Up Next: Rhode Island

Hello all, Maestro here.  I’m going to be standing in for Richard Hefner for the next few weeks. 

And standing in is an appropriate theme, because Pitt will have plenty of stand-ins on the field this week. So the question we should be asking ourselves is not “Can Pitt can beat Rhode Island?”, but “Can Pitt beat Rhode Island with their third and fourth string?”  Or maybe even, “Can Pitt beat Rhode Island with their third and fourth string convincingly enough to remain in the top 25”.  Because no matter what Pat Narduzzi says, we really aren’t battling the Rhode Island Rams this week, as much as we are battling attrition and Pitt’s propensity to get overlooked in the polls.

About that attrition: Pittsburgh Sports Now took it upon themselves to cobble together a sort of Injury Report last Sunday. There were eleven (11!) contributors listed on said report. (That’s 25% of the two-deep folks.)

Regardless of what 2-1 Rhode Island is bringing to the party, you’d have to think Pitt is going to be trotting out some backups. Maybe even backups-to-the-backups. Here is what we know so far:

QB – Kedon Slovis – Narduzzi said he “could have played” against WMU.  Now that that game has been nicely salted away in the record books, we are all glad he didn’t.  Personally, I’d hold Slovis out against Rhode Island too.  It sounds like Narduzzi is of a similar mind (I think the words “we are going to have to tie him down” were used at the presser).

QB – Nick Patti – “Ankle Injury”. I thought I read something about Patti that said High Ankle Sprain but you when you have a full time job and two toddlers running around things tend to get foggy. Anyway, according to the Cleveland Clinic “It might take you six to eight weeks to heal from a high ankle sprain. If you’re an athlete it might take an even longer time”. That puts us well into the back half of the schedule, and if Yarnell keeps building on his ACC-Rookie-of-the-Week debut, he may very well Wally-Pipp Nick Patti out of the #2 job.

C – Owen Drexel – Nobody really knows what’s wrong with Drexel, but speaking of Wally Pipp:  Chris Carter reported on Tuesday that Narduzzi indicated “that the Panthers starting lineup could be subject to change based on performance”.  Based on what we saw out of the running game on Saturday, I don’t think many would complain about that.

RB – Rodney Hammond – Supposedly he wants to transfer.  (I’m KIDDING).  But for real, I did see a tweet from PSN that included the words “bull—-“, “speculation”, “Hammond”, “injury”, “transfer” and “controlling the narrative”.  

WR – Jared Wayne – I tried to find something out about Wayne’s status on Twitter, but when I typed in his name all I got were Tweets from one “Jared Wayne Gifford”, who apparently writes comic books for a living.  Getting back to Pitt, I *think* Wayne has a concussion / head injury / upper body injury.  Wayne – who appears to be the only reliable WR on the team right now – would probably do well to rest up before we get into ACC Play. 

DE – Haba Baldonaldo – Rivals’ Jim Hammett on 1/7/2022:  “Pitt’s top four defensive ends for next season:  Deslin Alexandre, Haba Baldonaldo, John Morgan and Dayon Hayes have combined for over 40 sacks and 64 tackles for loss in their careers.”  Three of them are now injured. La-dee-da.

DE – Dayon Hays – PSN gave Narduzzi’s injury non-disclosure policy a bit of the finger this week when they leaked that Hays had a torn meniscus and would miss the rest of the season.  I say good on them.

DE – Deslin Alexandre – He dressed for the WMU game.  He probably dresses for URI.  I don’t think he plays unless they really, really need him though.  Which they won’t.

DE – Nate Temple – Nate Temple is the guy who’d make you say “well yea, Haba’s out and Dayon’s out and Deslin is out; sure is a good thing we’ve got Nate Temple”. Soooo…about that.

DT – Devin Danielson – Did not travel to Kzoo.  Will he travel to Acrisure stadium?  I’m…not…SURE. 

CB – Marquis Williams:  Wore street clothes for the second half of the WMU game.  PSN says could be a foot or ankle injury.  Get ready to see AJ Woods give up lots of long passes.  Woof.

With all of that said, the biggest question is defensive end.  The quarterback position has already been much-discussed.  Seems like we have a million wide receivers, many of them underworked.  Running back depth is just fine, as is Defensive Tackle and Corner (despite my comment about Woods, he’s not a terrible CB).  But four defensive ends injured?  Three of them starters or co-starters?  There’s not an FBS team in the land that can survive that.  Right? 

Right.  Well sort of.  This isn’t going to be a hot take, but DE is the one area where Pitt can absorb some injuries.  PSN said as much when they alluded to Nahki Johnson (rFR) potentially getting some playing time.  However, Narduzzi seems to value experience, which would suggest Redshirt Senior and former walk-on Chris Maloney will see the field.  He’s no Nate Temple (haha), but I think he gained a couple of mentions from Narduzzi in the spring (Duzz also mentioned Maloney during a recent presser).  Narduzzi also complemented redshirt Junior Bam Brima, saying “[its] certainly worth noting how well he played [against WMU]”.

Okay so now that the injury problem has been addressed.  What about the actual opponent? 

The Rhode Island Rams sport a 2-1 record, having dispatched the winless Stony Brook Seawolves, and the equally winless Bryant Bulldogs.  The Rams lost to perennial FCS power Delaware last week, 42 – 21. 

Rhode Island is quarterbacked by fifth-year Senior Kasim Hill, who’s got some good size at 6’2”, 234.  Hill finished last year with 2170 yards, with 18 TD’s and six INT’s, so he’s pretty good at taking care of the football.  What he’s not so good at is actually hitting his target, as evidenced by his 53.2% completion percentage last year (and his 52.8% YTD).   Maybe he takes a lot of deep shots.  Maybe his receivers drop a lot of passes.  Either way, he completed just 43% of his attempts against Delaware, for 179 yards so you’d have to think that Pitt’s style of defense should do well here.  Hill also doesn’t seem to be much of a running threat, having amassed just 26 net rushing yards in three games, with a long of 12.

Speaking of rushing, URI’s stable of running backs looks pretty solid.  Local (to RI) sophomore Jaylen Smith from Pawtucket averaged 5.3 per touch last year.  He’s averaging 6.7 per tote this season…albeit on just 29 carries.  He went 7-for-36 (3.6 YPC) against the Blue Hens.  New Jersey native Marques DeShields (possibly related to Solomon?) has carried 32 times this year for a 5.8 average.  DeShields ran for 767 last season, averaging 4.6.  He had some tough sledding last week, going 15 for 30 yards against Delaware.  I’d also be remis to not mention sophomore Gabe Sloat, who took his one carry against Delaware and turned it into a 65 yard touchdown.  Watch out for Sloat!

Realistically though the “law firm” of Sloat, DeShields and Smith needs to watch out for Pitt’s front seven.  We all know Pitt is pretty good at stopping the run, and I suspect they’ll be hungry.

URI’s Receiver group is pretty much a two-man show.  It’s headlined by diminutive (5’9”) senior Ed Lee.  Lee has racked up 15 catches so far, for 265 yards, (17.7 average) and 2 TD’s.  If you extrapolate that out through a season that’s 60 receipts for just over 1000 yards, and 8 TD’s.  Not too shabby if he can keep up the pace.

If Lee is the speedy short guy, then his counterpart, senior Kathero Summers, is the tall physical guy.  Listed at 6’ 3” and 213 lbs, he’s got FBS size, which he used to good effect against Delaware, pulling in 5 receipts for 78 yards and 2 TD’s.  He’s got 11 catches for 191 yards on the season, which comes out to 17.4 per catch, so he’s either breaking tackles for RAC, or he’s got some wheels of his own.  As usual, you should expect Pitt to give up some long passes…most likely to Summers.

Now about the Rams’ defense…

In a bizarre twist of fate, URI comes into this game with more sacks than Pittsburgh.  (11 to eight, by ESPN’s count).  I would expect that ratio to flip by the end of this game.  Pitt’s defensive line, although depleted, should be able to feast on the apparently immobile Kasim Hill. 

I’m not even sure I need to highlight the rest of Rhode Island’s defense.  We all know what’s going to happen here.  Yarnell will get his second start.  Cignetti will cut-and-paste the Western Michigan game plan.  Pitt will then smash-mouth their way to another twenty-seven points (before any turnover-or special teams scoring), which will be about twenty-four more than they need.

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone

83 thoughts on “Up Next: Rhode Island

  1. Good work Mike…. Enjoy those babes!!!

    I must be over-confident ( for the 1st time in forever!!!) NO WAY we lose….. but just in case of the improbable upset- GET YOUR PEN And PAPER ready Annie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. New Chancellor has to focus on academics. University still very strong but could definitely be better. The Law School is in major decline. I can only hope that our new leader will not forget sports.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. We are still better than Penn State

      “The U.S. News & World Report ranked Pitt at #23 for public universities and #62 for national universities, tying with George Washington, Syracuse, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Virginia Tech. Both these rankings decreased from last year when Pitt came in at #20 in public universities and #59 in national universities. Pitt’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program also dropped from #7 to #15.
      Penn State ranked #31 for public universities”

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Given how much manipulation there is in these rankings (see Columbia U which was #2 but dropped to #18 with real data), I don’t put much stock in these lists any longer. Schools cheat in recruiting. In rankings. Reminds me of the payola scandals of the 50s.

        H2P!!’

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Maestro you are not a diamond in the rough, you are a well polished gem. Duzzi will
    play it conservative to avoid further injuries and Cignetti’s WMU game plan will be trotted out again. Duzzi will try not to totally destroy the Rams because it is his alma mater.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’ve had quite a few clients with meniscus injuries. Barring Dayon also having some other injury, it alone would not cause him to miss the whole season, even if he had surgery. PSN missed the mark on this one. Wonder if Duzz bans them from future press conferences.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d play Slovis for a couple series after the OL has seen how RI will blitz and prove they can pick it up. Get Slovis back into game mode and more comfortable with the offense. This is still his first year in this offense.

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  4. Bravo, bravo Maestro.
    Always enjoy your writing style and analysis.

    If Slovis was indeed cleared last week, I woulkd give him the 1st qtr and Yarnell the 2nd and 3rd. Assuming they do well, the Dartmouth kid gets some snaps in Q4.

    Would be good for Slovis to throw balls to Means and Mumpfield, who I would play for the 1st half. Maybe more for Means. But I would make sure Jaylen Barden gets plenty of PT to get him ready for conference play…especially since we don’t know how long Wayne might sit.

    And can Sam Scarton get a chance in game conditions to show us what he can do?

    Liked by 6 people

  5. You are a terrific writer MM. I always enjoy reading anytime you chose grace us with your prose.—-I’m hopping Yarnell gets to play most of the URI game with an expanded passing inventory of calls. The kid has great potential IMO and I think Pitt should begin to show just what he is capable of providing going forward. I’m never very excited to watch Pitt smash mouth anyone since we have not done so to many in the past. Our OL is not our strong suit regardless of what many others had believed going into this season.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anyone here (Jackagain?) have a pirate tv channel to watch the Steelers tomorrow eve? Much as I love my Steelers, I wouldn’t give Amazon one sou !!

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    1. Ha. I love Amazon … and so does my wife. I’ll probably work for them at some point in my industry so there is that, too. Their broadcast last week in 4K killed network coverage. Plus, you get Kirk Hirbstreit calling NFL games.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I think Duzz has essentially said that Slovis is starting. You play these games to get reps for your players. If you aren’t injured, you’re playing. Get up by 4 TD’s and you come out.

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  8. I think this group has gotten a bit carried away with Yarnell. He has great potential, but Slovis is the guy who could take the team to division and ACC titles. Slovis is still getting comfortable with the offense, and he needs work to get ready for the ACC. If Yarnell played more and threw a couple of interceptions, it would hurt his development and it would surely quiet things down.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I tried posting several times over the last few weeks and got wordpressed so I gave up. Good to see everyone’s thoughts though, always great to read.

    In summary, a lot remains to be seen from this team this year, so I will not rush to judgment, but I have just a few thoughts:

    I’m sure some will disagree, but I’m beating the drum again, and feel we Narduzzi needs to have a short list of replacements in hand for Borb. This is an offensive line with an average age of 25 and they are still pretty mediocre (not bad, not good). All I’ve seen this year justifies my prior year comments, that Pickett’s scrambling ability made the OL look better than they were, and this year we are stuck without a mobile quarterback.

    I haven’t seen enough of Slovis yet, but he seems to be a solid pickup. Very pleased with the play of Yarnell- BOTH Slovis & Yarnell need to play, they both need significant live reps; I realize Slovis will get the bulk.

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    1. I’ve been beating that same drum for years. Narduzzi picked up Borbely from the scrap heap of washed up coaches. In his last year at Maryland, they demoted him to reviewing film, or some such.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Just caught a replay of ACC PM. Nate Yarnell had a nice interview.

    And speaking of ACC PM, the show could well be titled “Packer but not Durham.” Same setting in Packers basement, same format, just no Wes Durham.

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  11. I disagree with the Borebly criticism. The OC run and pass blocking schemes have as much to do with the OL success as talent and position coach.

    Under OC Watson, two 1000 yard rushers with a make shift OL, I don’t think the guy forgot how to coach run blocking since then. Pass blocking was questioned then.
    Under OC Whipple, ACC championship, record offensive performance, the criticism was they couldn’t run block.
    He was OL coach at Louisville and Colorado when they won conference championships. Louisville was the beast of the Big East then.

    Bringing up his MD tenure is comical. In his first year as OL coach…

    “Maryland’s rushing offense thrived in Borbely’s first season with the Terps. Maryland totaled 2,594 yards on the ground, marking just the seventh time in the history of the program (and first since 2003) the Terps eclipsed 2,500 rushing yards. The team also posted 26 rushing touchdowns – the most since 2007.” Again, he got criticized for pass blocking, lol.

    The next year he wasn’t OL coach because the HC Durkin was a complete tool and a disaster for their football program.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. OT – Heard former Steeler Rod Woodson being interviewed on local radio yesterday. He was asked: “Who’s the best QB you ever played against?” He didn’t hesitate: “Dan Marino.”

    Said if Marino played with today’s rules, he put up astounding stats…

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My 3 cents

    ACC PM appears to be going after the youth segment, but I prefer Wes over the two young ones

    I think WVU should be favored and will win. VT has the home field advantage but I think the Eers are the better team

    It was good to read Maestro again. Don’t be a stranger

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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    1. ebb.. totally agree with your ACCPM observation and also meeting the diversity factor… quit watching it since Wes is no longer there

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  14. VT looked good in their first game but they did play Phil Jurk’s terrible BC team. Their transfer QB from Marshall looks pretty good. Joe Rudolph is there run game coordinator. I guess he wanted to learn a new offense because it looks like VT runs a spread RPO offense. Not Potato Paul’s pro style.

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  15. Nice to hear from you Michaelangelo, great job and thank you!

    PITT wins and gets highly scrutinized, that’s the way it should be. Too often in the past we only had losses to complain about.

    Cignetti is ok not my first option though. Narduzzi said it right, they haven’t put a solid game together yet.

    Slovis, KEEP SLOVIS HEALTHY! But you have to play the kid and give him and the receivers some beneficial get to know each other time.

    ike
    I’ll be back.
    H2P!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If he is concussed, you can’t rush him back. I’ve had two. My headaches didn’t go away for two weeks. My mind wasn’t able to Focus for 60 days.

      And high ankle sprains like pattis, you can’t even walk straight without a burning sensation. It’s a good four to six weeks laying up. Again, from experience.

      Tex – whose hangover recovery is Guinness book. Look me up.

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  16. Brown played on some bad Buffalo teams. That’s why. I was there in person. I know.

    Not fair to him. But that’s the way the chicken wing is served. Some like it naked. Some like it breaded. Some like it hot. Some like it sweet. Some like it with blue cheese. Some with ranch.

    I prefer the Buffalo brew Pub wings on main in Williamsville. Medium heat. Blue cheese. Celery on side. And with one of their micro brews like the oatmeal stout.

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    1. My favorite meal at the Brew Pub was the sampler with beef on wek sliders and five or so wings. As a Pitt student almost 20 years ago, I drove a small truck and delivered to Erie, Williamsville, and Cheektowaga.

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  17. Yarnell is from the Republic of Texas. I told y’all about him three years ago. Said he needs two years and then the sky is the limit. He’s a more athletic Big Ben.

    And yes Tex can be right twice in one day like a clock.

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  18. As far as school rankings go, Columbia exposes the fraud and manipulation and payoffs. Huff was right all along. These rankings are pure BS.

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  19. Glad to see everyone FINALLY getting on the Yarnell Train.

    Would have thought his HS Highlights would have been enough.

    But, then again… there is that Defensive End named Conner.

    Better late than never.

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  20. I hate putting the whammy on but, barring key injuries (plural), there is little reason for Pitt not being favored the rest of the way except for Miami and maybe UNC. Tomorrow’s UNC – ND game should be interesting

    Thus far, the two Virginia teams haven’t looked too good, and the same for Ga Tech. Duke is undefeated, and if they beat Kansas tomorrow, I will become concerned

    Louisville is very inconsistent and Cuse plays much better in the Dome (or whatever it is now called)

    I apologize in advance if we finish 7-5

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Speaking of QB Nate Yarnell – I had a couple thoughts:

    —Impressed that he played that well with only one week of work with the “Pitt offense.”
    —Liked that he didn’t mishandle the ball at all that I can remember.
    —11 good throws and only one poor throw – not bad.
    —Good news that he was given the authority to change the play at the line (Was this kind of an indirect Duzzer shot at Oh Canada? I mean just last week it was revealed that Trubisky does not always have the okay to change plays at the line…).
    —The problems Yarnell had with getting the play-calls will disappear as he gets experience.
    —It’s a small sample but I thought Yarnell looked pretty slow afoot. Not a running threat at all. Glad to see Lone Star touting his athleticism. Maybe there will be more there as Yarnell gets more comfortable…

    Go Pitt.

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  22. Major, I think he actually is pretty athletic when watching him roll out. But I don’t believe he really wants to run with it.

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  23. Hakeem Williams top WR commits to Florida State today. Pitt and Georgia were finalists. He says he’s still keeping his mind open to Pitt, whatever that means. I was told that we had him.

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  24. Pitt mens soccer struggling at Louisville losing 2-1 with less than 30 minutes remaining. Pitt has never lead yet in this game.

    The Cards look like the better team.

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  25. Shots on goal 9 cards to 1 panthers

    Almost the whole game has been the cards attacking Pitt’s goal.

    This does not look like the Pitt soccer I’ve seen the past 2 years.

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  26. Pitt FB needs a blowout win to stay in the top 25 this week IMO, like 56-3

    Duke plays Kansas – two undefeated teams – one stays unbeaten and moves into the top 25. Cuse beat a bad UVA team last night and is 4-0, probably slides into the top 25 as well.

    While none of those three teams are as good as Pitt, they’ll each get votes on perception, while Pitt gets no credit for anything it has accomplished.

    I hope I’m wrong in many ways. Just win and move on to the next game.

    If we have one loss by the time the CFB playoff polls come out, we should be in the top 25 – lol.

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  27. I’d pump the brakes on the Yarnell optimism. It was a good performance, but a very small sample. My only concern with him is his long Todd Blackledge like throwing motion. His release isn’t fast. I guess it can’t be when your arm is a long wet noodle, lol. Then again, you can get away with that in college ball, just ask Todd.

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  28. By the way, highly regarded OL coach Joe Rudolph’s squad couldn’t run the ball on WVU. I guess he can’t coach. 😁

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  29. Cuse won in a penalty filled game against a UVA team that is clearly seeking an offense.

    Pitt 45-URI 10 with Pitt using the 3rd string through most of the 4th quarter. I would like to see Slovis 1st q, Yellen 2nd and 3rd Q and Kyler in 4th. Patti should be given another week off (rumored to be able to play). URI QB is a gunslinger and I would not be surprised to see him get a pass through our secondary. Will it be Scarton or Sauls or both??

    Like

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