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Pitt Panthers at Penn State Nittany Lions Preview

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Welcome to the Pitt Panthers at Penn State Nittany Lions 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: 1-0 | ACC Record: 0-0

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

Lifetime Record: 17-10 

2017 Pitt Panthers Roster

Last Week: Pitt 28 Youngstown St 21 OT


Breakdown of the Panthers

Quarterback- Max Browne steps in for Nate Peterman and hopes to keep Pitt’s offense rolling as it did in 2017. Browne, a senior and a former five star prospect, transferred from USC. Browne has a good arm and displays a nice touch on deep throws. He is not very mobile, but needs to take yards when they are available and the passing lanes are shut down.

Running Backs- Pitt is loaded with guys who can tote the rock. Qadree Ollison is the starter and is looking to return to stardom. He rushed for 1,121 yards in 2015 en route to earning ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He is more of a bruiser, as is Darrin Hall has looked sharp in Camp. Chawtez Moss will be in the mix, as will two highly touted freshmen in Todd Sibley and AJ Davis. Fullback George Aston is injured, but hopes to be back in October. Colton Lively will suit up in his absence.

Wide Receivers- Another offensive position stocked with talent. Jester Weah caught 36 passes for 872 yards and 10 scores last year. Quadree Henderson is a dynamic playmaker that wants to up his game in receptions in 2017. Henderson torched defenses all year in the running game via the Jet Sweep, and now wants to terrorize opposing secondaries with his speed and elusiveness. Maurice Ffrench will look to contribute on both the ground and in the air, as he can employ a style similar to Hendersen. Ruben Flowers is a four-star prospect and believes he can make an impact immediately. Aaron Mathews and Raphael Araujo-Lopez saw time last year and will see action as well.

Tight Ends- Matt Flanagan and Chris Clark will step in and try to emulate the success of the graduated Scott Orndoff. Flangan is a graduate transfer from Rutgers. Clark has plenty of potential and may very well become one of Browne’s favorite targets.

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, so this unit has nowhere to go but up! It won’t help with Jordan Whitehead suspended for the first three games, but like Mike Tomlin says, it’s “Next man up!” for the Panthers. 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. While Whitehead sits, Bricen Garner and Jazzee Stocker will do their best to impress Coach Narduzzi. 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 will need to prove he can handle the pressure of being the man when called upon.

Kick/Punt Return- Quadree Henderson will be back deep for every kick. If teams are smart, they will avoid kicking the ball anywhere near him.



A look at the Penn State Nittany Lions!

Overall Record: 1-0 | Big Ten Record: 0-0 | Rank #4

Head Coach: James Franklin (4th Season with Penn State)

Lifetime Record: 50-30| 26-15 with Penn State

2017 Penn State Roster

Last Week: Penn St 52 Akron 0


Breakdown of the Nittany Lions

Quarterback- Trace McSorely has established himself as one of the rising passers in the game. Beware, he can also run the ball if given a lane.

Running Backs- Saquon Barkley is a bad dude. Strong and elusive, if you try to arm tackle him, good luck. Penn St will try to get him the ball as many times as he can handle it.

Wide Receivers- Penn State features a trio of solid receivers in Juwon Johnson, DaeSean Hamilton, and DeAndre Thompkins. Johnson caught four passes for 84 yards last week.

Tight Ends- Mike Gesicki is one of McSorely’s favorite targets.

Defense- The Nittany Lions boast a very solid defense that shutout Akron in the season opener last week. The front seven is formidable, and can get after the QB. Amani Oruwariye is in at corner for the injured John Reid.

Game Preview

The wait is over. No more trash talk. No more subliminal messages. One of the best rivalries in sports returns as Pitt travels to Happy Valley to face Penn State.

“I’m not going to speak for them,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “I know it’s a rivalry game for us. Some people think it’s a rivalry. Some people don’t. It doesn’t matter what they think. It matters what we think.”

Some people, like PSU AD Sandy Barbour, are in la-la land when it comes to understanding the importance of this match-up.

Narduzzi gets it, and isn’t afraid to voice his opinion.

“The Penn State game is a big game because it’s an in-state rivalry game. It’s important not only to the guys that sit in this (team meeting) room but the community out there, the state of Pennsylvania, to the city of Pittsburgh. It’s a pride thing, and that’s why it’s big.”

Rarely do you see blowouts in rivalry games, which makes the 21 point spread in favor of Penn State so odd.

Narduzzi is fine playing the underdog role.

“The odds are against us. I’m not blind to that. It’s OK. It’s nice to be the underdog.”

Penn State head coach James Franklin is treating this week as any other.

“People kind of keep asking me about this game, and, guys, I understand the significance of this game, and I understand the importance of this game,” Franklin said, “but I’m also a huge believer that this is the most important game on our schedule because it’s the one this week. Last week, the Akron game was the most important game in the universe for us. This week, the Pitt game is the most important game in the universe. It’s the only thing that exists for us.”

The key to Pitt winning begins and ends with stopping the Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.

“You’d better be in the right gaps. He’ll jump out of a gap,” said Narduzzi. “You’ll think he’s going there, he’ll go there. Everybody has got to be gap sound. You’ve got to get penetration in the backfield, and you load the box and then they’ve got the other things. They’ve got players outside, too.”

That guy on the outside is tight end Mike Gesicki. He and McSorley have hooked up for 12 completions for 191 yards and five touchdown over the last four games.

Last week against Youngstown State, Pitt played a bland version of football on both sides of the ball. The goal was to give Penn State as little as they could study on tape, especially on starting quarterback Max Browne. The transfer from USC completed 17 of 24 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in overtime. Most of his passes were short and sweet. The coaches are encouraging Browne to take off and gain a few yards if the passing lanes get shut down.

I’d like to see him make a few more plays,” Narduzzi said of Browne. “He had a great run, and we encouraged him to run. There was another third down where he could have run just to make sure he didn’t make a negative. … There’s a lot of little things, just fundamentals. Again, first time he’s been under fire for over a year really.”

Penn State is a great team. There will be over 100,000 fans, the overwhelming majority of said fans would root for Iran over Pitt, in the stands Saturday afternoon.

It won’t faze the Panthers. They have been in raucous environments before and have stood tall in the end. Ask Clemson. Rarely has Narduzzi’s Panthers found themselves on the bad side of a beating.

Expect Pitt to keep the Lions guessing on the ground with a combination of Qadree Ollison, Darrin Hall, AJ Davis, and receivers/runners in Quadree Henderson and Maurice Ffrench. Pitt will be taking the reigns off of Max Browne as well. He didn’t transfer here just to hand the ball off every play. Browne will need to attack downfield and keep Penn State’s front seven off balance. Jester Weah and Henderson will have to step up and make plays when thrown to. Tight ends Matt Flanagan and Chris Clark will be valuable tools for Browne to utilize.

This offense can put points on the board, as it’s predecessor did last season. It will be up to the defense to prove to itself and their fans that it is a fresh season and they have improved over the debacle they were last year as a unit. Having Jordan Whitehead out hurts significantly, but it is what it is. The defense must contain Barkley as much as they can, and when McSorely drops back, they have to get good pressure and lay a few hits on him to make him uncomfortable.

Expect another great game between these two foes that will go back and forth. It may come down to the final possession for one to hold the bragging right for the rest of the year over the other.

Pitt pulls off the shocker and makes it three straight over the Nittany Lions.

Prediction: Pitt 34 Penn State 33

Game Information

NCAA Week 2

Pitt Panthers (1-0, 0-0) at #4 Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0, 0-0)


Venue: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA.

Game-time: Saturday, September 9th, 3:30 pm

TV: ABC | Announcers:  Joe Tessitore (play-by-play) Todd Blackledge (analyst) | Holly Rowe (reporter)

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

National Radio: Compass Media Networks |  Announcers:  Gregg Daniels (play-by-play) Tony Hill | Sirius Channel 972

Weather at Kickoff: 65 and sunny.

Vegas Line: Penn St -21

Pitt vs Penn State History

  • Series History: Began in 1893.
  • Pitt is 43-50-4 against Penn State. |
  • Pitt is 6-17 at Penn State.
  • Streak: Pitt won last two meetings.
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: September 10, 2016 (Pitt 42 Penn State 39)

Game Notes

  • Pitt and Penn State meet for the 98th time in a series widely regarded as one of college football’s most historic rivalries. The Panthers have won each of the past two encounters, 42-39 last
    season and 12-0 in 2000.
  • Pitt will be visiting Beaver Stadium for the first time in 18 years. The Panthers have lost each of their last four games at Penn State (1990, 1992, 1997, 1999) and are just 6-17 on the
    road against the Nittany Lions.
  • Five true freshmen played in Pitt’s season-opening victory over Youngstown State: running back A.J. Davis, tight end Tyler Sear, long snapper Cal Adomitis and cornerbacks Damarri Mathis and Jason Pinnock.
  • Wide receiver Quadree Henderson was one of the nation’s most productive all-purpose performers in 2016. Henderson ranked 11th nationally and second in the ACC with an average of 160.23 all-purpose yards per game.
  • Brian O’Neill has started 26 consecutive games at right tackle for the Panthers. However, the junior’s contributions have gone beyond the conventional duties of an offensive lineman. While he was instrumental for Pitt’s nationally ranked running game, O’Neill actually carried the ball twice himself last year—scoring touchdowns each time. His initial carry came on a throwback lateral that went for a 24-yard TD in the Panthers’ 37-34 win over Georgia Tech. O’Neill reached the end zone again on an end-around play against Virginia Tech that resulted in a five-yard score. He had two carries for 29 yards on the year (14.5 avg.) and even threw two passes (both incomplete).

Individual Statistics 

Pitt Panthers


QB- Max Browne (140 yards passing | 1 TD passes | 0 interceptions | 3 sacks | -20 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD)

Running Back

RB- Qadree Ollison (91 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 5 receptions | 35 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

RB- Darrin Hall (52 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 12 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- Colton Lively (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

WR- Maurice Ffrench (3 receptions | 19 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

WR- Jester Weah (1 receptions | 11 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)

WR- Quadree Henderson (1 receptions | 7 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 77 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s)

WR- Aaron Matthews (1 receptions | 6 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

WR- Rafeal Araujo-Lopes (1 receptions | 5 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

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

Tight Ends

TE- Matt Flanagan (2 receptions | 35 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

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


K- Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 4-4 | FG: 0-2 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 0-2 | 30-39: 0-0 | 40-49: 0-0 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: N/A

Pitt Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats








Penn State Nittany Lions


QB-Trace McSorely (280 yards passing | 2 TD passes | 1 interceptions | 0 sacks | 48 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD )

Running Back

RB- Saquon Barkley (172 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 54 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

WR- Juwon Johnson (4 receptions | 84 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

WR- DaeSean Hamilton (3 receptions | 74 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

WR- DeAndre Thompkins (2 receptions | 29 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

TE- Mike Gesicki (6 receptions | 58 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)


K- Tyler Davis (Extra Point: 7-7 | FG: 1-2 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 0-0 | 30-39: 0-1 | 40-49: 1-1 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: 47

Penn St Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats

Pitt – Penn St: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison

Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 348 YPG | Penn St allows 148 YPG

Rushing: Pitt averages 208 YPG | Penn St allows -7 YPG

Passing: Pitt averages 140 YPG | Penn St allows 155 YPG

Scoring: Pitt averages 28 PPG | Penn St allows 0 PPG


Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 418 YPG | Penn St averages 569 YPG

Rushing: Pitt allows 107 YPG | Penn St averages 247 YPG

Passing: Pitt allows 311 YPG | Penn St averages 322 YPG

Scoring: Pitt allows 21 PPG | Penn St averages 52 PPG

ACC Standings

Atlantic Division    CONF    OVR    PF    PA
 Wake Forest    0-0    1-0    51    7
 Boston Coll.    0-0    1-0    23    20
 Clemson    0-0    1-0    56    3
 Syracuse    0-0    1-0    50    7
 Louisville    0-0    1-0    35    28
 N.C. State    0-0    0-1    28    35
 Florida St.    0-0    0-1    7    24

Coastal Division

 Virginia 0-0 1-0 28 10
 Miami (FL) 0-0 1-0 41 13
 Pittsburgh (23) 0-0 1-0 28 21
 Duke 0-0 1-0 60 7
 Virginia Tech (22) 0-0 1-0 31 24
 Georgia Tech 0-0 0-1 41 42
 N. Carolina 0-0 0-1 30 35


Pitt Panthers 2017 Schedule

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


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

Saturday, September 9 at Penn State (ABC) at 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 16 Oklahoma State (ABC/ESPN2) at Noon

Saturday, September 23 at Georgia Tech* at TBA

Saturday, September 30 Rice at TBA

Saturday, October 7 at Syracuse* at TBA

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 8 p.m.

Saturday, November 18 at Virginia Tech* at TBA

Friday, November 24 Miami* at TBA


*ACC game /  (HC) Homecoming

Bold = Home


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