(We’ll have a predictions tread up tomorrow morning – here is a short preview of Oklahoma State. as always here are the Pitt Media Dept Game Notes which has tons of info on the upcoming game))
We are in the midst of that four game run that we Pitt fans talked about over the offseason as being hard opponents and important wins. As I said in an earlier article I count Marshall as one of the four, along with PSU, OK State and North Carolina because I think that Marshall is an excellent FCS program and that their HC Doc Holiday is one of the best in the business.
But first we visit OK State (OSU) and then North Carolina in our ACC debut this season.
So as of today we sit at 2-0 and are loving it, Especially because that second win was a sweet one over our in-state rival Penn State. It was a good, exciting game and one that we held on to win – something that we didn’t always do in the past. It was a great game for other college football fans to watch also as it had all the elements of a great match-up.
For the Pitt fans, most of them anyway, Penn state was THE big game of the year and that is understandable. I personally think the conference games are just as important though because that is the stated goal of our program – to win the ACC. I savor that PSU win though. Nothing feels better than shutting your rival up.
Well, we will see in three weeks how well we start off in the ACC games that but first we have our third out-of-conference match in a row when we travel way out to one of those flat states over there where the wind comes sweeping down the plain. (Shirley Jones – a PGH girl!)
That state would be Oklahoma and the football field is in Stillwater, home of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Brokeback Boys are in the Big 12 conference along with our old nemesis West Virginia. I love these conferences with numbers in them. The Big 12 has 10 schools in it and the Big 10 has 14. At least the ACC knows how to count.
They had a good, but strange season last year in that they ripped off 10 straight wins (and beat WVU in overtime) until they got stopped by #12 Baylor 45-35. That started a three game slide where they lost to #5 Oklahoma 58-23 and then lost again in their bowl game to #12 Ole Miss by a score of 48-20.
Something to notice, and granted this was last season so it might not carry over, but they ended the ’15 season by giving up an average of 50.3 ppg. This year, against FCS team included, they have given up 37 points at a 18.5 ppg clip – but the first game was against a poor SE Louisiana squad… much like us giving up seven to Villanova.
Their QB, Mason Rudolph, has done a good job so far and did very well the last two seasons also:
He’s a passing QB and is currently sitting at 26th nationally in passing efficiency. You can see that his OL hasn’t been very protective of him over his career in allowing an average of 2.3 sacks per game this year. We can get to him by our DL; Jarrett and Soto have been playing very well and with our DEs Price and Blair.
We are averaging 5.0 sacks a game and have only given up one and boy, is that a change from years past! It’s about time we flipped that script. I expect some play action passes on the Cowboy’s part to try to keep our LBs out of their backfield.
We’ll need to have that quick pressure as our pass defense has been poor all year. This Cowboy QB is probably a better passer than we have seen yet – although McSorley was a surprisingly good one also.
Here are some numbers comparing the two teams on offense, then on defense (Pitt’s better ranking in blue; OK State’s in Red).
When Oklahoma State Has The Ball…
Oklahoma State Total Offense Per Game – 367.5 (87th)
Pitt Total Defense Per Game – 289.0 (30th)
Oklahoma State Rushing Offense Per Game – 97.0 (116th)
Pitt Rushing Defense Per Game – 63.5 (11th)
Oklahoma State Passing Offense Per Game – 270.5 (39th)
Pitt Passing Defense Per Game – 225.5 (70th)
Oklahoma State Turnovers Lost – 2 (29th)
Pitt Turnovers Gained – 6 (6th)
Oklahoma State Field Goals/Season Long – 4-for-4/Long of 53 yards
Oklahoma State Net Punting – 38.67 (54th)
Pitt Punt Returns – 11.8 (32nd)
Oklahoma State Kickoff Returns – 10.00 (125th)
Pitt Kickoff Return Defense – 18.44 (44th)
When Pitt Has The Ball…
Pitt Total Offense Per Game – 346.5 (99th)
Oklahoma State Total Defense Per Game – 310.5 (37th)
Pitt Rushing Offense Per Game – 213.5 (44th)
Oklahoma State Rushing Defense Per Game – 77.0 (19th)
Pitt Passing Offense Per Game – 133.0 (120th)
Oklahoma State Passing Defense Per Game – 233.5 (80th)
Pitt Turnovers Lost – 3 (53rd)
Oklahoma State Turnovers Gained – 6 (6th)
Pitt Field Goals/Season Long – 0-for-3/Long of 0 yards
Pitt Net Punting – 33.91 (104th)
Oklahoma State Punt Returns – 24.0 (7th)
Pitt Kickoff Returns – 43.20 (2nd)
Oklahoma State Kickoff Return Defense – 17.25 (34th)
There are a few caveats we need consider. The numbers for our passing game is, I strongly believe, based on the HC and OC’s choices rather than poor play. We Pitt fans get that Narduzzi wants to established the run then keep running until it isn’t effective – which in our only FBS game didn’t happen. We kept the strength of the run game for 60 minutes against PSU.
Because of that our passing game has had efficiency as its main product rather than gaudy numbers – except for the passing TDs which at five is very nice so far. I expect that we’ll see Peterman putting the ball up more Saturday than we did last week when he had 15 attempts.
In our two games there has been a cause and effect going on with the playcalling – against Villanova our run game sucked and Peterman passed 32 times; against PSU our run game clicked so Canada kept the ball on the ground and only called 15 passes.
But it is going to be a different story this week in Stillwater. OK State has played well against the run (remembering that it was against two weaker teams) so it is pretty hard for me to project what will happen. Especially because they were not so good doing that last year in giving up 186.9 ypg (87th). But I’ll try.
I think we’ll see a lessening of the rushing numbers this game; in others words we won’t get 300+ yards. But we’ll maintain our yards per carry between five and six yards per carry which will allow us to control the clock again. Last week we did this:
56 runs for a 79% ratio is very lopsided but it worked against the Nitters. I don’t think it will work against the Cowboys. I expect it to be more like 70/30 or even 65/35 which is still a high ratio.
But that also depends on other factors. If OSU gets a couple of quick TDs and we go into the 3rd quarter down by 10+ points we’ll see more passing. Plus I think we’ll see something along the lines of what we say Saturday when we used the run game to get into the red zone then passed for the scores (three passing & three rushing on the day).
But Narduzzi is smart enough to ‘dance with who brung ya’ and will run until it doesn’t work. I’d like to see a bunch of play-action passes Saturday in addition to everybody and his brother running jet sweeps.
What I am really worried about is the Pitt pass defense. We have to see an improvement from the horrid showing against PSU, much like we saw the OL achieve from Game 1 to game 2. Our DBs need to take a great leap in execution or we’ll be in big trouble.
PSU threw the ball 14 times in the 1st half. Then when they realized we were holding off their run game, and being down by 14 at the half, they threw 21 times and did very well. That makes sense as an approach in a come-from-behind situation. But Penn State had a better run game than OSU has (116th with only 97 ypg against FCS teams) so we may see them just come out throwing and keep doing it.
I believe Narduzzi and Co. have enough confidence now to take this team anywhere and play OUR game and make the opponent adjust to it. That means we’ll be running more than passing. What I hope though is that Narduzzi and Canada have enough confidence in our passing game to go to that as a good complement to the run. It has been very effective so far and we can score points passing.
Odds & Ends:
If you have the time here is an hour-long press conference with the staff and players from OK State discussing last week’s screw job they got but also talking about playing Pitt – it starts at about the 48:30 mark (really the 50:30 mark). I really like Mike Gundy and watched this whole video – very level-headed and gracious toward Central Michigan.
Here is an article from their media about this game. They are warning OSU about Scott Orndoff
Then we have the latest odds on the game… I’d take the points if I was betting, and here are the Power stats;
Here is the prospective Two-Deep for Pitt. No real surprises here except for maybe rsFR Saleem Brightwell backing up Mike Caprara at Star LB. It would be nice to see both Camp and Watts get some playing time this week.
Their fans love to tailgate before the game, sometimes sleeping overnight in two-man tents and dress the part of the Cowboys and Cowgirls the morning of the games.