ACC: Pitt Panthers at Virginia Tech Hokies Preview
Welcome to the ACC: Pitt Panthers at Virginia Tech Hokies 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 Game Preview, Pitt’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, down to the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
Since being handed the keys to the Panther running game, Darrin Hall has averaged 162 yards a game.
To lift Pitt to its 5th victory and keep their slim Bowl hopes alive, Hall will have to elevate his game even more.
With the passing game struggling and facing Bud Foster’s vaunted Hokies defense, the Panthers have their work cut out for them.
“They’re gonna load the box, they’re gonna stop the run,” said receivers coach Kevin Sherman, who worked for the Hokies from 2006-12 along with Foster under the legendary Frank Beamer. “That’s what they wanna do: Stop the run, not give up the big plays. They’ve done a good job of that. But we’re gonna do what we do, which is try to run the ball and take our shots when we have to throw the ball.”
Speaking of defense, the Panthers had thought they were taking strides to overall improvement, but they hit a snag last week vs North Carolina and the disappointment was clear.
“Yeah, a little bit,” said linebacker Elijah Zeise. “I think, just from watching the film, we looked a little bit slower out there. We didn’t look like we were fitting things as well as we could’ve been, so I think that’s definitely why we maybe took a step back.”
Linebackers coach Rob Harley still sees a young team getting better, despite last week’s setback.
“I don’t know,” Harley said after a pause to think. “I really do believe that every week, we’ve gotten better. … In terms of development and growth, I think it’s hard to boil one game of 60, 70, 80 plays just to say, ‘Well, we didn’t get better.’
“Did we play as well as we needed to in key moments? No. Did we play as well as we need to, overall, to win the game? Obviously not; we didn’t come out victorious. But there are these bright spots as you go around.”
Head Coach Pat Narduzzi echoed Harley’s views on the Panther defense, and team overall.
“It’s a slow process,” Narduzzi said Monday. “You’re happy with some of the things you see, and then there’s regression in some parts. You’re worried about this, so you ‘focus, focus, focus’ and all of a sudden, they forgot about that.
“I think it’s part of the process. Wherever your focus is, you see improvement, but you can’t focus on everything. When you try to improve on one minor detail, that improves, but then something else goes wrong. That’s part of the youth because they’re not seeing the whole picture.”
Pitt Keys to Victory
- Darrin Hall ALL Day! Hall has been incredible since being named the starter. He’ll have to be at his best to keep the Panther offense moving.
- Hello Passing Game??? Ben DiNucci continues to struggle…one wonders just when Coach Narduzzi will hand the reins to Kenny Pickett.
- Be Creative! VT has one of the best defenses in the country. Be creative. Utilize Quadree Henderson and Jordan Whitehead.
- Better get to Josh Jackson! If Pitt can’t garner a pass rush, Jackson will pick them apart.
- Create Turnovers! How do you overcome a tough defense? Gain a short field on some turnovers. Go for the ball! Gang tackle.
- Limit Chunk Plays! Be wary of the long ball to Cam Phillips.
After some promise and progress, the Panthers laid an egg against the 1-8 Tar Heels last week, all but ending any hopes of a Bowl bid. Now an offense that is one-dimensional faces one of the countries best in the Hokies.
Darrin Hall and the offensive line will do their best to keep things interesting, but if Ben DiNuccci can’t produce, it’s going to be a long day for Pat Narduzzi’s Panthers, who have been a thorn in the side of Virginia Tech for quite some time now.
Hopefully Pitt can make things interesting, and honestly, it’s the Pitt thing to do if they actually went down to Blacksburg and pulled off the upset after such a disaster last week.
Virginia Tech 34 Pitt 20
NCAA Week 12
Pitt Panthers (4-6, 2-4) at Virginia Tech Hokies (7-3, 3-3)
Venue: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
Game-time: Saturday, November 18th, 12:30 pm
TV: ACC Network (WTAE) | Announcers: Brock Bowling (play-by-play) Renaldo Wynn (analyst)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Bill Osborne (analyst) | Larry Richert (sideline)
National Radio: N/A | Announcers:
Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Internet Channel 971
Weather at Kickoff: 53 and partly cloudy.
Vegas Line: Virginia Tech -15.5
Pitt vs Virginia Tech History
- Series History: Began in 1993.
- Pitt is 7-9 overall against Virginia Tech
- Pitt is 2-5 on the road vs Virginia Tech.
- Streak: Virginia Tech won the meeting.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 27, 2016 (Virginia Tech 39 Pitt 36)
Pitt has won six of the past eight meetings with Virginia Tech. However, the Hokies prevailed in last season’s high-scoring encounter at Heinz Field, 39-36.
Junior tailback Darrin Hall has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of Pitt’s past three contests. Hall is averaging 162 yards over this span, totaling 486 yards and eight touchdowns on 72 carries (6.75 avg.).
- This week’s game features two of the ACC’s most dangerous punt returners in Pitt’s Quadree Henderson and Virginia Tech’s Greg Stroman. The players are tied for the ACC lead and rank second nationally with two punt return touchdowns each.
12 combined points have decided the last three games in the series, an average margin of 4.0 points per game. The largest victory margin in that span is five points, achieved by Pitt in a 21-16 victory in 2014.
A look at the Pitt Panthers!
Overall Record: 4-6 | ACC Record: 2-4 | Rank: N/A
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (3rd Season with Pitt)
Lifetime Record: 20-16 (.555)
Last Week: North Carolina 34 Pitt 31
Scouting the Panthers
Quarterback – Senior graduate transfer Max Browne was the starter at the beginning of the season, but his career came to an end at Pitt after requiring surgery on a shoulder injury he sustained against Syracuse. Ben DiNucci is the next man up and is able to take off and run if none of the passing lanes are open. The future of the program belongs to Kenny Pickett. The young freshman is now one snap away from being the starter and given his abilities, the sooner that happens, the better for both him and the program.
Running Backs – Pitt plenty of guys who can tote the rock, but none are making a difference. Qadree Ollison was the starter for the first half of 2017, but Darrin Hall has been handed the keys to the lead back role. When Hall was finally given the ball consistently vs Duke, he responded with 254 yards on 24 carries. Chawtez Moss had worked his way into the mix with his abilities but now finds himself suspended indefinitely. AJ Davis has played sparingly but has seen his role increase the last few games. Fullback George Aston is back from injury but hasn’t been involved much in the offense since his return.
Wide Receivers – Jester Weah caught 36 passes for 872 yards and 10 scores last year. He had struggled to emulate those numbers early in 2017 but has picked his game up over the past month. Needs to get better at attacking the ball and dropping too many easy catches. 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. Maurice Ffrench contributes on both the ground and in the air, as he employs a style similar to Henderson. Aaron Mathews is taking advantage of his chances, and Raphael Araujo-Lopez is the team leader with 37 receptions on the year.
Tight Ends – Matt Flanagan and Chris Clark are hoping to be a dynamic duo at tight end for the Panthers. Flanagan has put up decent numbers so far in 2017, and Clark, a huge target, is starting to make his presence known in the Pitt offense.
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 opposition scorched the secondary 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. With Whitehead back at SS, Dennis Briggs returns to being a back-up. Bricen Garner and highly touted Damar Hamlin will rotate at FS. Top recruit Paris Ford enrolled late, but his talent will eventually rise to the top and he will see action sooner than later.
Kicker – Freshman Alex Kessman takes over the kicking duties for Pitt. He needs to be more consistent, but he has nailed a 56 yarder this year. He’ll get better with age.
Kick/Punt Return – Quadree Henderson will be back deep for every kick.
Ben DiNucci (1,037 yards passing | 4 TD passes | 4 interceptions | 14 sacks | 126 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD)
Kenny Pickett (74 yards passing | 0 TD passes | 0 interceptions | 0 sacks | 18 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD)
Darrin Hall (594 yards rushing | 9 rushing TD’s | 10 receptions | 89 receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
Qadree Ollison (330 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s | 17 receptions | 150 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
Jordan Whitehead (145 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 7 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Chawntez Moss (116 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 5 receptions | 75 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
AJ Davis (40 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
George Aston (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Rafael Araujo-Lopes (37 receptions | 461 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Jester Weah (31 receptions | 514 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s
Maurice Ffrench (21 receptions | 214 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Aaron Matthews (15 receptions | 180 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Quadree Henderson (14 receptions | 150 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 202 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s)
Matt Flanagan (17 receptions | 160 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Chris Clark (13 receptions | 86 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 25-25 | FG: 9-16 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 2-4 | 30-39: 1-1 | 40-49: 4-7 | 50+: 2-4 | Long: 56
A look at the Virginia Tech Hokies!
Overall Record: 7-3 | ACC Record: 3-3 | Rank: N/A
Head Coach: Justin Fuente (2nd Season with Virginia Tech)
Lifetime Record: 43-30 (.589) | 17-7 (.708) at Virginia Tech
Last Week: Georgia Tech 28 Virginia Tech 22
Scouting the Hokies
Quarterback – Josh Jackson is the man under center. Strong arm and mobile.
Running Backs – VT has a bevy of running backs. Travon McMillian leads the way. You’ll see action from DeShawn McClease, Coleman Fox, and Jalen Holston. McMillian has turned 11 receptions into three touchdowns.
Wide Receivers – Cam Phillips is the best the Hokies have. Sean Savoy and Eric Kumah are Jackson’s other weapons in the passing game.
Tight Ends – Chris Cunningham isn’t used much.
Defense – One of the best in the country. Great at limiting the pass. If you pound at them enough, you can break them down in the rushing attack.
Josh Jackson (2,382 yards passing | 17 TD passes | 6 interceptions | 18 sacks | 204 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD )
Travon McMillian (434 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 11 receptions | 172 yards receiving | 3 receiving TD’s)
DeShawn McClease (265 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 8 receptions | 57 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Coleman Fox (222 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 5 receptions | 33 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Jalen Holston (145 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Cam Phillips (60 receptions | 801 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
Sean Savoy (37 receptions | 447 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
Eric Kumah (19 receptions | 218 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Chris Cunningham (7 receptions | 130 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Joey Slye (Extra Point: 34-34 | FG: 15-21 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 5-6 | 30-39: 6-8 | 40-49: 2-4 | 50+: 2-3 | Long: 50
Pitt – Virginia Tech: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison
Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 368.3 YPG | Virginia Tech allows 310.6 YPG
Rushing: Pitt averages 157.5 YPG | Virginia Tech allows 135.7 YPG
Passing: Pitt averages 210.8 YPG | Virginia Tech allows 174.9 YPG
Scoring: Pitt averages 24.9 PPG | Virginia Tech allows 14.8 PPG
Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 415.2 YPG | Virginia Tech averages 412.9 YPG
Rushing: Pitt allows 150.7 YPG | Virginia Tech averages 164.7 YPG
Passing: Pitt allows 264.5 YPG | Virginia Tech averages 248.2YPG
Scoring: Pitt allows 28.5 PPG | Virginia Tech averages 31.5 PPG
Injury Report (11/16/2017)
Questionable: CB Avonte Maddox, LB Anthony McKee, DB Damar Hamlin, FB George Aston
Virginia Tech Hokies
Questionable: CB Adonis Alexander, WR C.J. Carroll, TE Drake Delullis, RB Stave Peoples
Pitt Panthers 2017 Schedule
Regular Season (Overall: 4-6 | ACC: 2-4)
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 (ATT SportsNet), W – 42-10
Saturday, October 7 at Syracuse* (ATT SportsNet), L – 24-27
Saturday, October 14 #20 NC State* (HC) (ATT SportsNet), L – 17-35
Saturday, October 21 at Duke* (ACC Network- ABC), W – 24-17
Saturday, October 28 Virginia* (ATT SportsNet), W – 31-14
Thursday, November 9 North Carolina* (ESPN), L – 31-34
Saturday, November 18 at Virginia Tech* at 12:30 p.m.
Friday, November 24 #3 Miami* at 12:00 p.m.
*ACC game / (HC) Homecoming / Ranking as of that week
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