UNC rolls into Pittsburgh this Thursday and true Freshman QB Sam Howell will be driving.  Howell has put together quite a season.  He’s thrown for 26 touchdowns against 5 INT’s and is ranked 26th in the NCAA with a 153.0 passer rating.  He’s also sporting a gaudy 14.2 Yards Per Completion.

We Pitt fans can only dream.

Sam Howell
Stats credit to Richard Hefner

For those of you who believe stars matter, Howell checks all the boxes in what you’d want in a high school quarterback.  Rivals a 4-star.  Rated 5.9.  Elite 11.  All-American Bowl Selection.   Howell held 32 offers prior to selecting UNC, including Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oregon, Michigan…and Pitt.  Howell originally committed to Florida State before (somewhat) famously flipping his commitment to UNC, using a cardboard box and a couple of coke bottles.

It was Mack Brown’s first signature recruiting win.

And the 68-year-old Brown delivered on the promise that he probably made to Howell on his official visit, “Son, come and play for me and I’ll give you the keys to the offense” (make sure you read that with a southern inflection).

The offense is coached by Phil Longo.  He’s a veteran (10 seasons as OC), and fairly accomplished (has appeared in six conference championships).  Prior to UNC he coached Ole Miss to two two top-20 offensive finishes.  Of course Ole Miss wasn’t able to field a defense that could keep up, and they finished 6-6 in 2017 and 5-7 in 2018.  And keeping up is important because Longo is a quick strike kind of guy.  In 2018 Ole Miss posted 7.1 yards per play (7th nationally), and in 2017 they averaged 99 seconds per scoring drive (1st nationally as far as quick-strike).

Longo’s quarterback each year at Ole Miss posted 150+ passer ratings and around 9+ Yards per Attempt.

Of course, as with many of these “Basketball on Grass” offenses, there is always a subtext, and if you look more deeply into the statistics you’ll find that Jordan Ta’Amu – the Rebels quarterback in 2018 – did not play well against the better defenses on his schedule.  As a result Longo’s offenses struggled.

  • Alabama – 79.4 Passer Rating – 7 points
  • LSU – 84.1 Passer Rating – 16 points
  • Auburn – 125.0 Passer Rating – 16 points
  • Mississippi State (#1 overall defense in 2018) – 78.3 Passer Rating – 3 points

But this profile isn’t about Jordan Ta’Amu, it’s about Howell.  Lets look at how Sam Howell has fared against the better defenses he’s faced this season.

In a phrase, he’s fared better than Ta’Amu, although you can argue he hasn’t faced quite as stiff of competition.  Howell has faced three “legit” defenses so far, and also Duke.  (You’ll see why I included Duke in a minute).

The first “legit” defense was Miami (currently ranked #18).  However it was the second game of the season and we all know that Miami really didn’t hit their stride until, well until they played Pitt.  Howell threw for 274 yards and two TD’s and posted a 190 passer rating against the undisciplined ‘Canes, mostly on the long ball.  He averaged 17.1 yards per completion.  UNC won 28-25.

The second “legit” defense that Howell played was Clemson.  (Currently ranked #4 against what may be one of the softest FBS schedules in the country).  Howell had his second worst game of the season.  He threw for only 144 yards, though he did toss two TD’s and no INT’s.  Still the Tigers held Howell to just 9.6 YPC and a 124.8 rating.  Clemson won 21-20.

Four weeks later UNC played Duke.  Duke has the #46 defense in the country, so calling them “legit” is probably a stretch, but this was a rivalry game.  Lets just say David Cutcliffe’s defense was ready.  They held Howell to a 39% completion rate and forced him to throw two interceptions.  His yards per completion were a ridiculous 22.7 though, so basically Howell completed 10 long passes and that was pretty much all.  Final passer rating:  121.8.  UNC won 20-17.

The last and most recent “legit” defense that Howell faced was Virginia (currently ranked 21st), and it should be noted that Virginia was without their All-American Cornerback Bryce Hall for this matchup.  Well Howell took advantage, and he bounced back from his horrific Duke game in a big way, posting 353 yards, 23.5 YPC, four TD’s and no interceptions (199.5 passer rating).  Somehow UNC lost, 38-31.

Sam Howell Game Log
Sam Howell Game Log – R. Hefner

Pitt of course will be the most legit defense Howell will face all season (outside of Clemson perhaps).  We own the #5 passing efficiency defense (Clemson is #2).  We are second in the country in sacks (Clemson is 20th).  If there is an Achilles heel, it’s that Pitt is 27th in passing yards allowed (Clemson again is #2).

Don’t get me wrong people.  This is North Carolina.  The monkey on Pitt’s back is large, hairy and smells strongly of urine.  But I think we know what is possible.  It starts with pressuring the quarterback, and it ends with not letting any receivers behind us.  I’d love nothing more than to write about Sam Howell’s worst game of the season next Tuesday…all we need is for the Pitt defense to have best game of the season.  The challenge is there fellas.  Lets see if they can rise to it like Elite defenses do.

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone






91 thoughts on “QB Corner – Profiling UNC’s Sam Howell

  1. Wish there was something here that made me confident about Thurs night but ….

    I was going to say “hey Pitt is 3rd nationally in sacks” … but Miami is 4th, UVa is 6th, Clemson is 8th, and VT is 14th, and he has played well against all of them.

    I was going to say that “hey the UNC defense is not that good” (70th nationally compared to Pitt’s 9th) but is Pitt’s offense capable enough to take advantage with its 111th ranked scoring offense?

    I was going to say “hey Pitt is favored by nearly a TD” but I believe Pitt was also favored the past 2 years.

    But maybe I’ll come up with something by game time … “hey I still have 60 hours”

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Hey, we are favored by 5 and we only score about 18 per game…. Our D will be tested.

    Every year I go to the Carolina game and always have either Greg Sasser or Frank Nixon my tarheelblue buddies with me… They are staying home this year… Just maybe that will change the outcome of the game…


  3. Miami and UNC both have way more favorable situations to recruit to than Pitt. So it’s not surprising to me that they have better players than Pitt and almost always beat Pitt.

    Will take an extraordinary effort by Pitt to win Thursday, IMHO…

    Go Pitt.


    1. Major, this year with Mack is really the only year that Pitt is being outrecruited by NC. Look at the past ten classes and There is no difference in recruit quality.

      Miami and va tech are the only schools that consistently outrecruit Pitt.

      I expect Pitt to win. Now will they is a different story.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Per Rival’s over the last 4 recruiting classes (2016-2019):
      UNC has recruited 21- 4‘s, 57-3‘s, 13-2‘s – 91 recruits with avg. star rating of 3.09.
      Pitt has recruited 10-4
      ‘s, 69-3‘s, 8-2‘s – 87 recruits with avg. star rating of 3.02


      1. Over the last four, nearly no difference. Look at over the past ten, same thing. NC doesn’t out recruit Pitt.

        Only Miami significantly does.


        1. which doesnt explain Pitt never beating them. thats on the coach because its not like Pitt is going up against a team loaded like Pedo State

          but NC does cheat. fake classes, grade inflation, tutors taking tests and writing papers, money under the table, garbage degrees, etc, etc


      2. Thanks, PITT-cocks.

        Must be the twice as many 4-stars, but UNC always, to my eyes, has impressive athletes. Even when they are said to “stink.”

        And they usually have excellent, big-play WRs, which have been a major factor in them consistently beating Pitt. More on that later…

        Go Pitt.


  4. Agreed defense needs to be elite Thursday but the offense has to cooperate and not turn the ball over.


  5. Couple of early thoughts here:

    Glad that Greg and Frank are staying home, we need a change in mojo with this UNC team.

    I watched a good bit of the UNC vs UVA game. I just shook my head and muttered, “I don’t think we can beat this team”. Yeah, I quoted myself right there.

    Hoping KP snaps out of it and plays a strong game. It’s his two legs that makes him a threat and he hasn’t been using them enough lately. Leave it all out on the field Thursday night Kenny.

    As much credit as this PITT defense receives I still think they can be better. If young Sam thinks he’s going to sit in the pocket forever he better think again.


  6. Keep an eye on LB Surratt for the Heels- this guy was a starting QB last year( used their third stringer against us!) Surratt is a linebacker and a damn good one- thinks like a QB… not good for KP


  7. and here’s a BTW, for some of you who think Paris Ford would be better suited at CB instead of safety, I do not agree. He may not be 6’2″ 220 lbs but he hits like he is. Ford has great instincts that are better served when he can roam the field. He needs one more year to pack on some more muscle and he could go very high in the draft.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Those are some frightening stats, guy completes 58% of his passes and has 26 TD’s. Think about that for a minute. Plus only 5 INT’s. all year. They also beat a strong OOC rival in SC, while we lost to ours.

    If you put their offense with our defense you would have a top ten team for sure. If we just had their QB, well maybe….

    Getting repetitive, but this game will again be decided by turnovers and the refs and I’m afraid that does not bode well for us. We are a turnover machine, and the refs will flag us for plenty of pass interference calls.

    The only thing we have going for us is that we seem to surprise when things look the darkest. One thing that is surely surprising is the point spread, if you get three for home field, which Pitt should never get, since they are a better road team, it is even more dumbfounding.

    I won’t be able to join yinz, be holed up in a bar or in my expensive room at Nemacolin, made the non-refundable reservations without looking at the calendar.

    Anyway, I really hope we win this one for Rick and Rachel, two of our finest POVites.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Kenny has completed 61% of his attempts, Just a little short of Howell in TD/Int ratio 9/8.

      Outside of the Gamecocks playing in the SEC, you overestimate them. They are 4-6 with Texas A&M (like Pitt/UNC, UofSC has never beaten them in conference play) & rival Clemson left to play. A non bowl year is on the horizon. There is rumbling in Muschump as a HC.

      Wish I could be there. But there is a reason I do not travel to Pittsburgh between 11/1/xx & 3/31/xx. It’s now arriving in South Carolina as I type.

      My thought’s on Rick & Rachel are exactly like yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Rick and Rachel trying to attend this one. Not sure if circumstances will allow. I will be there along with 9000 other Pitt fans. Look forward to seeing everyone at tailgate. I never have a good feeling about a Pitt game but I have a good feeling about this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There will be three times that number of fans there! Unfortunately, 27,000 Pitt fans rattling around in a 68,000 Heinz Field venue isn’t a good look on national TV.


      1. I can only point to some vast UNC and ESPN conspiracy that extends the the NFL. They are clearly doing this to troll us. Did you know three straight home games vs UNC have been on Thursday night? I’m being sarcastic here. (Although the fact about the home games is true)


  10. I am impressed with Sam Howell. He has thrown all but 4 passes for UNC.

    But some additional info:
    UNC has allowed 29 sacks for (-178 yds.).in 9 games (3.22 sacks for (-6.1yards/sack)/game. Tied for #119.
    Pitt has allowed 20 sacks for(-120yds.) in 9 games (2.22 sacks for (-6.0 yards/sack)/game. Tied for #70.

    UNC is tied (#33) in sacks with 24 for (-149 yds.). In 9 games UNC averages 2.67/game for (-6.2yds)/sack.
    Pitt is #22 in sacks with 40 for (-258yds.). In 9 games Pitt averages 4.44/game for (-6.45 yds.)/sack.

    Pitt QB’s (Pickett, Patti & Aaron Matthews) have attempted 364 passes & been sacked 20 times. That means a sack rate of 5.2% of drop backs.

    UNC QB’s (Howell & whoever thru 4 passes0 have attempted 303 passes & have been sacked 29 times. That is a sack rate of 8.7% of drop backs.

    Neither Pitt’s or UNC’s QB’s are true running threats like Bryce Perkins of Virginia. Per my unofficial stats, Pitt has a total of 211 yards in 41 attempts (5.15 yds./carry) Howell has 182 yds. on 48 attempts (3.79/carry). Is this more pressure on Howell compared to Pickett/Patti???

    Pitt needs to apply pressure. Maybe a Syracuse/DeVito performance. UNC may not have a backup like Miami had with Jarren Williams when he came in for N’Khoshi Perry.

    Actually though Pitt sack rate per drop back would be in UNC’s territory.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pickett is most definitely a running threat. But since his shoulder was injured(we think) he hasn’t run very much. The Pitt offense is weak enough without taking away any of it’s potential weapons. Pickett may have to run come Thursday to help us score more needed points to win this one.


  11. We are all still waiting for that winning number to show up on the roulette wheel when miraculously the entire Pitt team plays a complete game. We’re running out of spins however for this year, and if we only win one more game this season, I personally, would prefer it to be against these GD Tarheels.

    For those of you braving the cold weather to root our Panthers on to victory, GOOD ON YA, wear the long undies & bring home a winner!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dr Tom, I’m in the driveway now acclimating myself to the cold…5 hours from now I will watch a tape of the GT game in my driveway to simulate game conditions…then a 2 hour post game victory party in the snow!
    Life is good!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. This go-the-extra-driveway-mile is the reason Fran and Wolfe have the best tailgate in the Burgh!

      Go Pitt!


    2. If I could paste the video right now I would. Fran was Born To Be Wild”.

      Get your motor runnin’
      Head out on the highway
      Lookin’ for adventure
      Down in Red 5-A!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Fran, knowing you–out there half-naked with your torso painted bright blue and the script “P” painted in ‘eer yellar on your chest..that’s gettin acclimated…strip Scooter down a paint him too… he would make the perfect “I”…then we need a pair to “TT’s” …get the female persuasion for those letters…..

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Heard a bit of Coach Narduzzi’s radio show last night. Only thing I can remember is that while talking about the players who played well/made plays against GT – he talked about the usual suspects but then mentioned Gabe Houy.

    Said Gabe had a good game versus GT and graded out at 92%…

    Seems like a low grade to get singled out, but if Gabe is playing better that’s a bit promising…

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Well T’Hole coaches have 9 games’ worth of video to study Pitt’s D pressure schemes and timing. You don’t suppose Randy Bates has held back a few packages for use towards the end of the season, do you?

    As always, the outcome will depend on KP not throwing into double coverage; and whether we can establish the run (and keep SH on the bench). OR, knock the sh.. out of SH – the earlier, the better!


  15. I started following PItt football around 99/2000 as a freshman in high school. One of my first memories of the program was a huge loss to UNC at Three Rivers Stadium with John Turnman as our QB. Other than Wanny’s Bowl win over UNC for an elusive ten win season, I think we have lost to them every other meeting we’ve played them in my life time. I don’t know if we could beat UNC in tiddly winks. We need Pedro Cereno from the movie Major League to reverse our UNC curse like the curse he had on his bat.


    1. And we almost lost that bowl game. A offsides call on UNC when things looked very bleak for our Panthers gave an opportunity to win the game with a 33 yd FG with one half of a second to go. We were lucky.


  16. The NC game will be decided on which team gets the pass interference calls. And we never get those so be prepared.


    1. You don’t get many calls for pass interference for passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage. And as we all know by now that’s one of Whipple’s favorite pass patterns this season. Ugh!!!


  17. If I were Narduzzi I would leave the coaching up to Whipple and Bates. Only way Pitt wins this one. Mack is a better head coach but Pitt has better assistants. If Narduzzi is too conservative on offense, pitt will lose…again for five times in a row. I just hope he doesn’t fill his head with meatballs before the game.


    1. Article in today’s PG:
      Why Pitt’s conservative offense might not cut it vs. North Carolina

      After the Miami game, one commenter: In his 5th year as HC, Narduzzi is still a good defensive coordinator.


    2. Tx, as far as we all know, that’s what Narduzzi is doing? I think HCPN has little input into plays called. Not saying he doesn’t have any.


  18. So correct me if I’m wrong – I know you all will 🤣, but I don’t believe we have historically fared well coming off a bye AND shortened week. Seems part of our problem with the monkey known as UNC is that we play them quite a bit on Thursday.

    I think first play from scrimmage for UNC will be a deep ball easily behind the backs for 6. All 13 seconds into the game (provided we win the toss).

    Aside from that I see the two squads knotted at 17 until Pitt scores a defensive TD to go ahead 24-17 at the start of the 4th, then hold on for dear life for the remainder of the game. The hairy, urine smelling monkey gets off our back and moves on to some other deserving squad.

    Danh72, having snuck a bottle of his best into the game like he was 18, finishes it during this stretch and texts his way to sobriety the see the D-lone scoop the ball and rumble, stumble and bumble into the end-zone (twyman’s turn)!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. PITT beat Syracuse after a bye week this year. Kind of washed away a little of the urine stench. Then again, urine stench lingers if not cleaned completely. Big Big game coming up.


  19. Those homer ACC refs will be flag happy with our corners and how they clutch and grab. No way will Pitt get out with a win unless the offense can score between 31-38 points, which won’t happen.

    Good news is more of Pitt’s recruits were bumped to four stars over the weekend. Someone said there are now seven 4* in this class based on the 247 site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Only two 4 stars on rivals compared to nc’s eight. So Mack knows how to recruit. How to coach is a different story.


      1. Mack has a very good coaching pedigree and a NC to his credit. He did extremely well in his 1st tour at UNC. Every HS coach in the region either remembers him or knows of him and that bodes well for recruiting.


  20. One must wonder if SH can complete 58% of his passes with 22 degree fingers, mustn’t one?

    And, will T’Hole receivers’ 22 degree hands turn to stone? Manos de piedros? (If I recall my sophomore Spanish!)


  21. 2015 – UNC dominated the 2nd quarter en route to a 7 point win

    2016 – UNC dominated the 4th quarter en route to a 1 point win

    2017 – UNC dominated the 1st quarter en route to a 3 point win

    2018 – UNC dominated the 3rd quarter en route to a 3 point win

    Hopefully Pitt wins since UNC has run out of quarters to dominate (unless its OT)

    That’s all I have

    Liked by 4 people

    1. What makes this impressive is that the ACC in soccer is what the sec is in football. Damn impressive and I’m not one for compliments. H2P!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Coach was a Barnes hire. If you give credit to heather, you need to give equal credit to me. I don’t support losers. I give money to the real football team on campus. Writing a check for volleyball now. Kid you not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I give credit where credit is due. Just because I may not like someone doesn’t change my opinion. PITT’s ancillary sports are on the rise almost across the board. Heather deserves some credit here. imo. After all, that was one of her stated main objectives when arriving at PITT.


        1. Yes and I respect her for her focus on Olympic sports. But the two best coaches on campus were not her hires. But I do like Capel.


          1. I find it interesting Tex your like for Capel and dislike for Narduzzi currently. I can only imagine how you would feel about Narduzzi after he just lost a game he was favorite to win by 18 1/2 points.


  22. Signing day for most D1 and D2 sports begin tomorrow. It also marks early signing day for basketball. Early FB is not until Dec 18. Reg signing day for FB begins Feb 5, and BB on Apr 15.

    Wrestling and WBB are supposed to have some really good commits; I would assume same for WVB. Hugley, (4), Amadasun and Collier (3) are expected to sign on with Capel


      1. I thought I had used the * in an earlier post today. Noticed the * was missing but prior words were italicized. Glad to know why…


  23. Listen to the last ten seconds. That’s why Jay and Pitt supporters are the number 1 Stars ⭐️ of the game.


    1. Tex after we win the volleyball ACC champ and contend for a national title, finish ranked in men’s soccer, post in winning basketball season, finish ranked in wrestling, and finally win a bowl you are going to have to fire up the old presidents cup spreadsheet and calculate where we are going to finish in 2019. Something better than last I hope

      Liked by 2 people

  24. Tx, as long as we keep walking forward together the more we keep stepping on common ground. It’s my privilege to call you my friend.


  25. Last year Pitt collected points for volleyball, wrestling, football and I think some other sport.

    This year all those programs plus men’s soccer and possibly basketball will score points.

    I guarantee Pitt doesn’t finish last.

    Beat the suckeyes this Friday. Winning feels good. And the Cathedral needs a blue release.


  26. On our BBall team…..I played football and baseball thru my Jr Year in HS and Basketball thru my first year of HS. In each sport each year, at least once, the coaching staff walked out of a practice. I never saw the point in that and swore never to do it as I coached Basketball for 14 years. It obviously did not work for Capel on Friday. Looking forward to seeing us play Bobby Mo tonight.


    1. Regardless of how Capel’s walking out may have affected the team Saturday (or not), it sure made a mark in terms of him being on point regarding their lack of readiness. Maybe next time they’ll take his concerns to heart; if not, it may be time to adjust some playing times.


  27. I’m hoping a variant of the late great Bob Prince’s law will be at work this week. According to the Gunner, the more you lose the closer you are to winning. In this instance the more you lose to the tar holes the closer you are to beating them!

    For you young’uns, Bob Prince was the Buccos announcer for many years. We had them all the way!



  28. Pumping gas on my way home from work that 28* felt mighty chilly. Between the temperature at game time and the Steelers playing I think attendance will be dismal and the Hall of Champions will be packed by halftime. Going to stock up on hand and foot warmers!


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