylan Parham
NC State Defense (Base 4-3)
Scouting report: Pretty awful. The Wolfpack had their hats handed to them by the Hokies last week who put 45 up on the board. For the season, NC State is giving up 43.5 points per game. They have been successful getting to the quarterback eight times, although six of those were recorded vs Wake Forest.
- Points per game allowed: 43.5
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 440
- Passing yards allowed: 231.5
- Rushing yards allowed: 208.5
- Sacks: 8
- Interceptions: 0
Injury Report (10/1/20)
- Out: CB Damarri Mathis, LB Wendall Davis, TE Lucas Krull
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: RB A.J. Davis, TE Jake Zilinskas, OL Greg Houy, DL Habakkuk Baldonado
- Probable: TE Kyi Wright
NC State Wolfpack
- Out: None
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: S Khalid Martin, S Tanner Ingle
- Probable: LB Payton Wilson
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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