Here is an informative post by longtime Pitt POV user Joe Lawerence (aka JoeL), complete with comparative stats and Joe’s Keys to the Game. Based on what you see below, what do you think Pitt needs to do to bring home a victory? Also I’ve added some bits and pieces that have come across the wire this morning.
Ladies and Gents,
I played around with some stats today and compared Pitt’s offense to Miami’s defense, Pitt’s defense to Miami’s offense and also includes some other stats. I also gave my own thoughts about who has the advantage. (editor’s note: It appears Joe is largely assigning advantage based on national rank. That is why Pitt has the advantage vs what appears to be a very stingy Miami run defense. However, please feel free to discuss.)
|When Pitt has the ball:|
|Run – Yds/game||247.5||132.9||Pitt|
|Pass – Yds/game||155.5||141.7||Miami|
|Total – Yds/game||403||274.6||Miami|
|Pts per game||30.1||19.5||Miami|
|When Miami has the ball:|
|Run – Yds/game||163.5||188.6||draw|
|Pass – Yds/game||241.4||188.6||Miami|
|Total – Yds/game||404.9||377.2||draw|
|Pts per game||28.1||31.5||draw|
|Penalties||77||69||slight edge to Miami|
|QB rating||132.9||122.9||slight edge to Pitt|
|Ranking in Special Teams areas:|
|Punting – Net Yds||100||127||Pitt|
|KO returns – Yds||7||6||draw|
|Joe’s Keys to the Game|
Bits and Pieces
The Good: Pitt’s Kenny Pickett Named ACC Quarterback of the Week
Pickett was additionally honored as a Manning Award “Star of the Week”
PITTSBURGH—Pitt sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Quarterback of the Week for his performance in the Panthers’ 34-13 win at Wake Forest this past weekend. He additionally was recognized by the Manning Award as one of eight “Stars of the Week” at the quarterback position.
Pickett completed 23-of-30 passes (77%) for 316 yards and three touchdowns to lead Pitt past the Demon Deacons and clinch the ACC Coastal Division championship. His yardage, completions and TD total were all personal bests.
Each of Pickett’s touchdown passes came in the second half to help Pitt erase a 10-6 halftime deficit. Two of his scoring tosses came less than three minutes apart: a four-yarder to Rafael Araujo-Lopes and a 63-yard strike to Taysir Mack that put Pitt up 20-10 at the end of the third period.
After Wake Forest kicked a field goal to make it 20-13 early in the fourth, Pickett responded with a 23-yard TD pass to Maurice Ffrench, boosting the lead to 27-13 with 7:27 to play and essentially sealing the result.
In his first season as Pitt’s full-time starting quarterback, Pickett (Oakhurst, N.J./Ocean Township) has completed 151-of-243 passes (62%) for 1,695 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Winners of four consecutive games, Pitt owns a 7-4 overall record and 6-1 mark in ACC play. The Panthers entered both Top 25 polls this week, placing No. 24 in the Associated Press rankings and No. 25 in the Amway Coaches Poll.
The Bad : Pitt Center Jimmy Morrissey Has Season-Ending Surgery
PITTSBURGH—Pitt sophomore center Jimmy Morrissey underwent ankle surgery on Monday and will miss the balance of the season, Coach Pat Narduzzi announced today.
The Panthers’ starting center in 23 consecutive games, Morrissey was injured in the waning moments of Saturday’s 34-13 win at Wake Forest.
“Jimmy has been tremendous for us this year, both as a player and a leader,” Narduzzi said. “We all share his disappointment, but I know this will only be a temporary setback for him. Jimmy will be back next year better than ever. In the meantime, I know he will continue to do all he can to help our offensive line perform at the same high level. That’s the type of person and teammate he is.”
The Ugly: Pat Narduzzi Press Conference (Editor’s Note: This is not actually ugly. I am taking some poetic licence here)
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, it was a fun weekend. Weekend is over. Back to Monday. It’s a workday, as was yesterday.
But something I failed to do on Saturday really after the game and after you sit back and you think about how things like that happen, how things like that come to fruition, you think about just what you were brought here for, and just growing up with my dad, you never — he’s always taught you, just never forget where you came from and how you got where you are.
But I want to thank obviously the Chancellor for obviously giving me the opportunity and all the support Heather Lyke has given us. Even going back to Jerry Cochran and Randy Juhl and Donna Sanft. When I first got here, I talked about just if we all go in the same direction, we’ll be fine. But if someone is going this way, we want to go this way, that’s when you run into some road blocks, but obviously things have gone in the right direction.
It’s never as smooth as you’d like it to be, which is life, but — there’s bumps in the road as you go. Obviously it was a big day for our football team and for the university, and happy we could be a part of it and happy I could be a part of it, so I thank them.
But when you look at the tape, you kind of see on tape what you saw really during the game. It’s a tale of two halves, which we’ve been involved in a couple of those through this season. Just didn’t play very good football in the first half, way too many mistakes. I think of the 10 penalties, I think eight of them were in the first half. That goes on me obviously not having them ready to go and locked in and focused.
Then we go and make some minor adjustments, more of a mental adjustment more than anything, maybe a wake-up call in the second half to get it cranked up, and then we come out and play football in the second half like you’re supposed to. Those three three-and-outs were huge defensively, and I thought defensively overall we played pretty sound.
Just not as clean and you want to, and it’s nice to come out of a football game and not play your best football and still come away with a ‘W.’ But we can’t do that this week against a great Miami team. I mean, I feel like Warren Sapp came back, and he’s played in all four of those down four positions for Miami.
They’re aggressive up front, third ranked defense in the country. Mark Richt has done a tremendous job of building the talent level at that place, and obviously Manny Diaz running the show on defense, I mean, Shaq Quarterman is the guy over there, and he runs the show, and they’re legit. They’re as good a defense as you’re going to find. They press you and play man free, play whatever they want to play, and they lock you down. He does a great job.
And then offensively, they’ve gone through two quarterbacks and they’re still trying to find out who it is, and obviously Perry seems to be the guy, but we’re ready to see anybody, but he seems smooth. Their offensive line is athletic. They’re big, physical. And Homer at tailback, and they’ve got speed at receiver. So they’re dangerous. Coming off a great win, and we’re going to have to be ready to go down to Miami.
Q. Over the past we’ve asked you about first place in the Coastal, if you guys think you can do it, and of course now you finally did it. When along the way did you guys realize it could be done?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, you guys crack me up. There’s not a point, a day, a month, a week that you go, “Oh, we’re knocking on the door here.” It’s been back in August. It’s been back in winter conditioning. And that sounds cliché, but like I told our guys last night, there’s nobody outside this room — we’ve got trainers in here, equipment guys, everybody here, there’s nobody outside this room that gave us a chance. You guys all talked them bad, and then all of a sudden you think that one day we wake up and say, “Hey, let’s try to do something.”
We never lost faith. Somebody else may have, okay, and I don’t point any fingers, but we never lost faith. So there’s never a point. That’s the God’s honest truth right there. We never lost faith. There’s going to be ups and downs. You can’t beat everybody. You can’t be perfect. But there’s — I don’t think anybody lost faith in this room, and we kept them together, and that’s how you have success.
Q. How do you do that? How do you keep the faith up when things aren’t going well?
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s everything. I mean, and obviously it starts with me making sure that the same message is being relayed throughout the building. But the weight room, Dave Andrews, our strength staff, spends a ton of time, obviously our assistant coaches. Those kids can’t leave a team meeting, go down to the training room, and then the trainers are like, “Man, tough year, man. Well, maybe next year it’ll be better.” If they got that message down, then we’ve got problems because they’re hearing different mixed messages.
So it’s everybody. It’s Chad in video, Chad Bogard — he got a shout-out. I don’t know where Chad is, but he’s always asking for shout-outs. It’s everybody in the program, so it’s just being positive and coaching and playing the next play.
I mean, our kids wouldn’t be very good if they looked back at the first half and said, “Oh, God, we stink today, we might as well just stink it up in the second half.” We just keep moving on and go further.
Q. I’m going to assume you’re not going to play this game like an NFL team that’s clinched a playoff spot, backups all over the place?
PAT NARDUZZI: Big Ben is playing this week, yes, he’s playing. We’re playing. There’s nobody not playing.
Q. Does anything change with preparation, like how much you guys spend this week, looking at Clemson, knowing what that game means or anything like that?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, no. I mean, we’re putting all our effort, I guarantee you, into this week, into this Miami Hurricane football team. I’ve already spent more time than normal on Mondays, period. I’m way ahead of where I am — we’ve got plenty of time for that next one. It doesn’t matter. You guys keep relaying that stuff around, I’ll have to brainwash our kids in this meeting room.
We’re not talking about it. It won’t be mentioned in here. We talked last night, and I said it’s about the last time we’re going to talk about it. You guys have just lengthened your season. A week ago you win a game, and you add a bowl game. This week, now there’s — now there’s nothing. It’s like, let’s go have fun, let’s go play football. We get Miami and it’s a great football team, and if we aren’t focused, we’ll get smacked in the mouth real hard, and the next week won’t matter. It won’t even matter. I hate to tell you that, but it’s all about this week. This football team doesn’t like to lose. Nobody likes to lose. It gives you a bad taste in your mouth, and we don’t want that.
Q. You thanked the Chancellor and Heather Lyke when you came in today. What did it mean to you to get a contract extension in the off-season? How much did that maybe increase your motivation, that they have faith in you?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not really. I didn’t need that. I already had enough years on my contract. I wasn’t worried about it. That didn’t fuel anything. That didn’t make me go, “Oh, thanks.” I already knew the support was there. You don’t have to give it to me in the years. It doesn’t really matter. We’re going to go coach and do our job, and that’s what we do. There’s no slacking down here.
But no, that had nothing to do with it. Obviously very appreciative of that opportunity and the trust and the faith that they had in this program and what we’re doing down here, but you know, it felt pretty good — I know where the Chancellor stands. I know where Heather stands. I didn’t need any gifts.
Q. Do you feel that the ACC title game this year is the step you needed to take as a program?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, I think every step you take forward — I think getting more than eight wins is a step forward. I think getting a bowl win would be a step forward. I don’t care what it is, beating someone you’ve never beaten before. We’re always going to look forward and try to make a positive out of maybe a negative. It doesn’t matter. But of course it’s a big thing. Did we need it? It could have happened in three more years and we’d all be happy, as well. Maybe you guys wouldn’t be as happy. Jerry would be grumpy, but we’d all be happy in three years, too.
You never put a date on when something like this is going to happen. They’re hard to get. There’s a lot of good football teams, a lot of good coaches out there. This is hard to get. It’s not easy to be one of these two teams getting to go play the championship game.
Q. Do you think Kenny Pickett was capable of having the kind of game he had Saturday earlier in the year? Did we see sort of a culmination of his development?
PAT NARDUZZI: No question about it. Like I said, I think we’ve done some things in practice that have helped make him just kind of throw in the pocket and just — I guess keep focused on the little details he needs to do in the game, and I won’t get into that, but yeah, he’s capable. I mean, we know how capable he is. He’s accurate. He’s smooth. He’s still young. I think everybody wants instant gratification, and he’s a great football player. We’ve never lost faith in him.
He’s probably going to have to do it again this week because this front four and front seven, really Quarterman and those D-linemen, we’re going to have to be able to throw the ball effectively, we’re going to have to be able to protect him, and Kenny got protected Saturday. Even though we gave up two sacks, he was protected, had time in the pocket to make some shots and some great shots.
Q. Do you have more confidence in the passing game now than you did, say, early September?
PAT NARDUZZI: I would say anytime you throw for 300 and you’re protecting the football, that you do [have confidence], but I never had a lack of faith in what we could do in the passing game. I’ve always had faith in Kenny and what he could do with his arm and those receivers. But that was last week, and two weeks ago we rushed for 500 yards, or just about 500 yards, so what are we going to do this week? We need to have some consistency, so a 300 game, can we back-to-back that? Can we have another 300-yard rushing game? We need to do those things to have success, and you can’t be one-dimensional all the time. I think I talked last Thursday about we’d better be able to throw the football. There’s going to be a time when we’re going to have to throw it, and our receivers did a heck of a job getting open and making plays for Kenny, as well.
Q. Did you hear from anybody outside the people you’ve mentioned that sort of makes it resonate with you how this connected people and the university outside the football program?
PAT NARDUZZI: I mean, yeah. Your phone kind of goes a little berserk. I even returned some text messages this morning at 5:40, just to find the time to return some of those saying, “Hey, sorry.” And I got back to [athletic department staffer] Celeste really early. But you’re getting it from everywhere, which is what happens.
Q. Anything surprising? Anything, “Oh, I wasn’t expecting that?”
PAT NARDUZZI: No. Same stuff as usual.
Q. People from your past call you, congratulate you?
PAT NARDUZZI: No. Nobody is from your past. They’re all in the present. Joe Novak, from — your old ball coaches, those are the guys that — Floyd Keith and Joe Novak and Mark Dantonio, guys that are — that reach out to you, but that’s not —
Q. Going back to the Syracuse game, I know you don’t like to look in the past, but that last two-minute drive that forced overtime, and obviously you guys ended up winning that game, do you think that was one of those turning points of the season type of deals for your team in terms of confidence?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, I don’t even remember that. Who caught the ball? Was it Ffrenchy in the end zone there?
Q. I’m talking about when you forced overtime with them, you guys ran, I think, 11 of 12 —
PAT NARDUZZI: See, I told you I didn’t remember. I don’t know. How about that? We’ll look at it after the season. We’re on to the next — you guys got any questions about Miami?
Q. Is Quarterman the “Where’s Waldo” on that Miami defense?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, he ain’t Waldo. Waldo, when I look at Waldo, he’s a squirrelly little dude that’s hiding in a picture book. This guy is a scary dude that goes sideline to sideline, and he’s been playing for three years and playing at a high level. That guy is an NFL linebacker if I’ve ever seen one.
Q. You talked in your opening about winning the division is what you were brought here to do. What else is on that list?
PAT NARDUZZI: Beat Miami this week. How about that? Start right there. Just keep doing what we do. I mean, there’s no goals where we say, “Hey, we want to do this.” We’ve just got to go. Just keep winning one game at a time.
Q. Can you take anything from last year’s Miami game, kind of see what they did and see how you guys had some success and put it into Saturday’s game plan?
PAT NARDUZZI: No doubt about it. We’re going to look at that, and so are they. They’re going to go, “Gosh, we should have done this and done that.” So it’s going to be a chess match as far as who’s doing what, and then they’ve got a different football team this year. They do different things. They have more tools.
So I think regardless of what it is, you’re looking at last year’s game, and we’re trying to get better from it. So are they, though, so it’s a — does it help you? I don’t know. But we’ll look at the last two years. I’ll look at — it doesn’t matter what we did at home last year. I had to look at more of the last time I was at Miami. That’s the last time I remember. I don’t even remember the last Miami game here. I remember Tre Tipton staying in the hospital overnight [in 2016]. That’s my memory of going down there. I remember not playing very good down there, and that’s what’s stuck in my head.
Q. How did you think your ends played?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, all three of them played good. Weaver had a really good game, Folston played really good and Patrick Jones was really, really productive.
Q. You had a two-touchdown lead, three minutes to go, on the 6-yard line. With the throwback to Millin, did you need to show that? Did that tip your hand for future opponents?
PAT NARDUZZI: Tip my hand? I don’t know if it’s a tip your hand. Slow down that backside pass rush. But you know what, it’s scary, we could have thrown the twos in. It’s like I was telling somebody else. I don’t take anything for granted. We’re playing to win, and I’m not going to have any regrets. Could we have run it in? Maybe. Could we have thrown it in? I don’t know. Could we have dropped back? But when you look at it, we turn the ball over, we don’t score there. We turn it over, they scoop and score, interception for a touchdown, whatever it may be, and we’re playing to win and clinch, and that was the goal. The goal was not to worry about next week or save it for next week. The goal was to win that football game, and whatever it takes.
But anything can happen. That game wasn’t over at that point. I guarantee you that. They weren’t going to quit, and we weren’t going to — three-touchdown lead you feel pretty confident, but two touchdowns, I mean, it’s a score a touchdown, kick an onside kick, get it, go down the field, score, and we’re into overtime.
Yeah, we needed that.
Q. Did you hear from a lot of former players here, guys who helped with the foundation of —
PAT NARDUZZI: Of course, no doubt about it.
Miami questions? Anybody?
Q. What has been Miami’s problem? Did they make any change this past Saturday?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think there’s a lot of things that goes on with teams. Coaching 115 guys — Mark Richt is a super coach. He’s done it for many years, and you’ve got a big roomful of personalities, they are talented, let me tell you that. But the ACC conference is talented. There’s no gimmes. He’s playing Boston College, and Duke is pretty darned good. They lost to Georgia Tech, that option. It’s a tough conference. It’s a tough division, and anybody can beat anybody. That’s what I said, what we did is not easy. Anybody can beat anybody. North Carolina beat us, okay. They won one ACC game, so anybody can beat anybody. That’s the problem, is — it’s very, very competitive, and that’s the way you want it. But it’s a great conference, and it’s a great division from top to bottom. I think it is. I don’t look and say –
I’d take a lot of their players.
Q. How is their secondary compared to last year when they had the chain going around and they were undefeated at this time?
PAT NARDUZZI: They’re good. They’ve got three guys that I think both have three interceptions apart. I mean, they’ve got that chain still. I think it’s an upgraded version. But they’re still creating turnovers, and they’re just not winning as many games so nobody hears about it as much. But I think they must have — I know they’ve got three guys that got three interceptions a pop, and I bet you they’ve forced at least eight or nine fumbles, and they’re forced, not people just dropping them. You’ll see. You’ll see. They’ve got some guys.