A Preseason Look at Western Michigan

Rich in SC strikes again…

I was only planning to review Pitt’s eight ACC opponents and Tennessee. But Danh72, Tex and Erie Express are pretty adamant in their belief that Pitt will lose to Western Michigan (WMU). So, I said what the heck let’s do it. What’s it going to cost me – five or six hours of research and eight to ten hours of typing. Maybe I would find something that would shake my complacency. Maybe I should be afraid, very, very afraid.

The WMU Broncos are led by Tim Lester. He took the reins when P.J. Fleck rowed his boat to the Minnesota Golden Gophers after playing in and losing a New Year’s 6 bowl game. Lester, In his four years at the tiller, is 24-20 (18-12 Conference, 6-6 Out of Conference (OOC), 0-2 bowls) with the Broncos. After a fifth place division finish in 2017, his team has finished in second place the last three years.

The Mid-America Conference (MAC) (12 teams, two divisions) were late to playing any kind of a 2020 football season in 2020. The MAC decided on a six game season with every team playing the other five division teams and one crossover game from the other division. The MAC regular season started Tuesday 11/4/2020 and ended Saturday 12/12/20. They did play Tuesdays and Wednesdays to fulfill their ESPN contract paying $1M to $2M per team per year.

The MAC is considered either the ninth or tenth best conference (depending on your feelings toward Conference USA) in the 10 conference Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

With that being said, what did WMU do against MAC teams and in their national rankings?

Lots of point scored. Just one blow out (Akron). Two three point wins (Toledo and Northern Illinois). Losses to eventual conference champion Ball State and a 2-4 Eastern Michigan team. If you take out the Akron game, WMU scored 192 points and gave up 192 points. (Then again, Pitt playing Austin Peay skews Pitt’s numbers.)

What is really  concerning to me is the last three games. A close loss to the worst team in WMU’s division. An 11 point loss to the second worst team and blowing an opportunity to still win the division title at Ball State.

On to a comparison of 2020 NCAA team and individual rankings compared to Pitt.

Go ahead and make any comparisons you want. Just remember that WMU played a MAC only schedule. Pitt played a mainly ACC schedule.

WMU offense is led by QB Kaleb Eleby. I believe Dan and Tex have mentioned that Eleby is fifth best QB Pitt will face. Wouldn’t surprise me if Erie Express (Rick) saw the same article or tweet. I did. Besides Eleby, I remember Howell from North Carolina and King from Miami. That leaves Sims from Georgia Tech, Uiagelelel from Clemson, Burmeister from Virginia Tech and Armstrong from Virginia as returning or named starters to finish out the top 5.

What were Eleby’s stats from 2020?

Both Eleby and WMU as a team were ranked #3. Not a bad showing for any QB and team. No matter what team, a 195.1 pass efficiency rating is pretty impressive.

Who caught the passes Eleby threw?

His main target was WR D’Wayne Eskridge. He caught 34 passes for 784 yards (23.1 yard/catch) and 8 touchdowns. He was drafted in the second round by Seattle.

Other returning receivers were:

WR Skyy Moore – 25 for 368 yards (16.5 yds/reception) and 3TD’s

WR Jaylen Hall – 12 for 323 yards (26.9 yds/reception) and 7 TD’s

RB Sean Taylor – 11 for 68 yards (6.2 yds/reception) 0 TD’s

RB Jaxson Kincade – 5 for 44 yards (8.8 yds/reception) 0 TD’s

Skyy Moore attended Shady Side Academy

WMU has 8 TE’s on their roster. Two players caught passes. They combined for 5 receptions for 33 yards (6.6 yds/reception) 0 TD’s

In rushing offense, WMU was ranked #41. Who toted the Rock?

RB  La’Darius Jefferson – 112 for 624 yards  5.6 yds/carry and 5 TD’s

RB Sean Taylor – 40 for 263 yards  6.6 yds/carry and 2 TD’s

RB Jason Kincade – 31 for 218 yards  7.0 yds/carry and 2 TD’s

QB Kaleb was the #4 in rushing for WMU. His stats are in with his passing numbers.

The leading returning defensive players are:

Safety A.J. Thomas 46 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 Pass Breakup (PBU), 1 Int, ! TD

Safety Bricen Garner 45 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 PBU

LB Corvin Moment 37 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 PBU

DT Ralph Holley 29 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 PBU

Speaking of leading returning players, here are the WMU players on the 2020 All MAC team. Players moving on are color coded.

Bricen Garner and Therran Coleman are on the WMU roster for the 2021 season. They were members of Pitt’s 2016 recruiting class. They used  the transfer portal after the 2019 season. Coleman did not play in 2020 due to injury.

Also, at WMU is Brandon Honorable. He committed to Pitt for the 2021 class but something happened and here he is now.

Besides Skyy Moore having local Western Pennsylvania (Shady Side Academy), there are two other locals at WMU. Dorian Jackson (Obama Academy) played at St. Francis where he made Honorable Mention All FCS team as a cornerback. The second is QB Jack Salopek (Norwin). The name sounds familiar. Was he or a brother on the Pitt roster as a walk-on?

If you want to see the Bronco’s in action, here is the time, OOC opponents, and channel.

Yes, The WMU at Pitt game is on your local Regional Sports Channel.

Pitt Wins.

88 thoughts on “A Preseason Look at Western Michigan

    1. Saturday blitz underestimates the emergence of Krull, a scary-great tight end.
      The article neglects to mention there is no better halftime game-manager than Coach Pat.
      They also fail to mention the inflexible scheme where db’s are left on an island no matter what the consequences may be.
      And don’t forget about Kenny, who started Pitt about the same time as Iron Mike.

      Nine regular season wins and then a bowl victory for the ages.



    2. He lost his credibility when he said Pitt has had a solid program since Narduzzi.

      This guy is from Atlanta. What does he know that we don’t.

      The only way Narduzzi wins the Coastal is if Miami, NC and VA Tech all forfeit due to covid.


    3. Terrible article. (The stars in your eyes one not Rich’s.). Zero facts. All opinion. And who is this guy? Seriously any jabroni with an iPhone these days can bill themselves as sportswriter. All this dude did was regurgitate some Mike Vukovan propaganda.


  1. As long as we have Whipple at O.C. all hope is lost! Still cannot believe he made Pickett, with a surgically repaired foot, run over to him for each play after Kenny returned from his injury last year. He should have been fired in the first quarter of that first game where Kenny returned!


    1. I can’t believe Kenny allows old pappy to do that to him. The third string QB should be signaling the plays in. That surgically repaired ankle has four screws in it. God forbid Kenny needs a fifth because he twists his ankle running to the sidelines.


  2. Picklesburgh is back after being canceled last year because of the pandemic. The three-day outdoor event will be Downtown Friday through Sunday on the Andy Warhol Bridge and Allegheny Overlook along Fort Duquesne Boulevard.

    Named the No. 1 specialty food festival by readers of USA Today, Picklesburgh features vendors, entertainment and — of course — pickle beer, cocktails and chocolate-covered pickles on a stick. Contestants will vie in 10 preliminary rounds on Friday and Saturday to compete in Sunday’s pickle drinking championship. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

    Tex needs to fly in and have a big glass of Pickle Juice with his beloved yinzers.

    Or is a big Pickle on-a-stick….more appealing to a texan.


    1. Mansfield has its own pickle day parade. ‘Best maid’ pickles are brined in vats just down from my house. Texans love pickles.


  3. Richard — From what I’ve read about the Western Michigan Fightin’ Whoevers, I don’t know how you wrote about them without using the word “juggernaut.” 😊

    Thanks for the article and for locating those missing former Panthers for us.

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great work Richard ! Thanks for the time and effort you put in for the POVert Nation.

    In golfing news: the teams are in their final night of preparation, studying film before hitting the training table then the sack. Tomorrow they will slug it out on the fairways and greens and when the dust settles the winners will hoist the infamous “FRANKCAN CUP !”

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Best of luck to all you golfers. Wear sunscreen. I got burned while hitting balls into the back woods this afternoon. I know some of my shots hit a few sheds and goats.

    Western Michigan will play Pitt tough. I can see them winning in a close game. Narduzzi is due a loss to a MAC team.

    And Syracuse will also beat Pitt this year. They are also due. Last game of year in the Dome.

    Tickets arrived yesterday for Tennessee. I expect a Pitt win. I’m not driving 13 hours to see pitt lose to a bad SEC team.


  6. And the men are favorites to win the ACC. The premier soccer conference in the land.

    So how did pitt do this without fan support (did have canine support), great facilities, tradition, local talent, and budget.

    One man

    Coach Jay.

    Football can work the same way. Remember men’s soccer didn’t win a ACC game for three years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great players gravitate to a great coach…. That’s the foundation needed to create and sustain elite sports teams.


    2. “Football can work the same way.”

      Look at Iowa State — ranked #8, class ranked #52.

      Yes, coaching can make HUGE difference. Narduzzi can’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Soccer for both men and women was awful. I mean like a winning percentage far worse than the Pirates. Then Pitt hires coach Jay and Randy. Within three years, the programs got turned around and are building huge momentum. Men’s is now elite. Women’s will make the playoffs for the first time ever this year. Coaching does matter.

        They know what players to recruit for their system. They have solid systems. They develop talent. They lead and motivate. If these things happen, your program will never stagnate and become mediocre.


  7. UCF will get a on campus stadium before Pitt

    Now granted it’s ugly. Cheap looking. And no roof overhang. Florida sun is unforgiving.

    But it’s a vision with a plan.


  8. Rich – enjoyed reading your article on WM. My gut tells me they beat Pitt due to Narduzzi’s conservative nature. He’ll play a tight game and lose to a high powered offensive MAC team that has a good QB, veteran team and better coach.

    It’s a foggy morning in Central PA as the FRANKCAN Cup participants travel in for a chance to sip from the cup. Several golfers arrived in town yesterday afternoon and were greeted by a nicely groomed course and extremely high humidity.

    Today’s weather is forecasted to be cloudy with a high near 85 degrees, with winds light and variable ENE 4 mph.

    Fran will be arriving early to help set-up the tailgating for the noon kick-off. The atmosphere and format should allow for a relaxed setting as the golfing and competitiveness become intense in the chase for the lowest score, the cup and the 1st place prize.

    The course should be somewhat forgiving with all the rain this past week, but please golfers, take no more than the allotted 3 minutes to look for your ball, fix your divots on the fairways, ball markers on the greens and pick up & move on to the next tee when par has been surrendered for a bogey.

    I look forward to seeing all the Pitt gear in the heart of nitterland.

    Go Pitt!

    Liked by 5 people

  9. WMU can score on MAC defenses, They also gave up on average of 34 points per game to MAC offenses. I think Pitt’s defense and offense can and should really challenge anything WMU can put on the field. It seems fashionable on this site to rip on Pitt regarding this game because, to me at least, SOP seems to guide a lot of people’s thinking. If Pitt loses this game, it will be because they are too cocky or too banged up after the Tennessee game. No way should they lose. I plan to be at this game on the Club level with my son and brother. I am kind of gimped any more physically, but hopefully I can make it. Last game I saw in person was Pitt’s great come from behind win over Syracuse a few years ago. H2P

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Justin – I agree with all that you are saying and I too will be at the WM game in my club seats rooting for Pitt to win. Pitt should beat WM, no doubt about it.

      Will they is where the predictions come in to play. I personally like Narduzzi as a person, just as I did with Wanny. Game day coach was and is lacking for both. I’m a Pitt fan and alumni who loves to win and hates to lose.

      FYI – many nitter fans question Franklin’s game day coaching and have serious doubts about his abilities. And they don’t question his recruiting, but what he does with the talent.


  10. They are better than the Eastern Michigan team that (should have) beat us in a bowl. But we are also ostensibly better than we were that year. Will be a close game…too close for comfort IMO.

    Rich Jack WMU QB Jack Salopeck rings a bell bc he was recruited by Pitt but chose WMU. I think two classes ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. After reading the above posts, I am wondering how much a head coach can actually improve results over time. Are the learned skills or the intangibles of leadership more important over time? I would think that at some point the learned skills reach a plateau where most good seasoned coaches can handle the game planning, game decisions and Xs and Os. But leadership skills are what attract new recruits and provide the long term image and success of the program.

    Which of these attributes is most necessary to push a program from 8 to 9 or 10 wins? And where is Narduzzi on these two timelines?


    1. Narduzzi is a DC in a HC uniform. Pitt needs a HC preferably with a strong O background with results. Otherwise you’ll get Groundhog Day.


  12. Even though the article Reed posted is superficial it is sad that our fans are so jaded that they can’t appreciate any positive press about the program and this years team. Everything positive has to be discounted.

    Already if by some miracle Pitt does win 9 games this year it is already being discounted by Tex and others, easy schedule, 4 wins next year etc.

    Are we rooting for Pitt to lose so we can continue to lambast and bash?

    I wrote years ago that it takes years of good recruiting classes to make a decent program. While there haven’t been stellar classes according to the recruiting pundits, Narduzzi has at least put together some decent depth and we no longer have to play guys before they are ready. Yes this has been aided by Covid’s extra year of eligibility, but there are now guys on the bench that are ready to play at almost every position.

    Big time school’s are now trying to poach Pitt recruits.

    Will this year be different? Who knows, there is a history of failure and SOP is an evil enemy, but I never go into a season hoping for failure. If you are hoping for our kids to fail to prove your point, then shame on you.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. What is so positive about pitt football.

    They are picked to finish in 4th place in the weakest of P5 divisions. That means most likely a 7 win season and only 3-4 quality wins. Another season unranked. Another bowl loss.

    That’s the pattern after six years with king pat. Nothing will change this year. Doesn’t matter. Easy schedule. 5th year QB. Doesn’t matter.

    And then you do need to worry about next year because pitt has no QB with experience.

    Football sucks compared to men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball. And wrestling. It’s all relative.

    Imagine what those programs could do with the money and facilities afforded to football.

    And soccer, volleyball and wrestling are all top ten programs despite real constraints and no support.

    It’s coaching

    I won’t be polishing the turd of a crown that king pat wears like some of you.


  14. Compare and contrast


    1. The only thing I can say is yes, they are going to have an on campus stadium before Pitt because they built the above one in 2007. Cheaply built (it swayed when fans are excited) they sued the contractor. These are renovations. Finally getting a club area with individual seats. To make up for the student section losing seats, they are adding ” standing room only” student sections. That’s ok because that is what they do for pro soccer games.


    1. And if it does turn out to be 8 wins, bowl win makes 9. It’s a one time event. Won’t be replicated. The good programs consistently put up 8-10 wins every season. They get ranked every season. Narduzzi already has a track record of unranked seasons. A ranked season would be an anomaly.

      I don’t see Pitt winning more than 8 this year. Vegas sees 7. Pundits see 4th place. I don’t think pitt will surprise anyone this year except in the worst way.

      Not getting my hopes up.

      Tough schedule next year with new QB is a recipe for disaster. And that will get noticed more so than 8-9 wins and a flash in the pan season.

      No employer in America gives a highly compensated individual more than six years to prove himself. Except Pitt.


  15. Pitt women’s volleyball now playing Cincinnati in an exhibition match in Cincinnati. It is on ESPN+ if you get it. If not you can stream the play by play. Pitt won the first set 25-16. Kayla Lund not playing. Hopefully her injury is not serious enough to keep her out of next week’s matches. One surprise for the Panthers is that Rachel Fairbanks, a freshman setter, played. I am just watching the play by play as I do not have ESPN+.

    Some good news. Kayla Lund is now playing.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Pitt won the second set 25-18. Cat Flood was the only new player in this set. Cincinnati is picked to finish #5 in the AAC. Expect liberal use of other players in third set.


  17. Some of us Pitt Fans still look forward to football season, warts and all, don’t give a hoot about Central Florida and their proposed stadium.

    Fact is, even after Pitt had it’s best graduating football class with several going to have strong NFL careers, Pitt still has a lot of talented guys that will be fun to watch. Sorry if you can’t find enjoyment in that.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. You should give a hoot because it shows how a good AD and BoT can work together to achieve a project benefiting football.

      That could never happen at pitt given the culture, leadership, structures and behaviors. I’ve penned an article on how it could happen with the probability behind each of the Five Points to the Plan.

      It all starts with a will.


      1. Just like pitt could have renovated old Pitt stadium. Again, compare and contrast the mindsets. One wants to win and be relevant. The other doesn’t care and being mediocre is just fine. You know which camp pitt is in.


        1. You said at 12:54 – “UCF will get a on campus stadium before Pitt”.

          I pointed out that they are only doing renovations. If you had read the linked article in the tweet you posted, you would have realized that it was not a new stadium but only renovations and not said “UCF will get a on campus stadium before Pitt”.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Renovations to an old stadium are no different to me than a spanking new one. Pitt had a choice. UCF chose wisely. That’s my point. The mindset is night and day. You deal on technicalities like a good old fashioned bureaucrat.


            1. You think a stadium that was built and first used for the 2007 season is old? The 2021 season will be #15. Renovations to stadiums, arenas, ball parks and other sporting facilities are always occurring. Pitt renovated the Petersen Event Center just a few years ago.

              Pitt’s vision is Victory Heights to drag the Olympic sports facilities into the 21’st century. Your vision is an on campus stadium and let the other Pitt athletic teams play in out of date facilities. Yet you still complain about not winning the made up directors cup.

              Liked by 1 person

      2. There you go Tex, let the pros like Richard handle this PITT stuff. You just wasted how many minutes of your time blowing smoke over another one of your mad-up stories.

        BTW Tex, I read in the last article that you’re now condoning that PITT women’s volleyball stays at Fitzgerald. LOL, you’re an easy read southern man. Stick to Poo when throwing things out there. Recently it’s been more like sand you’re tossing.

        If someone runs into a better man than Richard, take his picture because I’ll need to see proof he exists.

        The nice honor bestowed upon myself last year, I forget the name, I’m hereby nominate Richard for going the extra mile for the POV for this years award.

        It’s hot out there for the boys in Lancaster, it’s so hot you could fry an egg on Richman’s head. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I’ll be switching schools this Fall Ike. You can eat crow when Texas makes the BCS and Pitt makes a toilet bowl in Calcutta.


  18. Pitt wins third set 25-21. A plethora of players got into the action. 15 of the 17 players on the team were got on the floor. Posada and Jackson, both front line freshman, did not get in the match. Lund played the last two sets. Good tune-up for next weekend.


    1. It’s nice to have a team show pitt football how to dispatch an inferior opponent with ease.

      But Narduzzi fell asleep 💤


  19. It appears that Pitt and Cincinnati are playing a fourth set. Pitt traveled all the way there so they may as well take advantage of it. Jackson get on the floor!


  20. Don’t kill the messenger but was watching some preseason NFL and Damar Hamlin, Buffalo Bills draftee, was close to an errant throw from Justin Fields (Da Bears).

    That prompted the TV guys to say something along the lines that “there was Damar Hamlin, another one of those Pitt defensive backs… Pat Narduzzi is one of the best defensive back coaches…”

    Anyway, good to see Damar doing well. I looked him up and came across a nice article discussing the difficulties Damar has overcome.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hamlin learned very little from this Narduzzi coaching staff. I would say they held back his talents. Cost him two rounds. Roughly one million in coin. Hamlin is old school. He’d fit right in on a gottfried coached team. So much talent in those days.


    2. Most announcers just regurgitate what they are told to say. An intern came up with those lines. But Hamlin is the real deal and it has nothing to do with king Pat. He’ll get the coaching he needs in the pros.


    3. It’s never good to be a messenger unless armed with air support. Who in the Pitt administration understands this simple military concept?



  21. Seriously Special K. Wheaties are for Champions. Special K is for those insecure wanting to lose weight.

    No amount of sugar could make K taste special to me.


  22. I’m better in flesh. Brimstone to y’all who want to be indoctrinated as Texans. I’ll forgive the lack of hat, boots and accent. See yunz guys in Knoxville.

    How did the FRANKCAN cup go today. My money was on a team full of piss and vinegar.


  23. Tex, not sure who the piss and vinegar team is but the winning team was Erie Express and Friends at minus 8 and JoeL/ Richman/Missing Wlat/Big Al team at minus 5…

    Beer from the FRANKCAN cup is sweet…

    Thanks to all that traveled many miles to participate in what is always a good time!

    Special thanks to Rick / Erie Express for taking time to coordinate all this…

    Liked by 2 people

  24. We had a blast competing for the FRANKCAN CUP. Richman did behave himself, Major Majors. He did enjoy a few adult beverages along the way. It’s was a steamer out there. Meadia Heights is a great track. Thanks to Lastrow and Erie for organizing the event. Enjoyed speaking with Dan72, who I had not met before today. Cannot wait for the opportunity to get my name on the Cup next year.

    I did take a poll of participants, and asked for a prediction for a win/loss record for Pitt Football in 2021. I’ll share the details in a later post.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I’m feeling all of my 71 years after yesterday’s steam bath golf. Great tourney and thanks Rick!

    After meeting everyone and talking post golf yesterday, something I’ve known for a while surfaced. Pitt has some of the best fans and finest people I’ve ever met! I guess it’s the character building of so many years of football incompetence that creates the Pitt fan mind set and humility.

    It’s always great to meet Pitt fans who “live and die” with every snap of the football, like I still do!

    Someone at the outing said it best.
    “Even when we win, it’s often excruciating!” H2P

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I picked WMichigan as a loss because of Pitt and Duzz history.

    After a soul crushing defeat at Tennessee due to inept coaching decisions, I think an emotionally wounded Pitt team comes out flat for WM gets behind early and makes the usual mistakes while trying to catch up. So… we will see.


  27. I heard it yesterday at the golf tourney and read it here. Some one said “Duzz is a DC masquerading as a HC!”I could not agree more!

    He surely does not exhibit HC behavior during a game while losing his cool, angrily ranting and raving up and down the sideline in full view.

    I’ve never met a single amateur coach who displays that behavior and is successful. I don’t care what team it is, negative and uncontrolled open behavior during a game projects a lack of control to your team and creates chaos on the sideline. Kids need positive vibes to trust in their coach. Negative or constructive criticism needs to be done one on one privately with a coaches arm around a player.

    I truly believe Duzz’s game day behavior helps create the lack of in game focus so often displayed by Pitt Football.


    1. ACC officials deserve the earful they get from Narduzzi. Those dudes are as amateur as it gets.

      If a Pitt receiver can’t focus on catching the ball because Narduzzi yelled 10 minutes before, we have much bigger issues.


      1. Every game I ever got T’d up in basketball, we lost. If you think screaming at an ACC Football Ref in front of your players does any good at all, you’re mistaken. That’s why you have assistant coaches!


        1. That also contributes to the excessive amounts of penalties. The refs see what they want to see. If Duzz is riding them, their eyes are wide open and there is usually an infraction on every play.

          Also, when Duzz is chirping, the other Pitt birds think it is ok to chirp too. Yellow flags fly quicker with more chirping.

          Liked by 1 person

  28. Dabo’s team plays for the National Championship every other year. He’s always on TV and holds some sway over refs. Duzz teams barely make the top 50. He holds NO sway!


Comments are closed.