The University of Pittsburgh has a rich tradition of football that dates back to the early 1900’s. The Panthers are nine-time National Champions and some of the greatest players in the history of football have called 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 success, score prediction, crucial game day information, and a detailed breakdown of each team.
Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
Panthers defense faces tough test in Atlanta
If there’s ever a game where the Pitt run defense will be challenged, it will certainly come this week when the Panthers (3-1) take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-2) on the road at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, this Saturday at Noon.
GaTech QB Jeff Sims came off the bench to lead his team to a stunning 45-22 thumping of UNC last week. Sims completed 10 of 13 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 128 yards and three more touchdowns.
“He can change a game with his feet as well as his arm,” said Panther strong safety Brandon Hill. “Keeping him bottled up in the pocket and forcing him to make those throws, I feel like we have a good chance.”
The Panther defense bounced back well last week, allowing just one touchdown, albeit vs a FCS school in New Hampshire.
Hill and the Pitt defense are still looking to atone for the beating they took vs Western Michigan, who torched them for 357 yards through the air in week three.
“That’s not the type of image we want to put on TV as the Pitt defense,” Hill said. “We took that under the chin and corrected it.”
Pitt fared well in their first road game of the year when they defeated Tennessee 41-34. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi knows that the crowd in Atlanta will be just as hostile as the one they faced in Knoxville. Especially after their team carved up UNC.
“We don’t care where we’re playing,” Narduzzi said. “You’re looking for guys who like to go into a different atmosphere, different stadium and like to get booed. I don’t think there are any athletes that don’t like that. It’s kind of a fun atmosphere to go into somebody else’s house and disrupt things.”
Offensively, there may be a new weapon available in the run game, especially after his game last week vs New Hampshire.
”There’s a place for Rodney Hammond, for sure,” Narduzzi said.
Hammond made the most of his work in relief last week, rushing for 100 yards and three touchdowns.
Israel Abanikanda will start and Vincent Davis will get his carries, but Hammond will definitely be in the mix.
The Panther air attack has been virtually unstoppable, but Narduzzi would like to see his rushing attack up it’s game and start making more contributions to the offense.
”It would be a waste to keep running it up in there when you trust your passing game,” Narduzzi said. “But sooner or later, that runs out. If something goes bad, you have to be able to run it.”
Narduzzi was referring to the plethora of times his RB’s have gained just a yard or less per rushing attempt.
“You’re going to take 1-yard gain, 1-yard gain, 1-yard gain, 2-yard gain, 1-yard TFL to get that 40-yard run,” he said. “Having some patience, but not too much patience. I don’t have a whole lot of patience.”
Perhaps this will be the week the Panther offense will find some consistency on the ground.
If not, Pitt QB Kenny Pickett is ready to put this team on his back and lead the Panthers to victory.
“Every game is like a championship game because of how crazy it is in the conference,” Pickett said. “We feel like it’s wide open for anybody. Every week, it has to be a championship mindset.”
Pickett, who has only been sacked seven times this year, knows Georgia Tech’s defense was able to get to UNC quarterback Sam Howell eight times last week.
“You don’t tighten up. You take note of it and see why (Howell) got sacked,” he said. “You try to figure out and learn from his mistakes and try to better yourself. We’re going over those plays and those looks they gave.”
Pitt’s Game Plan for Success
- Protect Pickett: Pitt’s offense will have to be at their best, as GaTech was able to get UNC QB Sam Howell eight times last week. Keeping Kenny Pickett upright is the key to this game.
- Find balance: The Panther offense flows through Pickett and his arm, but will find even more success if the run game can find some holes vs the Yellow Jacket’s defensive front.
- Maintain tackling lanes: Hunting down QB Jeff Sims will be the main course for the Panther defense. Pitt will have to stay disciplined and not overrun plays. Sims will take off if nobody is available to throw to, or if the pass rush breaks the pocket.
- Gang tackle: GaTech, as always, loves to pound the ball on the ground. It will be up to the big boys up front to surround Yellow Jacket runners and bring them down upon contact.
It’s the ACC opener, and the first of eight straight conference games that Pitt will take battle in. The Coastal Division crown is what the Panthers are aiming for, and it all starts this Saturday in Atlanta. A win Saturday would certainly ease the pain from the Western Michigan loss, and get the Panthers back on track and focused on making a big run, especially with UNC and Virginia already having two division losses in the books.
This game will come down to Pitt’s defense stopping the very talented Jeff Sims, the freshman QB for GaTech who can hurt you both from the air and on the ground. The defensive front of Habakuk Baladonaldo, Calijah Kancey, Keyshon Camp, and Deslin Alexandre will need to get low and be disruptive all day against the Yellow Jacket offensive line.
Expect a physical game between these two teams with Kenny Pickett and the offense being too much for Georgia Tech to handle. Jordan Addison is primed for another big day, as is tight end Lucas Krull. Pitt defense makes amends for the bad day a few weeks ago and keeps Sims under wraps… Pitt 38 Georgia Tech 27
Scouting at the Pitt Panthers
Overall Record: 3-1 | ACC Record: 0-0 | Rank: n/a
Previous Game: Pitt 77 New Hampshire 7
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (7th Season with Pitt)
- Lifetime Record: 45-35
Pitt Offense (Pro Style)
Strengths: Strong passing game under the leadership of Kenny Pickett who has a bevy of weapons at his disposal, including WR Jordan Addison and TE Lucas Krull.
Weaknesses: A consistent running game.
- Points per game: 52.5
- Total offense yards per game: 548
- Passing yards per game: 386.5
- Rushing yards per game: 161.5
Starting Quarterback: Kenny Pickett | Back-ups: Nick Patti and Davis Beville.
- Kenny Pickett returns for his 4th season as QB for Pitt. The super senior has a strong, accurate arm and can burn defenses with his running ability out of the pocket. Pickett has thrown for 1,342 yards, 15 touchdowns, with just one interception, and has rushed for 113 yards and another touchdown. Defenses have gotten to Pickett seven times for sacks.
Starting Running Back: Israel Abanikanda | Back-ups: Vincent Davis, Rodney Hammond, A.J. Davis, Todd Sibley, and Daniel Carter.
- Israel Abanikanda has been elevated to starter, but has rushed for just 147 yards and and two touchdowns. Vincent Davis actually has more carries, and is 1st on the team with 153 yards rushing, with two touchdowns. A.J. Davis was the opening day starter but has carried the ball only twice. Todd Sibley and Daniel Carter have been rarely used, but Rodney Hammond has made the most of his work, rushing for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: (Outside) Taysir Mack, Shocky Jacques-Louis , Jared Wayne, Melquise Stovall and Tre Tipton.
(Slot) Jordan Addison and Jaylon Barden.
- Taysir Mack gives Pitt a steady and reliable senior presence at wide receiver and has 183 yards receiving off of 11 catches. Jordan Addison leads the team with 23 receptions for 407 yards and eight touchdowns. Jared Wayne is 2nd on the team with 14 catches for 211 yards. Shocky Jacques-Louis has eight receptions for 89 yards so far. Jaylon Barden has six catches for 140 yards and a TD, while Hawaii transfer Marquise Stovall has contributed six catches for 73 yards and a TD.
Tight Ends: Lucas Krull and Gavin Bartholomew.
- Lucas Krull has rejuvenated the tight end position for Pitt, ranking 3rd on the team with 13 catches for 148 yards and four touchdowns. Gavin Bartholomew has also caught seven passes for 77 yards.
Placekicker: Sam Scarton
Extra Points: 23-25
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 1-1
- 30-39 yards: 2-2
- 40-49 yards: 0-0
- 50+ yards: 0-0
Left Tackle: Carter Warren
Left Guard: Marcus Minor
Center: Owen Drexel
Right Guard: Jake Kradel
Right Tackle: Gabe Houy
Pitt Defense (Base 4-3)
Strengths: Superb pass rush.
Weaknesses: Aggressive defense sometimes get caught in the attack, giving up long plays through the air as corners are usually in one on one coverage. Sloppy tackling at times. Need to clamp down on ensuing drives after an offensive touchdown is scored.
- Points per game allowed: 23
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 315
- Passing yards allowed: 205.5
- Rushing yards allowed: 109.5
- Sacks: 16
- Interceptions: 2
Defensive Line: Habakuk Baladonaldo, Calijah Kancey, Keyshon Camp, and Deslin Alexandre.
- Habakuk Baladonaldo and Deslin Alexandre are impressive bookends of the defensive line with Calijah Kancey and Keyshon Camp on the inside. Kancey is on the verge on stardom with his skill set, which seems to get better each week. Baladonaldo has three and a half sacks, while Camp has one sack.
Linebackers: Phil Campbell III, Wendall Davis/SirVocea Dennis, and Cam Bright.
- Phil Campbell III (Money) and Cam Bright (Star) surround Wendall Davis (Mike) at the linebacker position that has good speed and instincts when it comes at stopping the opposing run game. John Petrishen has been a big part of the linebacker rotation and has two sacks to his credit. Campbell has three sacks. SirVocea Dennis leads the team with 31 tackles.
Secondary: Marquis Williams, Brandon Hill, Erick Hallett II/Rashad Battle, and Damarri Mathis.
- Marquis Williams and Damarri Mathis man the corners with Brandon Hill at strong safety and Erick Hallett II at free safety. Hill has one INT on the year as does Mathis.
Pitt Special Teams
Punter: Kirk Christodoulou
Kickoff Returners: Jaylon Barden and Isreal Abanikanda
Punt Returner: Jaylon Barden and Melquise Stovall
Scouting report: Jaylon Barden is the primary kick returner and is averaging 20.8 yards per return. Melquise Stoval has averaged 0.4 yards per punt return, so some improvement is drastically needed in that area.
Scouting the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Overall Record: 2-2 | ACC Record: 1-1 | Rank: n/a
Previous Game: Georgia Tech 45 North Carolina 22
Head Coach: Geoff Collins (3rd Season with Georgia Tech)
- Lifetime Record: 23-28 | 8-18 with Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech Offense (Pro spread)
Strengths: Rush attack… Jeff Sims is a dual threat at QB. GaTech has a trio of RB’s that all contribute during the game.
Weaknesses: GT quarterbacks have been sacked 12 times.
- Points per game: 29.8
- Total Offense per game: 386
- Passing yards per game: 186.5
- Rushing yards per game: 199.5
Starting Quarterback: Jeff Sims | Back-up: Jordan Yates
- Freshman Jeff Sims is back as the starter for GT, as he replaced Jordan Yates against UNC and lead the offense to four touchdowns. Sims is a dual threat, throwing for 133 yards and a TD, while rushing for 162 yards and three touchdowns.
Running Backs: Jahmyr Gibbs, Jordan Mason and Dontae Smith
- In addition to the legs of Sims, the Yellow Jackets also have a trio of backs that can tote the ball. Jahmyr Gibbs leads the team with 249 yards rushing with a TD, and has caught nine passes for 94 yards. Jordan Mason has rushed for 169 yards, while Dontae Smith has 149 yards on the ground with two touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: Kyric McGowan, Malachi Carter, Kalani Norris, Peje Harris, Adonicas Sanders, and Nate McCollum
- Kyric McGowan and Malachi Carter are double trouble at wideout, with McGowan leading the team with 234 yards receiving off of 14 receptions, three for touchdowns. Carter has 15 catches for 227 yards and a TD. Kalani Norris, Peje Harris, Adonicas Sanders, and Nate McCollum don’t contribute much, combining for 16 receptions between them.
Tight Ends: Dylan Deveney and Dylan Leonard
- Dylan Deveney is the lone tight end with any stats, catching four passes for 16 yards.
Kicker: Brent Cimaglia
Extra Points: 13-13
Field Goals: 6-6
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 2-2
- 30-39 yards: 4-4
- 40-49 yards: 0-0
- 50+ yards: 0-0
Georgia Tech Defense (4-2-5)
Strengths: The Yellow Jackets defense got to UNC QB Sam Howell eight times last week.
Weaknesses: The right quarterback can expose this secondary.
- Points per game allowed: 18.8
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 306.5
- Passing yards allowed: 169.8
- Rushing yards allowed: 136.8
- Sacks: 10
- Interceptions: 2
Scouting report: Linebacker Quez Jackson leads the team with 34 tackles and one sack. He has also recovered two fumbles. The Yellow Jackets have caused eight turnovers so far, six on the ground. LB Charlie Thomas has a team leading two and a half sacks, 32 tackles and has both of the team’s interceptions. Juanyeh Thomas leads the secondary with 23 tackles.
Kyle Kennard has chipped in two sacks on the defensive line.
Game Day Information
Pitt Panthers at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
- Vegas Line: Pitt -3.5
Venue: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA.
Tickets: Pitt Panthers Ticket Office
Game-time: Saturday, October 2nd at 12:00 pm
TV: ACC Network
- Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) Roddy Jones (analyst) | Lericia Harris (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
- Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 134, XM Channel 207, SXM App Channel 967
Weather at Kickoff: 77 with partly cloudy skies. Winds out of the south at 5 MPH.
Pitt vs Georgia Tech History
Series Began: 1918
Overall Record: 10-5
- At Home: 5-1
- On Road: 5-2
- Neutral Site: 0-2
ACC Series: 5-3
Streak: Pitt has won the last three games.
Last Game: Dec. 10, 2020 (Pitt 34, Georgia Tech 20)
Did You Know?*
- No team in the country has scored more touchdowns than Pitt this season. The Panthers have 29 TDs over four games. Last year, they scored 36 in 11 contests.
- Jordan Addison leads the country with eight touchdown receptions. The last Pitt player to finish as the national leader in TD catches was Larry Fitzgerald with 22 in 2003.
Kenny Pickett has thrown 15 touchdowns against only one interception. Pickett’s TD pass total—which ranks second in the nation this week—is already a single-season personal high.
*Courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com
Injury Report (9/30/21)
- Out: None reported
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: TE Grant Carrigan
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
- Out: None reported
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: None reported
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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