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 Guide 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!
Lapses by Pitt defense and drops by offense have killed the 2020 season for the Panthers
Pitt’s defense was expected to carry this team this season. Even though the team suffered early losses of DE Jaylen Twyman opting out before the season began, followed by a season ending injury to corner Damarri Mathis, the Panther defense looked as advertised after a 3-0 start. Then additional injuries occurred, including LB Wendall Davis and another stout defensive lineman in Keyshawn Camp.
That’s four out of 11 starters missing heading in Pitt’s home game vs the #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0, 3-0).
Those missing players are showing up on the scoresheet as the players replacing those lost to injury have yet to step up their games.
In Pitt’s last four games, including three straight defeats, they’ve allowed 14 touchdowns and opposing QB’s have torched the Panther’s defense for 916 yards during the losing skid.
“It’s been games where we were aggressive. We’ve made a lot of great plays,” said Pitt defensive coordinator Randy Bates. “And then you have a bust here or there or a young guy makes a mistake, and it costs you a big play or guys that are less experienced maybe in certain positions hurt us a little bit at times. But that happens in the game.
“We’re probably far less of a starting defense than we were maybe three months ago, with bodies, and some of those guys are still learning on the job.
“It’s just a matter of getting them seasoned and, hopefully, not going the wrong way too much. The critical thing is to learn from your mistakes and not let it happen again.”
Crucial plays that were being made earlier have not been accomplished whatsoever lately.
“It’s just a play here or there and it’s the difference in the game when you play at this level at times,” Bates said.
“You can’t get down on them. You have to keep them going because it’s a long season and there is still a lot of plays to be made.”
The Panther defense had better be ready to make plays this week vs a superb Irish rushing attack, lead by Kyren Williams, who has rushed for 486 yards and four touchdowns. He also has seven receptions for 119 yards. QB Ian Book has done the majority of his damage with his legs, rushing for 126 yards and five touchdowns. Chris Tyree and C’Bo Flemister have combined for another 349 yards on the ground.
Pitt’s offense has been plagued by penalties, dropped passes, and settling for field goals over touchdowns.
Pro Football Focus has pegged Pitt’s pass catchers–or lack thereof, with 22 drops so far in 2020.
“Back when I was playing, people would say, `Oh, it touched your hands. That’s a drop,’ ” said Pitt wide receivers coach Chris Beatty. “Pro Football Focus doesn’t sit back and tell us how many drops we have. We know how many drops we have or don’t have. When the ball touches our hands, that doesn’t mean that’s a drop.”
No matter how Beatty wants to define the miscues, it’s killing the Pitt offense and robbing them of crucial yards and plays that should be made.
“We’ve left some (yards) out there, which is disappointing,” Beatty said. “We have to do better than that.”
One player who has been adept at making plays and leading the Pitt offense has been freshman wide receiver Jordan Addison, who leads the teams with 38 receptions for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
“His ability to process is far superior to most people,” Beatty said of his freshman phenom. “I had Tavon Austin at West Virginia, who was super-talented. He was not as far along mentally as Jordan is. Tavon did other things that were tremendous, but he didn’t necessarily process defenses and things like that like Jordan does.”
Addison is ready to make the plays when called upon.
“As a young guy coming in, I feel like they trusted me, so it just builds my confidence up every day, knowing my quarterback, my coaches, everybody trusts me to go make that play.”
This was a game that was circled by many fans this season, plenty of whom was hoping for a match-up of undefeated teams and a full house at Heinz Field. Well, only one of those scenarios will be true this week, as the #3 Irish will look to bully the fast falling Panthers in front of the few fans allowed into the game this Saturday.
Not so fast my friend… this game could actually be a fun one to watch, as Pitt’s defense will be hungry to make amends for the failings of the past three weeks, and what better time to do it than against a highly ranked team like Notre Dame? Like last week vs Miami, the Panthers will be in this game, but the offensive failures to score touchdowns will haunt this team once again vs a tough Irish defense… Notre Dame 20 Pitt 16.
Pitt’s Game Plan for Victory
- Touchdowns: Been stating this over and over each week. Settling for field goals instead of touchdowns leads you to losing.
- Catch the damn ball: Another never ending topic. Do you job or become cornerbacks.
- Let’s get physical: The Panthers have a great run defense, and it had better be ready to shine this week vs a powerful Irish rushing attack.
- Create turnovers: Pitt has been doing this all season, and this week it will be key in going for the upset at home.
A look at the Pitt Panthers
Overall Record: 3-3 | ACC Record: 2-3 | Rank: n/a
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (6th Season with Pitt)
- Lifetime Record: 39-32
Previous Game: Miami 31 Pitt 19
Pitt Offense (Pro Style)
- Points per game: 29.5
- Total offense yards per game: 390.2
- Passing yards per game: 283.2
- Rushing yards per game: 107
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. Pickett once lead the nation with 1,389 yards passing and has eight touchdowns. Pickett is hobbled with an ankle injury after taking a beating vs Boston College, and he will miss his 2nd straight game. Joey Yellen will get the nod under center, but Davis Beville may get some looks if Yellen falters. Yellen has thrown for 296 yards and a touchdown.
The Panther rushing attack is deep, but no one has taken total control. Vincent Davis leads the team with 235 yards and three touchdowns. Israel Abanikanda is a special talent as a true freshman, but doesn’t get much time. He has 80 yards rushing and one touchdown. A.J. Davis has missed the past few games, and has 105 yards on the ground. Daniel Carter and Todd Sibley will also see time.
True Freshman Jordan Addison leads the team with 38 receptions for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Transfer D.J. Turner has 332 yards receiving on 19 catches. Expect action from a bevy of players, including the ultra talented Shocky Jacques-Louis (17-233-0), as well as Taysir Mack (15-231-2), who has stepped up his play after missing the first two games. Jared Wayne (9-138-1) and Tre Tipton round out the Panther weapons at WR.
Lucas Krull was hopeful to make a difference at tight end for the Panthers, but that has yet to come to fruition. Though the talent is there, this group has to stop dropping passes and committing stupid penalties. Finding the endzone instead of kicking field goals would be helpful, too.
Starting Quarterback: Kenny Pickett | Back-ups: 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, 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: Was supposed to be one of the best defenses in the country, but have been gashed the past three weeks, especially through the air. Pitt is 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. The Panthers are tops in the country with 29 sacks.
- Points per game allowed: 20.3
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 274.7
- Passing yards allowed: 213.2
- Rushing yards allowed: 61.5
- Sacks: 29
- Interceptions: 8
Defensive End: Patrick Jones II
Defensive Tackle: Tyler Bentley/David Green
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 has been a headcase in 2020, going 11 of 16 in field goals, including making a 58 yard FG, but missing an extra point to tie the game vs Boston College. Last week vs Miami Kessman was 4-4… 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/D.J. Turner
A look at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Record: 4-0 | ACC Record: 3-0 | Rank: #3
Head Coach: Brian Kelly (11th Season with Notre Dame)
- Lifetime Record: 267-94-2 | 96-37 (with Notre Dame)
Previous Game: Notre Dame 12 Louisville 7
Notre Dame Offense
- Points per game: 33.3
- Total Offense per game: 440.8
- Passing yards per game: 277.3
- Rushing yards per game: 189.3
Scouting report: The Irish are a team that flourish running the ball and controlling the clock. QB Ian Book is having an average season as a passer, throwing for 714 yards with three TD’s and one interception. He’s been sacked seven times. Book has done the bulk of his damage with his legs, rushing for 126 yards and five touchdowns.
Book’s targets in the passing game are tight end Tommy Tremble, who leads the Irish in receptions with 10. Javon McKinley is the top wideout with seven catches for 121 yards. Michael Mayer, another tight end, has one of the three touchdown passes by Book. The other two belong to Braden Lenzy and Avery Davis.
Kyren Williams is an absolute beast, rushing for 486 yards and four touchdowns. He also has seven receptions for 119 yards. Chris Tyree, and C’Bo Flemister will also see action and have combined for another 349 yards on the ground.
Starting Quarterback: Ian Book | Back-ups: Drew Pine
Running Backs: Kyren Williams, Chris Tyree, and C’Bo Flemister
Wide Receivers: Javon McKinley, Braden Lenzy, Avery Davis, Joe Wilkins, and Ben Skowronek
Tight Ends: Tommy Tremble, Michael Mayer, and Brock Wright
Notre Dame Defense (Base 4-3)
Scouting report: They might not get to the opposing quarterback or even cause turnovers, but the Irish defense is stout, only allowing 300.8 yards per game and a paltry 11.5 points per contest.
- Points per game allowed: 11.5
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 300.8
- Passing yards allowed: 193.3
- Rushing yards allowed: 107.5
- Sacks: 9
- Interceptions: 1
Game Day Information
Pitt Panthers vs Notre Dame
- Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA. | Field: Natural Grass
- Game-time: Saturday, October 24th at 3:30 ET
- Game Tickets Link
- TV: ABC | Announcers: Sean McDonough (play-by-play) Todd Blackledge (analyst), Todd McShay (field analyst) | Molly McGrath (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 137, XM 193, Internet 955
- Weather at Kickoff: 56 with a 50% of rain. Winds 5-10 mph.
- Vegas Line: Notre Dame -10.5
Pitt vs Notre Dame History
Series History: Began in 1909
Pitt is 21-49-1 overall vs Notre Dame
- At Home: 11-27-1
- On Road: 10-22
- Neutral Site: n/a
- ACC Series: 0-0
- Streak: Notre Dame won the last two games.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 13, 2018 (Notre Dame 19, Pitt 14)
Did You Know?*
- In a series long on history and color, Pitt and Notre Dame meet for the 72nd time. The Fighting Irish visit Heinz Field for the first time since 2015.
- Pitt safety Paris Ford is tied for the national lead with three interceptions. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book has thrown only one pick in four games this season.
- Pitt is averaging 4.83 sacks per game to lead the ACC and rank second in the nation. Defensive ends Patrick Jones II (seven sacks) and Rashad Weaver (4.5) are Pitt’s top sack artists.
- Freshman Jordan Addison leads Pitt in receptions (38), receiving yards (444) and receiving touchdowns (three). The last freshman to lead Pitt in receiving was Tyler Boyd in 2013.
*Courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com
Injury Report (10/22/20)
- Out: CB Damarri Mathis
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: TE Kyi Wright, TE Lucas Krull, LB Wendall Davis, DL Keyshawn Camp, DL Habakkuk Baldonado, QB Kenny Pickett
- Probable: None
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Out: OL Josh Lugg
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: WR Braden Lenzy
- Probable: None
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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