#87 R.P.I. Pittsburgh @ #26 R.P.I. Virginia Tech:
Virginia Tech football hosts a personally familiar crew at to take on my hometown of Pittsburgh Pa., Bimbo’s pizza, South Hills Village, Upper Saint Clair H.S., and Iron City Lite. (And maybe a 9,000 coronary, I mean a 9K calorie Primanti sammwich to wash it all down).
The Hokies got more than their proprietary feelings hurt down in the ATL as numerous dLinemen came up lame and/or limping after another hateful/hurtful day on the chopping-block of coach Paul Johnson and his much dreaded Flex-Bone O. Now the Hokies entertain another 12:20pm early ACCNetwork kick-off date vs. the recently retooled rushing attack of the Pittsburgh Panthers as 16 point home favorites down in a unseasonably warm looking New River Valley. This segues us neatly into today’s word of the day…
Today’s word of the day is… owning.
Old English: āgan
- To have control over:
- By one’s own efforts.
- Responsible for oneself; independent of outside help or control:
- Not last Saturday @4pm | this Saturday @4pm?
Pitt Head Coach: Patrick “Duz” Narduzzi: age=51, (4-5 this year; 17-13 overall); has a rep’ for defense, willingness to take risks, stubbornness.
$1,131,00.oo base with an easy addition $450,000 in incentives.
Baller Narduzzi was a nepotistic collegiate Linebacker his ownself at Youngstown State and then he later transferred to Rhode Island. He holds a Master’s from Miami Ohio after his playing days were finished; .edu props on that.
Coach Narduzzi began his career at Miami University in 1990 where he was a graduate assistant in 199o and 1991 and where he tutored the Wr’s in 1992. From 1993 to 1999 Narduzzi coached back at the University of Rhode Island coaching the Rams Lb’s from 1993 to 1997 and as the defensive coordinator from 1998 to 1999. From 2ooo to 2oo2, he served as the Lb’s coach at Northern Illinois University. He was defensive coordinator at Miami University in 2oo3 before joining the University of Cincinnati staff as defensive coordinator in 2oo4
At that point… and so the story goes, coach Duz’ tried to leverage Cincy into giving him the head job, and instead wound up at Michigan State as D-coordinator. From 2o11-2o14, Michigan State was the only team to rank in the D-1 Top-10 in total defense and rushing defense alike. I’d say that counts; as does being the coveted 2o13 Broyles Award winner as top assistant coach accordingly. Father (Bill) was the big whistle at Youngstown State, so coaching is in his blood.
Daddy Narduzzi is married and has four children.
Panther 2016 record: 8 up 5 down and 5-3 in the A.c.c.
Pittsburgh Defense: (starters back=4)
- 87th in Total D.
- 49th vs. the run.
- 11oth vs. the throw.
- 17th in zone D!
- 88th in Qb’s sacked | 93rd in Tackles for a Loss (TFL) inflicted.
- Ergo, 95th in explosion.
- 75th in dLine Havoc. Young front-4 here folks, only one Jr. in the two-deep. Although Pitt does deploy a true Ng at times and that has given Gallo fits before. Dt/Ng is better, deeper more talented here. Four the the top-6 here were **** recruits. r-Fr. De (Tennessee transfer) Dewayne Hendrix and Fr. Dt Keyshon Camp have a very alluring upside long-term.
- 85th in Linebacking Havoc. As the never ending treasure trove that is modern football vernacular goes… Pitt deploys a: Star (weak or Will-side Lb), Money and Mike (MLb). And no I’m not making this lexicon up. Anthony McKee, one of, well, one of their Stars (Lb) is dinged up; though this is almost a short looking starting second-layer height wise. Saleem Brightwell is decent enough at the MLb, however overall this group did not overwhelm.
- 81st in Secondary Havoc. Pitt’s hind-4 did seem a bit vulnerable to surrendering some chunk-yardage receptions and a few big plays upon breaking tape. Correspondingly, the Pitt pass defense checked in between 104th and 125th worst in passing downs or Lo.FM defense as the varying modern IsoPPP and S&P+ analytics went. S Jordan Whitehead is actually a emerald in the tall grass here and is possibly having a near all-conference caliber season. Though he does have a history of arm-breaks in tow; Godspeed. Cb Avonte Maddox is easily the most experienced and best of the edge balers for Pitt.
- Curiously enough, our second weekend in a row of something of a more read-n-react defensive set. Not hyper up-the-field aggressive as the modern defensive era goes.
- To make matters all the worse, Pitt’s halt-unit truly wilts as the game wears along in spite of a very lucrative TOP metric you will read about down below. As 80th in 3Q and an even more user-friendly 117th best in defense in 4Q is not exactly code for A.B.C.; always, be, closing.
- The others previews actually have this right —if not in need of expansion. Coach Duz still prefers and features a lot of tight man-to-man on edge. Though he’s got a more S forward -albeit in halves- run-fighting approach. This does lend itself to more short to medium coverage help; although it can yield the HR throw as well. The Pitt linebacking crops have a deeper stagger than most by a good yard, maybe 1.5 or so. That being schematically said, there are seams to hit here if you have Wr’s who are release-technique adroit. Curiously enough, the ‘Duz Lb’s are very short in their hook-zone drops. Or they shadow the Qb/Rb(s) and there is room to work behind them for a Te/H-back or Rb fly pattern late release. Not tons of varieties from this base look either; as Pitt lives and dies by what I described above. Cb’s are okay in press-man; they may have even had a few 3-leaf-clover type bounces not bounce their way. Pretty basic meat-n-potatoes forty-three base set, kinda remind me of older Boston College sets with differing staggers. Lb’s will reverse arrowhead invert at times though this is a pretty vanilla D as exotics go; not super blitzy D either. A few twists and loops upfront though pretty white bread beyond that.
- Also saw that this Panther D does not have the most epic lateral velocity to it; and that could be a really savvy Fu’fensive E-W stretch/pursuit factor. Tackling was so-so on D (though ST’s tackling was worse).
Pittsburgh Offense: (returning starters=6)
- O-coordinator Matt Canada, who left for L.s.u. is a big departure.
- 97th in Total O.
- 73rd in ground O.
- 81st in aerial O.
- 96th in 3rd down conversion percentage.
- 95th in zone O.
- 97th in sacks allowed | 94th in TFL allowed.
- 118th in explosion.
- 120 in IsoPPP passing. (no throw big plays)
- Although 23rd in efficiency! (think about that a min…)
- Former Qb1, one g-transfer final year ex-So.Cal Max Browne and his 71.1%, 5:2 ratio and nearly 1K passing are done no thanks to a bad throwing shoulder injury about a month ago. God Bless here as Pitt was a better more (pardon the pun) a better and a more complete team with Browne at the helm.
- Enter one #3 Qb2 now gone Qb1, Ben DiNucci. Ben is a 6′3″, 221 lb., r-Soph. pivot who has been handed the Qb1 job about six games too early. This is not to say that Ben lacks the pedigree as it is to say he lacks the calendar to be Qb1 on schedule here in 2o17 terms. As Ben did not win the Keystone State’s AAAA crown via accident, he did not set records with 4.3K passing and 43 aerial TD’s as a senior bum. And he surely did not win USA TODAY’s All-American (second team)…Pennsylvania’s Gatorade Player of the Year…Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class AAAA Player of the Year…Pennsylvania Football News Class AAAA Offensive Player of the Year just because he sucks. The no.27 ranked Qb outta high school per ESPN has some throw game skills; and he had some hooping roundball offers to boot. Though Ben has been a yo-yo since taking over, up to 67% passing and down to 44% passing per game. Ben torched U.n.c. for a surprising 83 on the ground last timeout tho’ he’s a pocket thrower by trade. Has a lean almost wispy build to him that makes you question that 22o lb. listing. Throws a very catchable smooth looking ball; with good enough if not great throw-game velocity accordingly. And it should be noted that Ben is up nearly 9% in passing in the last three weeks —starting to settle down and settle in a bit as I like the long-term throw game here.
- 10th in rushing success rate | 14th in rushing ISP!
(And running much better in just the last few weeks!)
- Only 1 Rb fumble all year! Can’t say I’ve ever seen that at this stage; hope that the Pitt RB coach has that as a performance bonus feature in his contract. As Pitt Rb2 Darrin Hall has basically taken over as Rb1 of late. Hall is a 5′11″, 220 lb. r-Jr. grinder who just displaced a 233 lb. meat-grinder (Qadree Ollison) who is backed-up by a 219 lb. Tb3 mini-me grinder. Do you see a grinding trend here sports-fans? As Hills 8 TD’s rushing and 486 rushing in 12 Q’s is pretty damn good relief work if you can get it. Though Hill had a high school history of knee injuries (God Bless). And yet still stared in T&F; though only per se the 270th ranked baller scholastically per such knee injures. Still yet, Hill has just enough speed, even if he’s more parts chain-mover; with only one carry >17 yards. Further, the Panther Rb’s are the 17th hardest Rb’s to tackle in all the land; “buckle up!”
- 5′11″, 19o lb. second year Safety Maurice Ffrench may just be Pitt’s best Wideout. And no matter just how good Mister Ffench may indeed be, and that’s never a good look for either side of the LOS (line-of-scrimmage). As your top Cb actually being your best Wr says more about your home position Wr’s than it does your Cb’s. Overall the Pitt Wr’ing corps catch-rate rates about the lowest possible C—. It’s not bad though it ain’t great and it slots in just a smidge underwater. Pitt does have two home position talents at Wr (Quandree Henderson and Jester Weah); and after that there is a real live drop off in individual Wr talent here. Though Q-Henderson starts a lotta places and Fu’ & Cory would love to transfer a dual-threat Slot-Wr such as this. Weah is a true burner and was only 2nd in the nation in ypc last year. Grad-transfer (Rutgers) Te Matt Flanagan is a very quality edge/seal blocker. And these are some big ole Te’s even if they are not especially potent as a catch-threat(s) goes.
- left-Ot Brian O’Neill, left-G Alex Officer, right-G Alex Booker are all pretty useful sorts here. Blocking front-5 has been more/less healthy for the duration; hence you are seeing a steady-state of betterment here. Clearly the odd or left side is your strong side here, and other than a r-Fr. C, this is a tall and experienced oLine.
- Absolutely one of the shorter to medium at best truncated throw-fit O’s I’ve seen on tape in a while; and now the Pittsburgh aforementioned 95 spot disparity between explosion and efficiency suddenly makes much more sense —nes’t-ce pas? As this is almost something of a Dooley era look; with some modern tweaks and twerls mixed in. As Pittsburgh does not hit for power well or much at all, although they don’t strike out much either. Lotta bunts, singles, walks and balks here; kinda a Tim Foli offense to extend my hometown’s mixed sporting metaphor.
- Did kinda like the gap-over downhill run blocking schemes on film. These are edge of the rule-book arm-extension -think: possible holding call- guys who sure use the limits of their hands and elbow locks in trenching fighting zone push. Though it ain’t half-bad, let me tell you. As the Panther oLine has been slowly run-improving all year —with some pretty crispy turn and shield blocks when they do get you engaged. Pitt will old-school jumbo 2-Te align and they ask a lot of run blocking of their Wr’s to boot. O does have a lotta Slot work jet-sweeps; kinda reminds you of the Fu’fense a bit in breaking tape in that regard. Though this is not a triple-mesh-point like Corny & Fu’. It’s either a hand-off to the Wr behind the Qb or the Qb goes for a deep hand-off to the I-back on a Iso’ look backside. Passing is short+ to medium low. Lotta angular and square routing here; again, there is something more than a little throwback (pardon the pun) or Etsy vintage to all of this. Though the new Qb was a bit better vs. U.n.c., so we will see if Ben is actually progressing and therefore settling in or not.
- 43% run:pass mix 57%.
Panther Special Teams: (1 returns)
Pitt is 63rd in Net Punting thanks to the truly towering 6′7″, 222 lb. r-Sr. year Ryan Winslow. Ever heard of a No.4 P in America -according to Scout- who can dunk before? Me neither, though being a 4-year starter in college ball does not such; dunking never sucks and a career long of 63 is pretty good. His mum played field hockey and lacrosse for Ursinus College and is a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame; and his old man only punted professional for the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos. So the Punting Genome Project is most willing here indeed. Ryan is a 100% career passer as punt-fakes so keep an eye on that. Kinda a heightened (pardon the pun) kinda a heightened B+ career for the former H.S. starting C in hoops who is a National Honor Society member on the side.
- 3rd best in Punt Returns | yet 1o8th in KO returns.
- 112th in punt coverage | 122nd and in suicide-squad
- Pitt has blocked 2 kicks and allowed 1 kick to be blocked.
- Pitt has blocked 1 punt and allowed 1 punt to be blocked.
- (Remember Hokies: your block point is taller, aim; higher here)
Tallish 6’4” though beanpole 177 lb. r-Fr. Kicker Alex Kessman is 100% on P.A.T.’s. That’s the good news, the news however is that he’s 58% on FGA’s; ouch. Alex was a quad-starter in H.S.: Qb, Fs, K and P. So a play-fake is sure en vogue here if need be. Alex hit the 4th longest make in Michigan H.S. football history (57); so leg strength is not a problem. Tho’ he was only a 50% kicker his senior scholastic season and I’m left wondering how he was so VHT (very highly touted) as a K for such. As this is one walking, talking, living, breathing… kicking, blonde Howdy Doody look alike if there ever was one as Alex will get carded to buy beer well into his 40’s. Though as said, he does have a Steve Austin bionic leg with a whooping six makes between 43 and 56 thus far. Alex just needs to upload some targeting software downstairs into his toes, as this kid has the look and feel of a kicking weapon, once he does. As he could very well have two more makes on those two blocked FGA’s.
Special Teams letter-grade: Coverage and blocks allowed are lowering this a bit; though Pitt has two pretty talented legs and an Ace PR’er (Quadree Henderson, 16.1 ypp). A B— that could be higher with some cleaning.
- VT D.
- VT O.
- Pitt D & Pitt O (tie).
- motive: VT seems a bit down -or off- in the last fortnight to me, Pitt must win out to be Bowl eligible. Modest edge=Pitt.
- weather: looking better less rainy as I type. Edge≠Pitt, if Worsham Field remains dry.
- health: both teams are pretty beat-up at the moment. Though the VT injury news was worse this week. Both Qb’s for VT be, illin’ (our Qb1 and Fs on D). Edge=Pitt.
- penalties: 4th fewest “tweet’s” per game. Edge=Pitt.
- intangibles: Pitt is 48th in Turnover Margin so that’s almost awash here. Tho’ pit does kill that clock with the 16th best TOP (time of possession) in the land. That won’t help the next factor down below…. Edge=Pitt.
- fatigue: Pitt is +2 on rest since last week and has only played four Q’s of football since 10.28 compared to eight Q’s of scrumming at a high level for VT. You do the maths. Edge=Pitt.
Illation, conclusion(s) and OPT digits:
Number Panthers of who could start @Tech=8
The takeaway here is… that this Panther football game sure is a squirrelly one to call; even at home, even as a (VT-16) or as a sixteen point betting favorite out on the Vegas big board.
As it is not that methinks Pitt to be that good; as much as it is that methinks Pitt to be a dicey match-up that may have come along at a bad time. “Styles make fights” as we say in boxing and Pitt’s style may be all ‘rong for VT at this moment.
- Δ1=25% that Pitt wins a narrow one. I don’t quite think this will happen, although one could be forgiven for saying that Pitt is catching VT at the right time. As VT has just rung up a –274 yardage total to the bad in November, VT looks a bit let-down to me, and VT is indeed pretty dang physically beat up.
- Δ2=65% chance that VT scrums, ho-hums, and wins a workman like effort while prolly saving a few things for in-state rival @uva on Friday night during a short-turn for an already tired O&M team.
- Δ3=1o% our handy-dandy friend the so-called Forum Guide is calling for a ass-kicking of a 38 point VT blowout win. Although the aggregate yardage marker only tabs a 17 point VT win. (as that U.n.c. butt-kickin’ sure skews things here).
…it’s not so much that methinks the Pitt Panthers to be the big, bad, wolf here. It is however so much that methinks the Hokies bed to be “toooooo hard” and our Owens Dining Hall porridge to be “tooooooo cold”. As Pitt is not the superior football squad here overall; nevertheless, there are some disconcerting trends emerging here in objective coach Spock science-fact terms…
…for instance, Pitt is +5o3 rushing in their last three games since making the Tb1 swap; whereas VT is –197 on the ground over the same time-frame; not all of which is Georgia Tech mind you. Now, while I am officially recalcitrant to label a sagging VT Goldilocks here, I would not gar-ron-dam-tee a pick of Goldilocks over the k9 listed above in a fistfight.
As the very last thing Fu’ and company need is for Pitt to score first and play from the chase. In point of fact we do not even need Pitt to hang around, chew that clock and shorten this game —as that’s a snare-knot or trap-game just waiting for the always finicky Goldilocks, and not for any Panther(s).
…with Virginia Tech’s total O down –1o2 yards per game in their last three goes, and with the Pitt run-fits up a very impressive and the very same… +1o2 yards per game in their last three contests… all bets are off here.
To compound fracture all of that… Bud Bºck has softened by nearly 30 yards per game allowed whereas the Panther halt-unit has actually stiffened by virtually 75 fewer yards per game allowed in each clubs’ last three games. Or to put it another way, how are these not two ships passing in the night?
As the book on how to beat Jackson is sure out by now; and you’d have to think a defensive mind like Narduzzi got a rise outta what he just read. As what it would take to lift, pilfer cornbeef or steal this one out on the road is right up his Nixon or right-wing, or elephantine play-calling alley. As this is a game just begging for coach ‘Duz to ugly it up, slow things down, and try to pinch this one late.
“There’s a myriad of decisions that get made. I get it. It’s a short trip in this business from the penthouse to the outhouse. The thing I would tell you is that we have thoughts and reasons for those things, and when they don’t work, then they were wrong. When they don’t work, we can own that.”
Then I found that Fu’ seems a little steamed, if not outright pissy there to me and methinks that a pissy coach-Fu’ may be just what this saggy Tech team needs right about now. And as we all know…
“The only place improving comes before owning is the… dictionary.”
Here’s to coach-Fu’ and company owning an improving Pitt at
~4pm on Saturday afternoon.
Virginia Tech=26, Pittsburgh=16