So first, in order to celebrate the impending kickoff, a bunch of POV’ers met up at a local area golf course yesterday. After they quickly and easily dispatched an imposter’s best attempt to troll the group, a good time was clearly had by all.
And after the round it was rumored that this refrain could be heard echoing from the 19th hole:
Fight on for dear old Pittsburgh And for the glory of the game Show our worthy foe that the Panther’s on the go Pitt must win today! Rah! Rah! Rah! Cheer loyal sons of Pittsburgh Cheer on to victory and fame For the Blue and Gold shall conquer as of old So fight, Pitt, fight!
Da da da da da-da Fight, Pitt, fight! Da da da da da-da Fight, Pitt, fight! V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!
Hail to Pitt, Hail to Pitt, every loyal son Hail to Pitt, Hail to Pitt, till the victory’s won The Gold and Blue shall wave forever On high thro’ fair and stormy weather We’ll sing her praises far and wide until the end of time Hoop hurray, Hoop hurray for dear old uni.. Give her a grand old ALLEGENEE GENAC GENAC GENAC We’ll wave and cheer for many a year And sing her songs out loud and clear For our University.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone. If you didn’t get a chance to check out Reed’s farewell article yesterday, please take a look. He’s the reason why we are here and he’ll always have a place in Pitt POV legend and lore. Definitely worth a read.
Now that you’ve done that, onto Miami.
Imagine this: An underperforming team with a true freshman quarterback takes on a the Coastal Division champ in the final game of the season and pulls off the upset.
Yep. That was us last year. Hail to freakin’ Pitt.
This year it’s Miami.
There are differences, of course. Miami True Frosh QB N’Kosi Perry is a four star recruit. Picket was a three. Also, Miami committed to Perry early, and they’ve played him in 8 games so far. Pitt held back on Pickett, and he had played in only two coming into the Miami. Lastly, Pitt was the underdog last year. And…somewhat surprisingly (or maybe not given the national media’s bias against Pitt) Pitt is the underdog again.
So lets talk about Perry.
First off, right now Perry is not a great passer, at least statistically. He’s completing 56% of his passes on the season at 6.4 yards per attempt on the season. To his credit he’s thrown 13 TD’s to only 5 picks. All this is good for a rating of 129.6. Not exactly stellar. With the exception of the TD / Int ratio, Perry has roughly the same stat line as the 2017 version of Ben Dinucci (56% / 6.9 YPA). Sure, Perry probably has more upside then DiNucci, but you have to like the fact that Perry has not yet developed into an NFL caliber passer. Yes he can still hurt you with his legs, but we seem to have figured that out as of late (no whammy, no whammy…)
Also I want to point out that Perry has not been a great against ACC competition. His last two games vs. GA Tech and Virginia Tech were not his worst, but they were also below his season averages. We arguably are playing as good or better defense than these two teams recently.
Perry in last two games (avg)
122 passer rating
Just for Kicks and Giggles: Pickett in Last 2 games (avg)
11.6 YPA (I’m not making this up folks)
200+ passer rating
All this to say that Perry’s level of play, assuming he does not break out on Saturday, pretty much plays into our defense’s strength. As Alan Saunders pointed out in his recent film study article, the Pitt Defense benefits from inaccurate and inexperienced passers. Lets hope Perry remains true to form on Saturday, and lets also hope that we can dial up some pressure on the quarterback.
The Miami Running game is another story. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas are a dual threat to be reckoned with. They are both smaller backs (Dallas is the bigger of the two at 5’11” / 200), and lightning quick. And they’ve racked up 1371 yards between them for an average of ~5.7 yards per rush. We will need to continue to plug the gaps and tackle well or it will be a long day. I’d recommend the coaching staff watch the BC and GA Tech game films, because those teams held these guys to about 3 yards per attempt.
Now lets talk about the defense.
Miami has the #3 defense in the country. Yes. #3. We should be worried.
In many ways this will be a good warm up for the ACC Championship vs Clemson (they have the #2 defense) because I expect our band of gritty two-and-three star offensive players to be severely overmatched for much of the day.
Yes, Shawn Watson will have his work cut out for him. Nonetheless, Miami has lost five games this season, three of them against teams that we’ve beaten. So they are not invulnerable.
Virginia beat them with defense and special teams.
Georgia Tech did it with turnovers. (they are #14 in the nation in turnover margin. For the record, we are #37)
The bottom line is that Pitt has too much heart to lose to a faltering Mark Richt Miami team, even though the talent gap is still pretty wide. Miami will make mistakes and the Panthers will capitalize. And there is the very real possibility that after we beat on them for three quarters, Miami will quit. Pitt wins 21 – 17.
I’m not convinced Wake Forest is our true opponent this Saturday.
Yes they have the #32 ranked offense in the country, and yes, they have an all-ACC caliber receiver who is 79 yards shy of 1000, and yes they have a quarterback that threw for 372 yards against NC State, and yes they beat then-14th-ranked NC State last week on the Road. And yes it’s Senior day.
And so you’d think Wake Forest is set up to exploit our less-than-stellar pass defense which is ranked #82.
But the reality is that Wake’s quarterback, Jamie Newman, is their backup, and the defense that surrendered those 372 passing yards is ranked 128th in the FBS. Yes folks, 128th. Kind of makes you proud to be a Pitt fan doesn’t it? 128th is the second worst in the entire FBS. Right behind Texas Tech and right in Front of Houston.
Thats not to say that Wake Forest isn’t dangerous. Sophomore WR Greg Dortch, is a 5’9″ speedster, and he’s just the kind of player that could give our defense fits. He’s fast, he’s shifty, and I’m sure they will move him all over the field. I fully expect him to have a big day. He also returns punts and kicks, so keep an eye on special teams, especially if the game is close.
Wake’s Running game is no slouch either. They have two backs that can gash you, and a seasoned offensive line that specializes in run blocking. (Sound familiar?) Senior Matt Cobern at 5’10”, 200 lbs ran for 243 yards vs Louisville (yes I know… Louisville is bad, but 243 is 243). Cobern has run for 698 yards on the year with a 4.8 yd average. He is physical and has good speed. Cobern is a “little banged up” according to Blogger So Dear, but he’s listed as the starter this week, perhaps because it is Senior Day.
Junior Cade Carney (Cade…you don’t hear that game up north) is a little bigger at 5’11” 215 and has run for 629 yards on the season, with a 5.2 average. Oddly enough he seems to show up in big games. With the exception of Syracuse game, his rushing average is higher against the better teams he’s faced this year.
Wake’s offensive line features three RS seniors in in the middle and two redshirt Junior tackles. They are experienced, and they are pretty darn good at run blocking. They rank 27th in “line yards” which is a measure of run blocking effectiveness. (For the record Pitt is 10th). However they rank 85th in sack rate, which tells me we should have a chance to get to the quarterback. (Pitt is 92nd). I believe I heard Narduzzi mentioned the Deacs runs some of the same zone schemes as us, so I suppose the silver lining here is that our front seven should at least have an idea of what to expect.
Wake Forest Achilles heel is their defense. They are 102nd in rushing defense, 123rd in passing yards allowed, and 120th in overall yards allowed. You have to think Watson and Borbley are licking their chops over this matchup.
Which brings me to my original point. Wake forest is not the real opponent on Saturday. The real opponent is ourselves. If we go down there and execute, we should win this game handily. We are statistically equal or better in nearly every category (except passing, except passing…), and we’ve played a tougher schedule by half. (Ours is ranked 27th, Wake’s 59th).
You would like to believe that after a statement win last Saturday, the 19 seniors on this team are focused 100% on the task at hand, and they’ve got everybody else focused on it too. With nothing other than my gut to guide me, I’d say there is about an 80% chance of that being true. And while I do not want to sit here and be the naysayer while we we have so much positive momentum, I have been a Pitt fan too long to put blind faith in any Pitt football team. So for me, last week is over (and yes it was a great week). For me, this is a “Prove It” game, just like every game left on the schedule. I’ve had my heart ripped out too many times to go all-in.
Here are some pieces of info and links to prep you all for the game on Thursday night… one thing to remember, I think, is that NC’s record of 1-8 is valid, but that doesn’t matter when the whistle blows. At this point Pitt is giving away 9.5 points to the Tarheels.
PITT (4-5, 2-3 ACC) vs. NORTH CAROLINA (1-8, 0-6 ACC)
• Pitt looks to continue its recent momentum when it hosts Coastal Division foe North Carolina for a Thursday night ESPN national telecast. This will be the Panthers’ 23rd all-time appearance on ESPN’s Thursday package.
• The Panthers are coming off a pair of impressive wins, 24-17 at Duke and 31-14 against Virginia. A victory over North Carolina would extend Pitt’s winning streak to three games and even its record at 5-5 on the season.
• Narrow margins have been the rule during recent Pitt-UNC series history. The past six meetings have been decided by a combined 25 points, an average of 4.2 points per game. The Tar Heels slipped past the Panthers in Chapel Hill last year, 37-36.
• Since 2013, North Carolina is the only team in the Coastal that Pitt has not beaten. The Panthers are 0-4 against the Tar Heels in ACC play. North Carolina also leads the overall series, 8-3.|
• Pitt’s last victory in the series occurred in the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. Coach Dave Wannstedt’s Panthers edged the Tar Heels (coached by Butch Davis), 19-17, on a field goal with 52 seconds left.
• Junior tailback Darrin Hall has reignited the Panthers’ rushing attack by averaging 182.5 yards over his past two contests. Hall had 254 yards at Duke, followed by a 111-yard effort against Virginia.
• Junior all-purpose player Quadree Henderson had a 75-yard punt return touchdown in Pitt’s last game against Virginia. Henderson has seven career kick return TDs, two shy of the national record.
• Quadree Henderson leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally in punt returns with a robust 16.1-yard average. North Carolina, in contrast, is 112th in punt return defense, surrendering 12.4 yards per return.