2021 Season – Western Michigan Broncos

Pitt is coming off a 41-34 road game victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. I am not going to recap the game as “Erie Express” (Rick) and “6 & 34” (Jay) did a superb job in recapping the game.

I will say that I expected Vol QB Joe Milton to miss all of his deep throws. He badly missed on the two or three he threw against Bowling Green (BG). He did get better in his accuracy. He was overthrowing his receivers by 5 to 7 yards against BG. Only 3 or 4 yards against Pitt. No more will I soft pedal or make you read between the lines with words like: “could have played any other QB on their roster with better passing results. To me and I am no expert, Milton seems to throw a hard pass with no touch when needed.”

On to the Western Michigan Broncos (WMU):

WMU rebounded from their opening game 14 – 47 loss to Michigan with a dominating 28 – 0 victory over the visiting Missouri Valley Conference FCS foe the Illinois State Redbirds (Normal, Illinois). Here is a recap of that game from the SBNation site “Hustle Belt”.

2021 Mid-American Conference Football Game Recap: Western Michigan 28, Illinois State 0 – Hustle Belt

Stats, Stats, and more Stats:

In my preview article, I mentioned the WMU QB Kaleb Eleby was rated as the fifth best QB that Pitt would face during the 2021 season. A reasonable assumption based on his 2020 passing efficiency rating. He finished third with a 195.1 rating. That rating put him only in the wake of Alabama’s Mac Jones (203.1) and BYU’s Zack Wilson (196.4). Jones and Wilson are spending this season as starters in the NFL. Is he living up to his 2020 potential? At this time, no. It is harder to put up the same numbers when you main 2020 target (D’Wayne Eskridge) joins Jones and Wilson in the pro’s.

Here are Eleby’s and WMU offensive stats for the 1’st two games:

Rushers and receiver stats for the first two games. Those on the left are year to date. On the right are stats against Michigan.

Last of the stats – a comparison of NCAA stats. Compare, enjoy, and look for anomalies.

My take is that Pitt starts off sluggish, regains their composure and cruises to a 34 – 17 win. I celebrate post game with Fran, Wolfe and others in Red 5A.

Hail to Pitt!!!

Could Happen…

Here is a fun piece by our resident playwright Eric…Heard outside Neyland Stadium in the parking lot after the game…..

Big B: Woo hoo! Hail to Pitt. What a win! We’re gonna fly the WUP flag high and proudly tonight!

Richman: Someone toss me a beer from the cooler. Better yet, make it two. A win over Tennessee warrants double fisting.

Joe L: So that’s what it’s like to play in a real college stadium? The orange and white stripes were pretty impressive and Rocky Top was awesome. Did I mention that Penn State sucks and so does Sweet Caroline?

(An unnamed “Panther” Fan arrives)

“Panther” Fan: Hey boys! I drove 14 hours to see that? Wow did we suck. How did we win? We couldn’t tackle. Couldn’t run the ball.  And couldn’t cover in the secondary. Thank god that Milton and Hooker reminded me of Tino Sunseri. Couldn’t shoot fish in a barrel. 

Big B: Come on. We just went on the road against a talented SEC team, in front of 80,000 fans, and pulled out a “W”. You can’t be a little satisfied?

“Panther” Fan: Did I mention that our special teams were a disaster? Does a blocked punt ring a bell?

Big B: For the most part I can’t argue with you there. But hey, did you see Tipton, my boy from Apollo, down that punt on the 2?

“Panther” Fan: You mean the 7th year Senior who now qualifies for AARP? 

(Richman belches)

Richman: Sorry about that guys. 

Joe L: You at least have to admit that Kenny looked good today. How about that dime he threw to Stovall for our first TD?

“Panther” Fan: Whatever. Getting back to special teams, and speaking of dimes, Narduzzi must have a dime-sized brain for trying to kick a 56 yard field goal, on the road, with a freshman kicker. He got bailed out by a lame penalty flag, otherwise we might be talking about that boneheaded move after a loss instead of a win. By the way, did I show you guys the list of replacement coaches that I always carry around in my back pocket? I tried to email it to Heather this week, but apparently she wasn’t receiving e-mails due to being on vacation in the Outer Banks.

Joe L: Listen, Kenny completed 66 percent of his passes, had two passing touchdowns, one rushing, and converted two fourth downs with his feet. That’s a great game by anyone’s standards.

“Panther” Fan: Well, he should play that way, he’s been at Pitt long enough. Wasn’t he our starting QB when Obama took office? And if you look at the stat sheet, Kenny only averaged 7.9 yards per completion. Surely Reed won’t be impressed with that. We throw horizontally, not vertically, which is a problem.

(Editors Note: Hey it’s Reed here. You know, the guy who started the POV, the best blog in the history of Pitt Football. The mention of Obama borders on political discussion, which you all know is frowned upon here. Keep it up Panther Fan and I might have to ban you.

Big B: You also can’t ignore the effort of the defense. Five sacks, big goal line stand in the fourth quarter……

“Panther” Fan: Hold on a second Bernie. Did you watch the same game as I did? We gave up 34 points to a team in complete disarray. Only 71 scholarship players dressed for the Vols. 35 kids have left their program in the last two years. New coach, new playbook. Terrible quarterbacks. I could go on and on. If we were any good, we’d have won by 30.  And by the way, on the goal line stop, Petrishen and Pine were both unblocked due to incompetent Tennessee linemen. Hell, if UPitt were in the game, he’d have made that tackle.

Richman: Speaking of UPitt, he texted me during the game. Said he was impressed by the size of the Tennessee logo painted at midfield. He also mentioned that the tiny Panther head painted on the 50 at Heinz Field for the Massachusetts game looked like it was microscopic and involved third graders from the Carrick middle school.

(Big B’s cell phone rings. It’s Ike. Calling from LAY-TROBE. Bernie puts him on speaker)

Ike: Bernie!!! How about that win! Bring on Alabama! I told UPitt this week that we would cover and that he should bet big on the Panthers. He said that he might put ten grand on Pitt. He also said that he would donate the winnings to Pitt Athletics and ask for the AD office to be named the “Mehalovich 2000 Yellow Blouse Athletic Director”. Has a catchy ring to it, doesn’t it?

Big B: So Ike, do you actually believe that this win could propel us to the ACC Coastal Title?

Ike: You think too small Bernie. You saw what Georgia did to Clemson, didn’t you? Clemson lost to an SEC team. We just beat an SEC team. We are primed for the ACC title. We’ve got Clemson’s number. This is Pat Narduzzi’s year. I think if things fall right, we might make the College Football playoff.

Big B: I was thrilled with the win today, Ike, but isn’t that going a bit too far?

Ike: Heck no! If we can become national title contenders in Women’s Volleyball and Men’s Soccer due to Heather Lyke’s excellence, we can do the same in football.

“Panther” Fan: Uh, Ike. Ms. Yellow Blouse didn’t hire either Dan Fisher or Jay Vidovich.  And it’s a pipe dream for our Football program to be anything but mediocre as long as she is our AD and Meatballs is our head coach…. Man, I’m thirsty. Hey Richman, toss me a Fanta.

Ike: I’ve gotta go. I can’t listen to your negativity after such a program-changing win.

(Ike disconnects call)

Joe L: I just got a text from Richard in South Carolina. He is concerned that we rushed for less than 100 total yards and averaged under 2 yards per carry. He says that statistically speaking, we can’t expect to win many games with an abysmal running game.

“Panther” Fan: He’s right. Our offensive line sucks. Our running backs suck. And our 80 year old offensive coordinator sucks worst of all.

Big B: Come on now. I know that we’ve become a pass-oriented team. But when we needed to salt the game away in the last 5 minutes, the line opened holes and both Flea and Izzy moved the chains.

“Panther” Fan: Listen, Bernie, you are forgetting that we are Pitt. SOP, remember? We just beat a mediocre SEC team that won 3 games last year. How is that impressive? History under gorilla calves tells us that he’ll lose to Western Michigan or New Hampshire. As a matter of fact, Erie Express is so confident in that happening, that he told me before the game that he has already made a tee time for next Saturday afternoon so that he doesn’t have to watch the carnage. I got a call from danh72 too. He hates Narduzzi so much,  he predicts a 4 win season.

JoeL: Well I know where I’ll be next Saturday morning. I’ll be in the Red 5A lot bright and early, setting up an epic tailgate with Lastrow, a.k.a., Fran the Franchise. This team is different. I’m going to channel my inner Ike and say we get on a roll and wind up winning 9 or 10 games this year.

(Editors note: Hi. Its me again, Reed. Don’t you people pay attention? Don’t you understand that we are never going to win nine or ten games under the Chris Bickell ’97 Head Football Coach Pat Narduzzi?  We are a crap program, recruiting two and three star players, playing in crap bowls until further notice. When will you people get that through your thick skulls?)

Big B: I’m starting to get on the bandwagon too Joe L. Did you see our receivers today? Addison, Mack and Stovall were terrific. Shocky threw a great block. Krull is a weapon that we have been missing for years. We have scored 92 points in two games. The receivers only had 2 drops today. What’s not to like?

“Panther” Fan: How about Heather, Narduzzi and Whipple to start? And just to be thorough, I’ll toss in our defensive coordinator, Bates. Our linebackers and secondary couldn’t cover anyone today, and treated tackling like it was an accident.

Big B: Whaddya say we just celebrate a hard earned victory here in Knoxville and worry about the rest of the season on Monday. We all invested a lot of time and money to come here for the weekend, and it was all worth it. For me, it was the best Pitt road trip since the Clemson upset. The Tennessee fans were fantastic, the Pitt fans turned out in droves, and a great weekend was had by all. 

Hail to Pitt!

MMQB: Pitt Win Over Tennessee

My friends – here is a fantastic and well thought out MMQB article by Jay Kaplan (“6&34” on here) that is a pleasure to read – and to agree or disagree with. Have at it…

Well, Pitt prevailed in the Johnny Major’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) v. Southeastern Conference (SEC) Battle of Mediocrity.  It was a game I thought during the week’s lead up to the game was the most important game of the season for Pitt (I heard on a Tennessee podcast it was the most important game for Tennessee as well).

Of course, now its no longer the most important game but Pitt gets to say at least for a while longer that it is better than mediocre.

Not by much, but if Tennessee is mediocre then Pitt is better than mediocre! That’s basic arithmetic.  Sort of… Had Pitt won by 14 or more, I might be more enthusiastic about the rest of the season but alas they didn’t. To the contrary, they struggled to keep the lead at seven.

But they won – which makes Monday Morning Quarterbacking a lot more fun than it would have been if they lost. And they won on the road coming from behind an early 10 point deficit against an SEC opponent in front of what I would estimate as 75,000 very loud Volunteer fans.

Neyland Stadium - Facilities - University of Tennessee Athletics

This team could have quit after the first minute of the game but they didn’t. That says a lot and the team and Narduzzi deserve credit for that.

Pitt almost looked good. Take away the atrocious performance of the special teams and you could say Pitt played outstanding. OK, maybe that goes way too far but think about what the game might have been if special teams played only badly. Instead, they just sucked. They were SOP level bad which is as we all know as about as low as you can go.

Keep in mind though that the botched, pathetic performance on the missed field goal attempt, a spectacularly SOP screw-up of epic proportions does not show up in the score or statistics because the play was nullified by a Tennessee penalty. But it was not nullified in my mind be it conscious or subconscious. Note:  Maybe, just maybe if the illegal block had not been committed the Pitt player would have made the tackle and the near disaster would never have occurred.

So it’s fair to ask who is responsible for that atrociousness? On the blocked punt, unless Pat Narduzzi overruled Special Team’s Coach Andre Powell or certain players just took it into their own hands to do whatever they wanted to do, Coach Powell is solely responsible for that seven point embarrassment.

Don’t be mislead by the announcer’s comments about Head Coach Josh Heupel having seen something in their study of Pitt game film they reviewed preparing for the game. What occurred had nothing to do with careful study and planning; what occurred was just an incomprehensively stupid punt protection scheme. Just watch it.

I should move on to something else but for the moment I can’t. I just don’t understand how a special team coach can have a team line up the way Pitt did. If an Alabama special team coach did that with that result (it would be that result every time), that coach would not have a job after the game.  

I don’t recall Jaylen Barden on any plays from scrimmage but he did handle two kickoff returns and he did so poorly. I can understand how Barden could elect to run from where he caught that first kickoff. Players can have moments where they have visions of grandeur and make mistakes because of that. But he did it the very next time he caught a kickoff.

Did Powell not reprimand Barden for that first bad decision after Barden returned to the sideline? What are the odds of making it past the 25 yard line on a kickoff return from inside the five or the end zone? It’s a sucker play to run it out. I’ll give Powell a credit for switching Barden with Stovall after Barden’s second bonehead effort. Note: I almost always refrain from disparaging a Pitt player especially a young one but Barden deserves this public criticism for being more me than we.

Two Tennessee kickoff returns (in a row?) resulted in the kicker (Ben Sauls) having to tackle the kickoff returner perhaps to save the day. Two!!  And while we are talking special teams let me mention that virtually every extra point seems to barely get over the crossbar. Maybe that’s the way its supposed to be done but if it is, I don’t recall other placekickers other than high schoolers that do extra points that way.

Kenny Pickett was outstanding this game. I need to confess I think his ranking as the 10th best quarterback in the fourteen team ACC is absurd.  Yes, Pickett has his flaws, but his overall game is at least good and sometimes very good. I have heard announcers say he runs a 4.7, 40 but to my eye he is marginally faster than James Conner who ran a 4.67 at the NFL’s Combine if my memory serves me correctly.

Pickett’s leg speed is a weapon. He’s no Lamar Jackson but he runs really well and is smart too. Some POVers think that at least in the past he took off too soon. I saw that happen only once against Tennessee.

Pickett was less accurate the 2nd half but that could have been due to Tennessee’s better coverage and defensive penetration during that part of the game.  As far as I’m concerned, Pitt has a quality quarterback – even with the second half inefficiencies. Prove me wrong or just focus on his flaws, your choice POVers, but the dumping on Pickett will fall on a lot more deaf ears after this game. 

The guy is a gamer and that is high praise for a quarterback. Check out his touchdown pass to Marquise Stovall in the 1st quarter – a cross body bullet to his receiver running along the back of the end zone. Really, check it out before complaining about Pickett’s arm accuracy; it is the first play of this highlight reel…

Many will want to criticize running back coach Powell for the touches Vince Davis got in this game and when he got them especially when most everyone’s favorite running back, Izzy Anabikanda, made some clutch runs. I won’t do that and not because I feel badly about my criticism about Powell’s special team coaching.

Continue reading “MMQB: Pitt Win Over Tennessee”

Quick UT Win Recap

Here are some quick thought from Rick (Erie Express). We will have a full Monday Morning QB piece up tomorrow a.m.

Pitt’s Start was ROCKY – Pitt Finished on TOP

The Johnny Majors Classic was anything but, as two mid-level P5 teams squared off in what turned out to be a very entertaining game.  Most people where I watched the game did not believe Pitt could hang with an SEC team let alone beat them.

HC Pat Narduzzi snagged one of his better wins 41-34 where his D was exposed at times and his run game was non-existent, until the last two series of the game.  Tennessee had the ball around the Pitt 35 yard line and threatening to tie the game with 5 minutes left to play.  Safety Hill made a nice read on a crossing route over the middle to pick off Tennessee back-QB to hand the ball over to the Pitt O.

Kenny Pickett and OC Whipple put together a nice clock killing drive that ended in the victory formation as time ran out in Neyland Stadium.

Pitt threw for 301 yards on 25-37, three TD’s and no INT’s.  WR Wayne threw one of the TD’s on a trick play to TE Krull.  The run game gained only 95 yards on 45 attempts – that is not good folks, but on the last series the backs mustard enough yards to get first downs and kill the clock.

Hail to Pitt!

THE GOOD:

Kenny Pickett managed the game well after a very rocky start to the game.
The receivers caught the ball and made some nice runs after the catch.
DT Camp and DE Baldonado played really well.

THE BAD:

Special Teams in general, across all facets.
The back seven on D were out played (thank goodness for the inaccurate TN QB’s.
The O not converting TO’s to points (3 total, I believe).

THE UGLY:

Tennessee WR’s running loose most of the game.
The blocked punt to start the game and the opening three series of 3 and outs.
Pitt’s rushing yards per carry = 2.11 Ouch!
Sibley and Carter with zero carries, V. Davis Jr. with 19 carries and Izzy with 12 carries.

Congratulations to HC Pat Narduzzi for winning the inaugural Johnny Majors Classic.  Very appropriate as that was our last National Championship and that legacy is what ties many of us Pitt fans to the program today.

Next up is Western Michigan. 

Looking forward to tailgating with friends in anticipation of a trap game that Pitt should win.