Pitt Panthers Football: An In-depth look at the game vs the Rice Owls

Welcome to the Pitt Panthers vs Rice Owls Preview! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about Pitt and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a detailed breakdown of each team, game outlook, score prediction, individual stats, team stats, and even the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a ticket into the stadium!

A look at the Pitt Panthers!

Overall Record: 1-3 | ACC Record: 0-1 | Rank: N/A

Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (3rd Season with Pitt)

Lifetime Record: 17-13 (.566)

2017 Pitt Panthers Roster

Last Week: Georgia Tech 35 Pitt 17


Breakdown of the Panthers

Quarterback- Senior graduate transfer Max Browne has a good arm and displays a nice touch on deep throws, but he is as mobile as a statue. He tends to lock onto his first read and abandon the rest of his reads. Ben DiNucci is probably a better all-around QB than Browne. DiNucci has much better speed and can gain yards on the ground if he sees no throwing lanes open.

Running Backs- Pitt plenty of guys who can tote the rock. Qadree Ollison is the starter for now. He is more of a bruiser, as is Darrin Hall. Chawtez Moss has worked his way into the mix with his quickness. AJ Davis played in the opener, but both he and Todd Sibley may be headed for a redshirt. Fullback George Aston is back and hoping to start making a difference again in the offense. Colton Lively will back up Aston.

Wide Receivers- Jester Weah caught 36 passes for 872 yards and 10 scores last year. He has yet to continue his success this year. Quadree Henderson is a dynamic playmaker but hasn’t seen anywhere near the touches needed to produce. When he has gotten the ball, he hasn’t done much. To his credit, he is not playing anywhere near 100%. Maurice French will look to contribute on both the ground and in the air, as he can employ a style similar to Henderson. Ruben Flowers is a four-star prospect and should make an impact eventually. Aaron Mathews is getting better and Raphael Araujo-Lopez now leads the team with 14 receptions on the year.

Tight Ends- Matt Flanagan and Chris Clark hoped to emulate the success of the graduated Scott Orndoff. So far, only Flanagan has put up decent numbers. Clark is a huge target but only has three catches in 2017.

Defense- Dewayne Hendrix and Rashaad Weaver are co-starters at defensive end, with Allen Edwards on the other side. James Folston, Jr. and Patrick Jones II will also see plenty of action. In the middle, you’ll find Shane Roy and the impressive freshman Keyson Camp. Amir Watts and Kam Cater will be in the rotation.

At linebacker, Elijah Zeise, Saleem Brightwell, and Seun Idowu are the starters. Anthony McKee, Jr. and Chris Pine will get plenty of chances to make an impression, too.

The secondary was scorched game after game last year, and that trend has continued into 2017. Help is on the way as star safety Jordan Whitehead is back after being suspended for the first three games. Avonte Maddox will start at corner on one side and expect to see a rotation of Dane Jackson and Damarri Mathis until one stands above the other. Dennis Briggs will start at strong safety and is also a team captain. Phil Campbell and Henry Miller will back-up Briggs. With Whitehead back, Bricen Garner and Jazzee Stocker will rotate at SS. Highly touted Damar Hamlin will be in the mix once his various injuries begin to heal up. Top recruit Paris Ford enrolled late, but his talent will eventually rise to the top and he will see action sooner than later.

Kicker- Alex Kessman takes over the duties for Chris Blewitt and is getting better each week. Has already nailed a 55 yarder this year.

Kick/Punt Return- Quadree Henderson will be back deep for every kick.



A look at the Rice Owls!

Overall Record: 1-3 | Conference USA Record: 1-1 | Rank: N/A

Head Coach: David Bailiff (11th Season with Rice)

Lifetime Record: 57-72 (.442)

2017 Rice Roster

Last Week: FIU 13 Rice 7


Breakdown of the Owls

Quarterback- Jackson Tyner is the starter, but Owl QB’s have combined for just one touchdown pass all season.

Running Backs- Like Georgia Tech last week, Rice has a bevy of runners. Samuel Stewart is the starter and is a dual threat. Expect to see action from Austin Walter, Nahshon Ellerby, and Kylen Granson as well.

Wide Receivers- Not an overwhelming trio of pass catchers for Rice. Jordan Myers has the most receptions out of the group with eight, but Aaron Cephus has 133 yards receiving and the lone TD. Kylen Granson is in the mix, too.

Tight Ends- Robbie Wells III does more blocking than catching for the Owls.

Defense- Terrible. If you are looking for a defense that Pitt can finally get the ball rolling against, it’s these guys. They can get to the quarterback, so Pitt’s offensive line had better be up to the task.

Game Preview

After losing Nate Peterman and James Conner to the NFL Draft, the Panthers expected to see a transition in their offense for the 2017 season, but not like this.

Eight times in 2016 witnessed Pitt rush for over 209 yards against opponents. After a laughable 37 yards rushing last week against Georgia Tech, Pitt is 97th in the country averaging 125.8 a game.

Coach Pat Narduzzi sees a variety of problems plaguing his once vaunted rushing attack.

“Execution, missing blocks, not staying in our lane on zone plays, maybe going the wrong way,” Narduzzi said Monday. “There are some numbers issues that you run into if you don’t go the right way, and those are some of the things we’ve got to correct. I see tailbacks not taking good paths, too. There are a lot of things. It’s not one guy.”

WR Jester Weah isn’t helping the offense with his lackluster performance so far this year. Weah has just eight catches for 84 yards and one touchdown.

Every team expects improvement as the season moves on, but Pitt seems stuck in the mud.

“That’s probably the most disappointing thing is the improvement week to week is not as much as you’d like to see,” Narduzzi said. “You just want to see more improvement out of a younger team.”

Jordan Whitehead is hoping to improve both the Panther offense and defense in his second game of the year in 2017. Whitehead was suspended for the 1st three games of the year. He rushed two times last week for 35 yards. He was third on the team in tackles (tied with Damar Hamlin, with seven), first among defensive backs in solo stops (seven), and recovered a fumble.

“Taking my anger out; that was my first game back,” Whitehead said. “I was trying to go hard every play.”

Whitehead knows his absence hurt the team and put them in a bad position, especially as a leader.

“I owe it to the team, I owe it to everybody just to play hard,” he said. “I missed those games, so I have to step up and lead this team.”

Honestly, if Pitt can’t find a way to get its offense in gear this week, it never will. Pitt’s athletes should be bigger, faster, and more physical than anything Rice possesses. It’s also a matter of pride for Pitt and its players. Four games into the season and they have yet to play a full 60 minutes or play like they actually give a damn. Everyone knows they are young, but the lack of any tangible improvement is not only on the players but the entire coaching staff.

Look for Pitt to establish a ground game, perhaps opening up the secondary for DiNucci or Brown to jumpstart to a morbid passing game.

Rice only averages around 12 points per game, so if the defense ever needed a confidence booster, it’s time for them to eat, as they say.

Prediction: Pitt 41 Rice 17

Game Information

NCAA Week 5

Pitt Panthers (1-3, 0-1) vs Rice Owls (1-3, 1-1)

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA

Game-time: Saturday, September 30th, 12:00 pm

TV: ACC Network (ATT SportsNet) | Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play) Takeo Spikes (analyst) | Lyndsay Rowley (reporter)

Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers:  Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Bill Osborne (analyst) | Larry Richert (sideline)

National Radio: Sirius XM Satellite Channel 119 | Internet Channel 961 | XM Channel 201

Weather at Kickoff: 66 and sunny.

Vegas Line: Pitt -20.5

Pitt vs Rice History

  • Series History: Began in 1950.
  • Pitt is 0-2 against Rice.
  • Pitt is 0-1 at home vs Rice.
  • Streak: Rice won previous two meetings.
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Nov. 3, 1951 (Rice 21 Pitt 13)
  • Pitt is 0-0 vs Rice in Bowl Games.

Game Notes

  • Pitt is fielding one of its youngest defenses in recent memory. The starting lineup at Georgia Tech was comprised of three redshirt freshmen, two sophomores, five juniors and one senior (cornerback Avonte Maddox). Of those 11 players, eight are first-year starters.
  •  Quadree Henderson ranks sixth in the country in combined kick return yards (391). During his All-America 2016 season, Henderson led the nation in that category with 1,166.
  • Pitt hosts Rice in the first meeting between the two schools in nearly seven decades. The Panthers and Owls last played during the 1950 and 1951 seasons.
  • Pitt is looking to snap a three-game losing streak, the longest of Pat Narduzzi’s head coaching tenure and the Panthers’ first since 2014. Boding well for Pitt’s future: the Panthers’ starting 22 at Georgia Tech featured only five seniors, including just one on defense.

Individual Statistics 

Pitt Panthers


QB- Max Browne (426 yards passing | 1 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 8 sacks | -45 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD)

QB- Ben DiNucci (387 yards passing | 2 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 5 sacks | 10 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD)

Running Back

RB- Qadree Ollison (204 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 13 receptions | 116 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)

RB- Chawntez Moss (91 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

RB- Darrin Hall (72 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 5 receptions | 29 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

RB- Jordan Whitehead (35 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

RB- AJ Davis (8 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

FB- George Aston (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

WR- Rafael Araujo-Lopes (14 receptions | 163 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)

WR- Maurice Ffrench (11 receptions | 72 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

WR- Jester Weah (8 receptions | 84 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s

WR- Aaron Matthews (8 receptions | 100 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

WR- Quadree Henderson (6 receptions | 90 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 75 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s)

WR- Ruben Flowers (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

TE- Matt Flanagan (10 receptions | 111 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

TE- Chris Clark (3 receptions | 16 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)


K- Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 9-9 | FG: 3-7 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 2-4 | 30-39: 0-0 | 40-49: 0-1 | 50+: 1-2 | Long: 55

Pitt Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats


Rice Owls


QB- Jackson Tyner (241 yards passing | 0 TD passes | 1 interceptions | 3 sacks | 36 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD )

QB- Sam Glaesmann (229 yards passing | 1TD passes | 2 interceptions | 6 sacks | 35 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD )

Running Back

RB- Samuel Stewart (191yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 10 receptions | 109 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

RB- Austin Walter (114 rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 4 receptions | 39 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

RB- Nahshon Ellerby (105 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 11 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

RB- Emmanuel Esukpa (96 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 20 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

WR- Jordan Myers (8 receptions | 83yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

WR- Aaron Cephus (7 receptions | 133 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)

WR- Kylen Granson (7 receptions | 46 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

TE- Robbie Wells III (4 receptions | 19 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)


K- Will Harrison (Extra Point: 4-4 | FG: 2-3 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 0-0 | 30-39: 2-2 | 40-49: 0-1 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: 36

Rice Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats

Pitt – Rice: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison

Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 329 YPG | Rice allows 410 YPG

Rushing: Pitt averages 125.8 YPG | Rice allows 135.5 YPG

Passing: Pitt averages 203.3 YPG | Rice allows 274.5 YPG

Scoring: Pitt averages 20 PPG | Rice allows 31.8 PPG


Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 472.5 YPG | Rice averages 292 YPG

Rushing: Pitt allows 198.8 YPG | Rice averages 170.3 YPG

Passing: Pitt allows 273.8 YPG | Rice averages 121.8 YPG

Scoring: Pitt allows 37 PPG | Rice averages 12 PPG

ACC Standings

Pitt Panthers 2017 Schedule

Regular Season (Overall: 1-3 |  ACC: 0-1)

Saturday, September 2 Youngstown State W- 28-21 OT

Saturday, September 9 at #6 Penn State (ABC) L- 14-33

Saturday, September 16 #9 Oklahoma State (ESPN) L- 21-59

Saturday, September 23 at Georgia Tech* (ACC Network) L- 35-17

Saturday, September 30 Rice at 12:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 7 at Syracuse* at 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 14 NC State* (HC) at TBA

Saturday, October 21 at Duke* at TBA

Saturday, October 28 Virginia* at TBA

Thursday, November 9 North Carolina* (ESPN) at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 18 at Virginia Tech* at TBA

Friday, November 24 Miami* at TBA


*ACC game /  (HC) Homecoming  / Ranking as of that week

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