By Richard Hefner
Pitt is coming off an unscheduled bye week. The Pitt vs Georgia Tech game was postponed due to Covid concerns at both schools. The game has been rescheduled for December 12th. Pitt still stands at 4-4 (3-4 in conference). Pitt will be playing Virginia Tech 4-4 (4-3 in conference). They are on a 2-game losing streak losing first to #25 Liberty (35-38) & last Saturday to Miami (24-25).
It is a home game and Senior day. It is a 4:00PM kickoff and broadcast to non-Comcast customers on the ACC Network.
Justin Fuente is in his 5’th year of being the HC at VT. He took over for long-time and much beloved HC Frank Beamer. Fuente is not beloved by the Hokie faithful.
Here are some links that question Fuentes’ coaching acumen, his openness and basically everything that Pitt fans find so charming and endearing about Head Coach Pat Narduzzi.
Within the linked article below is another link (highlighted in “bold” in second paragraph) expressing some of the grievances against Fuente. It is from The Key Play, a Virginia Tech Blog.
Editor’s note: This article is great and well worth the read. Especially if you are not a fan of Pat Narduzzi’s gameday coaching. Here is the summary: That they did so because Fuente somehow managed to butcher the end of the game in the exact way that simultaneously ripped out the heart of every Virginia Tech fan and screamed I AM NOT FRANK BEAMER AND I NEVER WILL BE is almost impressive! This loss checked every box on the unpopular list: dumb, painful, and with no possible benefit.
This is another SBNation article. This time from Gobbler Country (VT’s answer to Cardiac Hill).
Editor’s Note: The “quality of journalism” isn’t quite as high on this one…but that’s what you’d expect out of SB Nation, but it’s still a decent read. Call me a snob. It’s okay. I call myself someone with standards.
Another link from Gobbler Country on why VT has a few good things going.
Editor’s note: Every team has an “Ike”. I think the the Virginia Tech Ike wrote this article. Love ya man.
It is a shame that the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) did not have a 2020 “rent a win” fall campaign. If VMI was available instead of playing Liberty, VT would now be 5-3. BTW, the Keydets are The Citadels archrivals. (Terrible way to keep my 7-game streak alive. And yet, alive it is…)
On with the review. Fuente’s recruiting over his 5 years is slightly better than HCPN. Fuente has pulled in 36 Rivals 5.7 and above out of 111 total recruits. That is 32.4%. PN has reeled in 33 out of 105 or 31.4% in the same time span. VT does not have an overwhelming advantage in recruiting talent.
VT lost 14 players to the transfer portal from their opening 2019 roster. No one has left since 6/18/2020. To fill in roster openings, Virginia Tech has signed 7 from the portal.
The best are the running backs from Rutgers and especially Herbert from Kansas. More on them later. You may hear Justin Reed’s and Devin Taylor’s name be called during the game. I did when I watched last week’s VT – Miami game.
Who are the identified preseason potential “Stars”? There was one selected to the preseason All ACC team. Fourteen selections in total.
Tayvion Robinson is an all-purpose player- Punt returner, WR and has had touches as a jet sweep runner. VT must go the walk on route for punters/kickers as they have not recruited one since Fuente took over.
Tre Turner is the stud WR (long with Robinson). It looks like the Oline is the strength of the offense. Christian Darrisaw is a stud with a story. He originally signed with VT in 2017 as a Rivals 5.4 2-star. Instead of enrolling, he attended prep school (Fork Union Military) It could have been grades. It could have been for more football training. (The son of a friend attended Fork Union for football. He was already accepted at Harvard and later started on their offensive line.) Whatever the reason, Darrisaw came out as 5.8 4-star in 2018.
Not on the preseason Stars list is lineman Brock Hoffman. Hoffman started an NCAA brew ha-ha prior to the 2019 season when he tried to transfer from Coastal Carolina to VT and be granted immediate eligibility. He was denied eligibility when his family lived just outside the NCAA mileage limit for transfer for family medical issues. He starts and is part of a good Oline.
How is the Oline doing? Here is a chart of Tech’s leading rushers.
VT is the NCAA #7 per game rushing team. So, the Oline does a terrific job at run blocking. Herbert and Blackshear are transfers. Hooker is an RPO QB and good at it.
Missing from VT list of RB’s is Ike’s favorite missed Pitt recruit Cole Beck. Ike can fill us in on his situation.
Another sign of a good Oline is sacks & TFL’s allowed. Here is a chart comparing Pitt’s vs. Vt’s Oline.
Got to go with VT’s Oline. Is that surprising?
Editor’s note: I knew Pitt’s run blocking was bad, but I didn’t realize that we were losing yards on nearly 20% of our running plays. Ouch.
How is Hooker as a passer? Here is a chart comparing Hooker, Pickett & Yellen.
Hooker has started 6 games (He missed first 2 games of the season due to Covid restrictions) and passes on average 21 times a game. KP has also started in 6 games but averages 34.5 passes a game. Hate to say it but Hooker is a better QB based on running an RPO offense. Hooker had a great game against D-1, FBS, G5 Independent Liberty – 20/27-217yds, 3TD, 0 Int. and ran for 156 yds on 20 carries.
Here is a list of top receivers.
The top 2 receivers also see action as jet sweep running backs. The TE’s get into the action. As do the running backs.
Here is a comparison of offense stats.
The NCAA rank is based on 126 teams. That is up by 3 teams who started their season last weekend. There are now teams who have played one game (4) compared to others who have already played 9 (5) or 10 (1). I think there is one team yet to begin the season. There was 130 D1, FBS teams in 2019 and UConn, New Mexico State and Old Dominion have already cancelled their 2020 season. Have I missed a 4’th team cancellation?
I am really impressed by Tech’s offense – good system, good QB, good Oline, good receivers. But we know a good offense has to play against the opposing team’s defense. Here are the comparisons.
In looking at the preseason “Stars” chart, defense was considered the bright spot. 7 of 14 names on the list were on the defensive side But CB Caleb Farley went the Twyman route and opted out. Waller and Conner have not upped their game. The LB’s listed have played well but LB Dax Hollifield (BTW my 27 acres is known to the local way elderly as the old Hollifield place) is out playing preseason All ACC LB Rayshoud Ashby. The defensive line Line looks needs an infusion of talent.
It is stats time. First up, sacks & TFL’s.
Editor’s note: As hard as it was to believe that Pitt’s O-line was giving up negative plays on nearly 20% of runs, here is Pitt’s D-line notching Tackles for Loss at a nearly 20% rate. I think this sums up the (recent) Narduzzi era pretty damn well.
Maybe I was hard on the VT DLine needed an infusion of talent. Maybe they jut need some hard tweaking. They can get after the quarterback, but it’s pretty obvious that they don’t care about stopping the run.
How about penalties & turnover margin?
VT likes those 10- and -15-yard penalties and like Pitt, they have a disdain for the common 5 yarder. It is a literal tie on turnover margin.
Normally, the last chart ends the stats and I launch into why Pitt wins or loses the game. But I have one more chart to show.
It is a list of ACC RB’s & QB’s that Pitt has faced. All are in the NCAA top 100 in total rushing yards gained. (and they should be considering that ACC teams have played 7 or 8 games while most other conference members have played 6 or less.) How did Pitt Fare?
Note: below chart includes performance against Pitt. If you would exclude their performance against Pitt, most would have higher YPC.
While none of RB’s or QB’s above have the rushing stats of RB Herbert and QB Hooker, I am basing my Pitt victory on the above chart. If you do a “Reed Kohberger Adjustment” and exclude Javian Hawkins 75-yard dash & Travis Jordan’s 88-yard jaunt, Pitt would only allow opponents best rushers an average 2.1 YPC.
As I showed in the defensive chart, Pitt is ranked #9 by the NCAA allowing 296.5 yards/game. Notre Dame is #12 (304.1/G). Clemson is #13’th (305./G). VT does not have the last two on their schedule. The best ACC defense they played was #49 Miami (389.9/G) last week. They held VT (who averages 452.1/G) to 362 yards. Hooker’s rushing numbers were 21/59-1TD, long of 53 and Herbert’s were 8/49-0TD. Hookers numbers were held down by 6 Miami sacks.
My 3’rd and final key to a Pitt victory is VT’s schedule. This matchup will be VT’s 9’th straight game. They have lost the last 2 and 3 of their last 4. Are nagging injuries and fatigue taking a toll. Herbert’s 8 carries against Miami may be a sign of both.
Pitt 27 – Virginia Tech 20
Editor’s Note: Man he really goes inside the number here. I wasn’t feeling too good about this game going in, but coming off a “bye” week and going against a depleted and likely disheartened Virginia Tech team, that has to go on the road, I’m buying what Richard is selling. Now I just wonder if there is a Holiday Inn we can put them in… out in McKees Rocks or something?