Pitt @ Western Michigan University’s Game Thread/Predictions

Tonight will be an interesting match up between injury riddled (?) Pitt and WMU who pretty much kept us from the FBS Playoffs last season. That might be overstating it a bit but it sure didn’t help our chances. I mean Cincinnati was in it as a 4th seed and that just can’t be true. But it was.

I say ? to the injuries because King Pat does not like to talk about injuries and it makes him worry too much and he doesn’t like that.

Here we stand at 1-1 with two very close home games under our belt. Beating WVU was great for the history of the thing, but losing to a rather strong Tennessee team hurt. Not that UT didn’t deserve to win, they did, but we had wasted scoring chances all over the field. But as they say “Tomorrow is a new day (or tonight is).”

Let’s get into some stuff we can have up on screen while we bitch, praise, or moan each individual play as Pitt fans are wont to do:

First off here is a link to the Pitt vs WMU Game Notes. There is tons of info in theses notes (56 pages worth!), and I’ll cull out some stuff I think pertains to actually watching the game.

Here is our ‘Probable‘ two-deep for this game: Remember these game notes came out on Monday so they won’t mean anything as far as QBs go.

Now – onto predictions.

I think it will be another close game. Pitt wins if Slovis can play 60 minutes. Patti will be either left at home or on sidelines. If we have to play either of the lower two QBs I think we lose.

Slovis in:  31-27 Pitt
Slovis out: 31-24 WMU

Let’s hear what you think about the outcome…

HTP

2022 Season Up Next: Pitt at Western Michigan

What – No Rivalry or Classic? I already miss the special graphics.

Pitt is coming off a loss to Tennessee 30 – 37. I expected the loss but was surprised at how Pitt could have won. I will let it go at this time.

The Broncos won their MAC conference game over Ball State 37 – 30. Ball State was Tennessee’s season opener and proceeded to demolish the Cardinals 59 – 10.

This game will be Western Michigan’s (WMU) home opener.

I do not have any significant insight into Western Michigan. They did lose a lot of production from the 2021 upset. If you are interested in my Production Loss article on WMU here is the link:

2021 Production Lost – Western Michigan (pittpov.com)

If you are interested in reading about the Broncos first two games,  here are links to the SBNations site – Hustle Belt:

What We Learned from Western Michigan’s 35-13 loss to Michigan State – Hustle Belt

2022 MAC Football Week 2 Game Recap: Western Michigan Broncos 37, Ball State Cardinals 30 – Hustle Belt

What We Learned from Western Michigan’s 37-30 win over Ball State – Hustle Belt

I thought the “What We Learned “ articles were good reads.

 As usual, I start with the schedules and results. I only list the OOC games for non-conference opponents.

Both teams have allowed opponents 65 points.

On to the review, starting with NCAA team stats through 9/10 games. There are 131 FBS teams this year with the move of James Madison to the Sun Belt Conference. I am using a new NCAA stat list. The new list includes all 47 stats that the NCAA tracks at a team level. The old one only had 25. Besides national FBS ranking, the new chart adds conference rankings. I also sorted the stats by type so that offense defense and miscellaneous stats are grouped.

Both teams are deliberate in their offense by time of possession (TOP). Do not expect any up-tempo offense by either team. If you are watching at home, there will be plenty of time between plays to grab a beer or snack. See the bottom of the RB/WR chart for a rough estimate of seconds between offense plays (TOP divided by offensive plays).

The offense revolves around QB play. Below are the numbers for WMU and Pitt’s QB’s after one game.

Salopek, a Norwin HS graduate, deserves his low passing efficiency ranking (#113). He had a 103.4 rating against Michigan State and a 106.1 against Ball State.

Pitt, on the other hand, is concerned about who is the starting QB. BTW, Slovis rating of 160.1 is better than any of Pickett’s except 2021. An unfair comparison but true.

RB’s and WR comparison.

From the stats, WMU is better at rushing (avg, yard) while Pitt is a better passing team. Currently the duo of Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson is a potent one/two punch. Pitt would match with Izzy and Rodney Hammond, but Hammond is injured. According to one of the linked Hustle Belt articles, the WMU backup QB is Mareyohn Hrabowski. He has rushed for two yards on one attempt. He did throw a completed pass, but it was called back because of a penalty.

Continue reading “2022 Season Up Next: Pitt at Western Michigan”

A View From the Press Box

Joe L. suggested I write a piece about sitting in the Heinz Field (yes, Heinz Field!!) press box during a Pitt game so here goes.

Our Very Own ID Card

First off as nice as it is to be invited it really isn’t as much fun as sitting in the stands with POVers. Everyone in the press box is really friendly, especially EJ Borghetti and the rest of his staff. They provide a great pre-game buffet and drinks with an adjoining room where you can sit and eat while watching a big screen with the pre-game shows on it. I don’t usually sit in there as if I’m in PGH I’m with the POV tailgaters until just before kickoff.

Here is a listing of all the seats assigned (I’m not real good with cell phone photos.)

Want to bitch about replays and bad calls – just turn to press box and scream!

There are four (?) levels of seats in the box – which is located on the side of the stadium next to the Carnegie Science Center. The left side of the actual press box starts at around the 50 yard line, the radio broadcast box sits right on it. The important print/internet/whatever media types have most of the first two rows starting from the left side. The left is closest to the 50.

Then here is what is around me looking over to there – past this is the main radio broadcast from 93.7 The Fan. Those are the two vertical windows by the left monitor facing the rest of the box (I think). In that lower left corner is where the most-favored media sits as stated above. I believe there is a Spanish broadcast booth off the right side of the box.

Those people are from, in order, Post-Gazette, the Trib, Panther Lair, DK Sports and such. Surprisingly The Pitt POV is also assigned a front row seat but much farther to the right and closer to the end zone but I don’t usually sit there.

The Blessed

The second row is where the decision makers sit – officials doing replays, scoreboard, game clock, and play clock, lots of radio personnel along with bowl scouts. This game we had reps from the Chick Fill-A and Gator Bowls sitting with the Maxwell Award scout.

The third row is interesting as it comprises Pitt Public Affairs kids along with local TV media personnel and NFL scouts. The NFL teams sending scouts Saturday were: Steelers, 49ers, Bills, Colts, Dolphins, Seahawks and Jaguars.

Something to remember about scouts of all kinds is that are mostly local ‘stringers’ who mainly do broad canvassing of local teams/talent then send reports into their employers – if they ping on someone special then the NFL teams send their major scouts to do follow-up and more in-depth reporting. Some major print/Internet outlets like Sports Illustrated and others use stringers like that also.

The bands attempt at a Panther Head? I couldn’t really tell…

When you’re done eating, drinking and schmoozing you are ready to move to your assigned seating for that pre-game stuff and coin toss. As you can see by the seating list graphic above The POV was assigned in the 40s for this game which is nice. However I always take a seat way up on the fourth (3rd? I’m confused) level so I can get closer to the mid-field and have less people around me as I like to, gently, cheer and groan as appropriate (and sneak a vape now and again – don’t tell EJ, usually I go to the bathroom for that).

Now, this was a big game. Next home game against Rhode Island seating will be much more compact as many less outlets will not care all that much.

Speaking of which they make a rather stern announcement about ten minutes before kickoff stating that the Box is a ‘professional area’ and as such no cheering, yelling, swearing, etc. will be tolerated and if you do so they will kick your ass out. I paraphrase there.

First here is my layout:

Looks like I know what I’m doing, huh? To be honest I mostly just comment on the game thread and take a lot of notes for my own info and maybe for future articles – like this one.

Continue reading “A View From the Press Box”

MMQB – Tennessee Loss 34-27

First off let’s clear the air about something. When I was in the press box for the first half of the game almost everyone agreed with the referee’s penalty calling and reviews. I know a lot of Pitt fans want to point directly to the SEC refs for somehow screwing us but the media gets live feed for review cameras and I agreed with them also – first half only though as I listened to the second half in my car.

OK, that said, let’s look at what we did correctly and what we screwed up on. My first thoughts are not individual plays, although some certainly effected the game in their own ways, but what the players as a whole actually did out on the field as a team. Therefore, the Offensive Line is almost solely responsible for this loss in my opinion.

Yes, our RB Abanikanda had 154 yards and a well blocked 76 yard TD stroll to put us up 10-0. That was fun to watch. But, when you factor in the yards gained of our two RBs (the only two who took handoffs) aside from that run we had this: 92 yards on 29 carries for a 3.17 yards per carry (YPC). Those numbers are without the QBs’ eight carries for (-)26 yards which includes four sacks given up. After two games we are 76th out of 131 in Sacks Allowed (SA) and 106th in Tackles for Loss Allowed (TFL). Folks, that doesn’t cut it against other P5 schools.

I believe a good OL allows the offense to have sustained drives that results in first downs and points on the scoreboard. Saturday we had 15 possessions and scored only five times. A 1:3 production that held us to 27 points. Our four of 18 third down conversion rate of only 22% ties directly into the above also.

Add the fact that yet again we had our QBs running for their lives, or limping in Patti’s case, with tons of ‘hurries’ and four sacks. So – one last dig at the OL – out of 44 pass attempts they gave up 26 (!) hurries which allowed Vol’s extra pressure on the QBs. Add the four sacks to that and you have 68% of our pass plays where the QBs were trying to complete passes under duress.

So overall I think our OL sucked for the second straight game.

Our new QB, Slovis, had a decent showing in leading the O to 17 points in the first half. His yardage stat of 195 in two quarters looks impressive and the ‘Leaping TE’s’ catch and scurry for 56 yards helped that number. But throwing an INT from the opponent’s 21 yard marker hurt us (and yes, not all his fault there) and stopped a drive that would have given us a commanding 17-0 first quarter lead.

On that drive Slovis passed on every play and had two completions, an interference call then two misses ending with a pick in the end zone. Like this:

  • 1st & 10 at PITT 39(6:00 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass complete to Jared Wayne for 18 yds to the Tenn 43 for a 1ST down
  • 1st & 10 at TENN 43(5:26 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass complete to Gavin Bartholomew for 7 yds to the Tenn 36
  • 2nd & 3 at TENN 36(4:44 – 1st) Slovis, Kedon pass incomplete to Mumpfield, Konata, PENALTY TENNESSEE pass interference (McDonald, Tamarion) 15 yards to the TENNESSEE21, NO PLAY, 1ST DOWN PITTSBURGH.
  • 1st & 10 at TENN 21(4:37 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass incomplete to Konata Mumpfield
  • 2nd & 10 at TENN 21(4:30 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass incomplete to Jared Wayne
  • 3rd & 10 at TENN 21(4:16 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass intercepted, touchback. Trevon Flowers return for no gain

Slovis then contributed to us giving up the ball on downs well inside the TENN side of the field by not being able to shake pressure and taking a sack on the fourth and three play. That shut down our offense for the rest of the half. Narduzzi took a big chance there and no first down led to TENN grabbing the lead on a quick strike TD to make it 21-17 on the next possession.

The jury is still out on Slovis as he hasn’t shown a true ability to bend rapid developing situations on the playing field to his advantage. We know he’s no Pickett but when he has to start moving his feet before he can get a pass off bad things follow.

Our defense was better but not a ton lot better either. Giving up 27 point in regulation play was fine – not as good as last season’s 21.6 ppg, but was OK on the day.

TENN’s WR Tillman had a great day against our slow, and out of position, DBs with nine catches for 162 yards and one TD of 61 yards that put the Vols up 21-17 late in the second quarter.

Hear that phone ringing? That’s USC with another $3M to spend on a WR. If Tillman doesn’t answer maybe our WR Jared Wayne gets a call.

TENN’s QB Hooker did this: 27 of 42 (64.3%) for 325 yards; 2 TDs and 0 INTs on a fine day passing. We gave up 100 less rushing yards as opposed to last week but allowed 111 more passing yards. Hot and cold as they say.

Here is a statistical comparison of the two games we have played so far.

Our defense did tighten up in the second half holding our opponent to only six new points while we put up 10 for the tie and the right to go into OT. The graphic here shows that we had an almost ten minute advantage in the game Time of Possession (TOP) and to have that and only a 22% third down conversion rate shows that our defense gave up as many points as we had but in ten minutes lass time of possessing the ball. But a +10 minute TOP without converting third downs kills a chance to score more points.

Considering there was only one yard separating the teams in total yards, first downs and equal turnovers it makes you wonder why we couldn’t have done more with that extra possession time. But we couldn’t.

Which leads us to the final chapter…

When, in the first overtime session and needing a TD to tie and force yet another OT (or getting a TD and going for a two point conversion to win which our head coach didn’t have the stupidity to do) Pitt did this:

  • 1st & 10 at TENN 25(OT) Israel Abanikanda run for a loss of 3 yards to the Tenn 28
  • 2nd & 13 at TENN 28(OT) Nick Patti pass incomplete to Jared Wayne
  • 3rd & 13 at TENN 28(OT) Nick Patti pass complete to Bub Means for 8 yds to the Tenn 20
  • 4th & 5 at TENN 20(OT) Nick Patti pass complete to Konata Mumpfield for 10 yds to the Tenn 10 for a 1ST down
  • 1st & Goal at TENN 10(OT) Israel Abanikanda run for 2 yds to the Tenn 8
  • 2nd & Goal at TENN 8(OT) Nick Patti pass incomplete to Konata Mumpfield
  • 3rd & Goal at TENN 8(OT) Nick Patti sacked by Trevon Flowers for a loss of 12 yards to the Tenn 20
  • (OT) Timeout PITTSBURGH, clock 00:00
  • 4th & 0 at TENN 20(OT) Nick Patti pass incomplete to Konata Mumpfield

See how that panned out? From a starting first and 10 at the TENN 25 yard line we ran eight plays for a total of five positive yards. No gain or a loss of yards on five of eight game critical snaps…

Look, that series didn’t define how we played the whole game but as I was on the dark and lonely turnpike listening to Hillgrove, Bostick and Dickerson making sure “Homerism” is the cultural norm at 93.7 The Fan, I could just feel how it would turn out.

It wasn’t even the (-)12 yard sack on 3rd & goal that did that for me, more like when going into the OT coin toss I kind of knew that Pitt had shot it’s best shot on the final game tying drive and wouldn’t be able to do that twice in a row.  The only time we did score on two straight possessions was our FG then that 76 yard run in the very beginning of the game.  So, yeah, I didn’t think we could do that again, especially with a gimpy QB2 in the game.

Considering that the Vols held the lead or were tied for the final 35m 31s and then the overtime win I think it is safe to say we were out played and if it wasn’t across the board it sure was during the critical moments and by their better line play especially.

On toward Western Michigan for a 7:30pm game. Should be a sure win but then again…

HTP!