Did Narduzzi Find His Man?

True Freshman Kenny Pickett Helps Lead Upset Over No. 2 Miami

by Bo Marchionte

Pittsburgh – A little over a year ago Pittsburgh Panthers’ quarterback Kenny Pickett was enrolling at the university. This afternoon against No. 2 Miami Hurricanes, Pickett was making his first start as a true freshman. He was facing a Hurricanes team that had not tasted defeat since October 29th, 2016 against Notre Dame 30-27.

Miami won 15 games in a row, were snuggled up behind No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff, but that came to a screeching halt. Pickett helped orchestrate one of the top upsets of the college season, with a convincing 24-14 victory.

“Kids continued to believe,” Panthers Head Coach Pat Narduzzi said. “It is a win that we needed. It is something we grow with after the season and thru the off season and I could not be any more happier for our kids. They made a ton of plays out there today.”

The excitement of the here and now revolves around the win that improved Pitt to 5-7, but eliminates them from any potential bowl bids. Miami will move on and possibly play in the National Championship, while the Panthers will enjoy the holiday weekend and begin preparation for next year.

That leads us back to the most impressive and least experienced player that suited up in the game today.

“Kenny’s a good football player,” Narduzzi said. “He’s young. The players have faith in him. He is someone that could work for us in the future, I think.”

Pickett was as poised afterwards standing at the podium talking to media as he was facing one of the top defenses in the country, which the Hurricanes possessed. This freshman was not going to be pushed around, he was the one on the field dictating the flow of the game. He was the guy making plays. He was the guy making his first start. He was the guy who earned his first win as a starting quarterback.

Good ones make it look easy and for the most part he played the role of ‘savvy veteran leader’ who the team has battled foes time and time again. The Oakhurst, New Jersey native looked like he was doing what he did at Ocean Township, and being rated as the nation’s No. 10 pro-style quarterbacks by 247Sports.

“He did great,” Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Mark Richt said of the freshman quarterback. “He did a good job of not putting the ball in harm’s way. He didn’t throw it up for grabs. He made good decisions and when he pulled down, he was athletic enough to get first downs and move the chains.”

Pickett showed elusiveness and more importantly a Steve McNair-ish type of running mentality from the quarterback position. He finished with 60 yards rushing on 13 carries that resulted in two rushing touchdowns. His demeanor of punishing the defender rather than slide for safety was eye popping, as the game unraveled for the Hurricanes.

During one of his runs he lowered the shoulder and hit the Hurricanes’ defensive back so hard it forced an injury timeout, and Pickett was standing at the conclusion of the play. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he is not the most intimating force of nature ever witnessed on the football field, but boy did he show some toughness that certainly inspired his teammates.

“It’s a pretty good start,” Pickett said. He credited his work with Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson, who helped bring Pickett up to speed, in a very short amount of time. He found out he was starting first day of practice after the team’s previous loss to Virginia Tech. “It was a lot of hard work – a lot of extra time with Coach Watson in the film room and making a game plan that we knew would be tough to stop.”

The plan was executed to perfection for the Panthers. Miami scored their second touchdown with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter and absent of that thirty eight second drive, the Hurricanes failed to establish a rhythm in their defeat. The loss was Miami’s first to Pitt since 2014, and the Hurricanes fall to 25-11-1 all-time against the Panthers.

Pickett made the plays necessary, hitting on 18-of-29 passing attempts he avoided turnovers and reached 193 passing yards and one touchdown. His debut resume reads, being the quarterback that led the Panthers to victory at home against the highest ranked opponent.

“You never really expect coming out of high school that your first start is going to be against the No. 2 team in the country and you are going to upset them at home. It’s an unbelievable feeling and I’m happy that we could get it done for the seniors.”

Acknowledging the seniors, during his highest moment of achievement, shows he has the on-and-off the field dynamics to be a leader.

“He got flipped in the end zone,” left tackle Brian O’Neill said. That was the moment he thought Pickett was ready to lead Pitt to victory. “He got up like, screaming and so excited and happy. It was more of like were coming at you type of mentality. Not oh my gosh, I scored a touchdown. It was more like were coming at them and were coming hard all day.”

The confidence in the freshman quarterback continued to grow as the game went on.

“It is the most I’ve ever seen of him or probably any QB all year,” O’Neill said of Pickett and his ability to command the huddle. “He was the commanding voice and what he said went. He grabbed a guy (O’Neill gestures to grabbing the facemask) and told him to shut up (In the huddle). So that was good for me to see him stepping up and being a leader in the offensive huddle. He took over and hats off to him.”

Hats off to him!

Narduzzi Revamping Panthers

Pitt Rebuilds

by Bo Marchionte

Pittsburgh – The Panthers lost some substantial players last season, which most college programs do, but in this particular instance, they went to the NFL. In all, five players were drafted from Pitt, which includes, Adam Bisnowaty, James Conner, Dorian Johnson, Nate Peterman and Ejuan Price. Clemson had one loss last season, and it came from the group mentioned above.

Currently the Panthers are 4-5 overall, with three games remaining, as Pitt aims to attend their tenth straight Bowl Game appearance. It will be a tough task, facing Virginia Tech and Miami (Fla.) who are a combined 14-1, but their next opponent is North Carolina at 1-8.

“They believe in what we are going,” Head Coach Pat Narduzzi said after the teams 31-14 victory over Virginia, picking up its second consecutive ACC win. “It’s a process. It’s a growing process and they are learning every week.”

Narduzzi is also learning on the fly, which will be his go to players when next season begins. Instability at quarterback, a changing of the guard at running back and a young and emerging defense, leaves some bright glimpses of excitement for next season.

“We’re getting a little bit better,” Narduzzi said about his young defensive unit. “We didn’t have one senior on the field the entire game, with Avonte Maddox out. We continue to have fun and do the little things right most of the time.”

While the narrative is to win, the reality is the task may be a bit more demanding than the capabilities allow for this young, but talented and growing team.

“I think every week the coaches have more confidence in me,” quarterback Ben DiNucci said post-game. “The most I get out there, the more confident I will be.”

Max Browne was supposed to be the single season answer at quarterback for the Panthers. That theory ended against Rice after he injured his shoulder. It resulted in season ending surgery and thus leaving the team using a combination of Ben DiNucci and Kenny Pickett.

After the Oklahoma State defeat, Narduzzi stated, “I think we’ve got two pretty good quarterbacks. Do we have a great quarterback? No, not right now. Nathan Peterman was a great quarterback walking out of here. You miss guys like that. That’s what happens when you’re a young football team at a lot of different spots, not just the quarterback spot.”

This is a team searching for a new identity, looking for the next James Conner and Ejuan Price.

Even when Browne was healthy, Narduzzi was facing decisions on which the quarterback was going to be week in and week out.

Would anyone reading, be unsurprised if DiNucci struggles, he is yanked for Pickett?

Exactly!

Coach Narduzzi is looking for the right guy to take his program to the highest heights. If DiNucci is his man he takes it, and if Pickett evolves quicker than expected, then he’ll gladly accept it as well.

Junior running back Darrin Hall, has seen his play expand over the weeks that followed QaDree Ollison receiving the bulk of carries for Pitt. Over the course of the first six games, Ollison out touched Hall on carries 65 to 22. Over the last three weeks, Hall has carried the football 58 times compared to Ollison’s 10.

If the trend and his tremendous play continue, (370 yards rushing last two games) Hall will enter 2018 as the main ball carrier for Narduzzi.

A lot of moving parts still in transition as the puzzle pieces are strategically placed to maximize the team’s overall ability to win games.

“They’re still puppies,” Narduzzi joked about a defense that didn’t have a single senior starter. “They don’t bark real loud right now. They growl a little bit.”

They are Panthers, so hopefully they learn how to roar…

Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro

Henderson Adds Another Return

Recipe For Success – Rice, Pasta With Meat Sauce & Cup of Orange Juice

by Bo Marchionte

Pittsburgh – “Had some rice, had some pasta with meat sauce and a cup of orange juice,” Quadree Henderson said. “That is usually the go to or I get a bagel with a lot of cream cheese on it.”

The magic morning fuel for one of college football’s most gifted offensive weapons. Henderson continues his assault on the Pitt record books with another special team’s touchdown.

“I know the record is nine,” Henderson said. I have eight so I need one more to tie it.”

Currently, he is more concerned about reaching six wins to for the team to be bowl eligible, after a very convincy win 31-14 over the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia is now 3-7 all-time against Pitt and remains winless at Heinz Field.

Beyond the two straight wins for the Panthers is the special play by special teams by Henderson. A little over a month ago (September 23rd), against Georgia Tech he had his first punt return of the 2017 season.

Then Virginia had some miscommunication in their punt coverage and Henderson seized the opportunity for his second punt return of the year with three games remaining. The Caveliers shifted to the left but the punt went the opposite way giving Henderson a path towards pay dirt.

The punted football sputtered out of the rain onto Heinz Field. It skipped and bounced, then it was scooped up by Pitt wideout (a.k.a Mr. Do-It-All), Quadree Henderson. In full stride he plucked the ball in mid air off the turf, the Wilmington, Delaware native launching towards his third punt return for a touchdown down the right side of the field.

Retrieving the punt on the Pitt 25-yard line, by the 33, Henderson was at full acceleration. A quick juke on a Virginia player at the 45 and five yards later he was entering Virginia territory. The junior athletic juggernaut avoided a pile of Panthers’ blockers and would be Cavaliers’ tacklers, by cutting inside, to continue his run towards six points.

“I look to the jumbotron to see when they are chasing me,” Quadree Henderson said post-game after the Panthers’ victory over the Virginia Cavaliers 31-14. “I see two dudes chasing me, No. 29 and No. 3, 29 grabbed me and I high stepped out of that and by that time I was winded so I reached the ball across the goal line.”

Big plays have been a common occurrence for Henderson since he was a youngster playing Pop Warner football.

“When I was five years old I had a coach named Ricky Brown,” Henderson said. He would put me at quarterback, things like trips right quarterback keeper or trips to the left quarterback keep left.” Those were the usual calls made by Coach Brown to ensure that the young play-maker would be able to keep the ball in his hands.

Defenses knew the ball was coming to me,” Henderson said with a gentle smile and added, “They just couldn’t stop it.”

The same goes for most defenses in college football when No. 10 has the football in his palms. He is an electrifying play maker able to strike from basically anywhere on the field.

“It is a huge spark not only for the offense but the whole team,” quarterback Ben DiNucci stated in regards to his 75-yard punt return that boosted the Pitt lead to 21-0 over the Cavaliers.

Henderson’s talent as a special team’s ace is larger than just the ACC; he possibly could be the one of the most lethal return men in college football. His special teams play is just the extension of his overall and vast athleticism.

“That’s a big time play,” Head Coach Pat Narduzzi said. “We’ve been waiting for that. We know what he’s all about. He had another nice run from the backfield too, He did a nice job.”

He can hurt opposing teams running or receiving the football. Since 1979, no Panthers’ player has amassed more over 2,000 all-purpose yards from scrimmage, except Henderson, who is 2016 totaled 2,083. This list includes some substantial NFL stars, like Larry Fitzgerald (1,679) and LeSean McCoy (1,809).

“He is very shifty in the open field and is able to make people miss,” DiNucci said.

Against Virginia, he recorded his eighth special team’s touchdown return and his third punt return for the Panthers, in a span of three years at Pitt. As the top overall prospect leaving Delaware, Henderson arrived at the collegiate level and lettered as a true freshman for Pitt.

His lighting bolt ability to make plays and change the complexity of the game, is what Henderson brings to the offensive and special teams game plan for Coach Narduzzi. Henderson is a guy teams must be accountable for on the field. He is simply too dangerous for teams to reluctantly leave unattended.

In the Panthers’ 2015 Military Bowl game against Navy, his freshman season, Henderson took the opening kickoff 100 yards for a score. It was Pitt’s first 100-yard kickoff return since 1990 (Ricky Turner vs. West Virginia), but that is par for course for the first team All-American kick returner by the Football Writers Association of America.

The stage was set at a very early age for Henderson to produce on the field. We’ve come to learn that apparently, he can perform on any stage.

Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro

The next Mario Williams?

Panthers Brian O’Neill Details Why Bradley Chubb Is Top Notch

by Bo Marchionte

Pittsburgh – The Pitt Panthers faced one of the top 2018 NFL Draft Prospects in college football in NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb. The football gene runs extremely strong in the DNA of the Chubb family. His father Aaron played at Georgia and brother played at another ACC school (Wake Forest). Nick Chubb the Georgia running back is cousins with the second-team preseason All-American.

Chubb brings a tremendous amount of ability to the field. His combination of size and athleticism place him in the upper echelon of prospects available next year when the NFL selects the top player’s in the nation.

NC State is currently on a six game winning streak and Chubb has definitely contributed to that success. This season marks the first time in school history the Wolfpack has taken down two ranked ACC opponents in the same season. A 27-21 victory over Florida State, in which Chubb was unstoppable, recording seven tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. Their second big win, against Louisville saw Chubb make six more tackles, add another sack to his team leading 6.5 and two tackles for loss.

Panthers’ offensive lineman Brian O’Neill said he was definitely aware of the ability Chubb’s possesses.

“For me personally, absolutely,” O’Neill said. I know how good of a player he is and it is kind of a measuring stick for yourself.”

The Wolfpack captain did not exploit the stat sheet against Pittsburgh; however he did show the skill set that separates him from most of the countries top defensive ends. He played off the line of scrimmage and often was dropping back in coverage rather than penetrating the Pitt offensive front.

“You want to be able to play the best and compete with the best.” O’Neill stated during post-game interviews. “He definitely is in terms of defensive lineman in the country. I was excited for it.”

More than one occasion Chubb looked like a man among boys last year. He led the Wolfpack with 22 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks last year with 58 combined tackles (ranked sixth of the team). Standing at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, his long frame probably makes NFL Scouts blush with excitement. Watching him you see a player at his size that moves pretty effortlessly for a guy carrying the weight he does. He showed a powerful swipe move on occasion and packed a punch at the point of attack when he was attacking.

“He brings it every single play to the echo of the whistle,” O’Neill said when comparing Chubb to other defensive lineman he faces. “That is kind of what separates the good from the great. He has a high motor and doesn’t stop.”

Is he tough?

If you watched the game or saw photos of his ring finger, then you already know – Yes he is pretty tough! His finger was bent in a manner that I would assume is equivalent to owing mobsters money and being a little roughed up for not paying a gambling debt. It looked that crazy.

Chubb rolled around a few times on the turf before exiting the game. Not long afterwards No. 9 was back on the field, making Mario Williams proud. The former Wolfpack defensive lineman (Williams) is the reason Chubb wears the No. 9 to honor and life of to the expectations of the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

NC State currently is in the position to earn double digit wins, a feat that has not been accomplished since 2002 (11-3). It would also mark the second time in the history of the school it reached the 10-plus win plateau. The better Chubb plays the more realistic those results become for the Wolfpack.

Enjoy him while he last, next year he’ll be getting accustomed to playing a 16 game schedule in the National Football League.

Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro

Rough Ride In Store For No.3

Contrasting Responses Leave Pitt QBs In Limbo

by Bo Marchionte

Pittsburgh – Dave Wannstadt, former Pitt player (offensive tackle from 1971-73), was an infant baby growing up in Pittsburgh the first time NC State took on the Panthers. A series that started back in 1952, continued on a beautiful autumn day in the City of Pittsburgh.

The Wolfpack had already claimed victories against two ranked opponents this season, a 27-21 win at 12th ranked Florida State and a 39-25 victory over No. 17 Louisville. NC State left victorious after beating Pitt 35-17 in their first visit ever to Heinz Field.

It marked sixth straight win for NC State after dropping their opener against South Carolina.

Unfortunately, the Panthers are trending in a different direction. Pitt currently stands at 2-5 overall and remains winless in the ACC (0-3). The Panthers’ defense has allowed the most points (220) in the ACC.

The last time the Panthers were 2-5, Walt Harris was the head coach (2001) and the team went on to win their last six games to finish 7-5. Déjà vu does not appear likely with this current squad.

It is a team in transition searching for an identity, with no quarterback, running game or defense, the rest of the season will reveal some layers on what to expect in next years team.

Max Browne was supposed to be the single season answer at quarterback for the Panthers. That theory ended against Rice after he injured his shoulder. It resulted in season ending surgery and thus leaving the team using a combination of Ben DiNucci and Kenny Pickett.

It is not the ideal situation for Pittsburgh, but what other choice do they have. Head Coach Pat Narduzzi faces the task of finding out what quarterback can provide the best production and leadership from the most important position on the field.

Now this is where it gets very interesting.

DiNucci started the game against NC State and then was replaced with Pickett.

Post-game interviews reveal two sides of the stoy via the head and quarterback (DiNucci).

“We talked with them prior to the game,” Narduzzi said in regards to each quarterback knowing the other would see time under center.

After Narduzzi left the podium, DiNucci nestled into the bar stool style chair for his post-game interview. His response did not parallel that of the sophomore quarterback.

“A little bit surprised,” DiNucci responded to being pulled. “I was not necessarily aware of it this week that they were going to try to get him a series, but that’s ultimately their decision.”

Narduzzi has since listed DiNucci No.1 on the teams depth chart against Duke.

Pickett was supposed to redshirting in the summer, but he was forced into action in the previous game against Syracuse. Narduzzi was looking to get a spark on offense in a game at the time was winnable for Pittsburgh. That makes sense and is easy to understand.

The remarks his remarks on DiNucci knowing Pickett would receive significant offensive snaps is where the confusion exists.

Narduzzi has since expressed he is not the most patient head coach when it comes to refraining from making changes, when he feels his team is in need of a jolt, he wanted ignite the team, to beat NC State. He expressed that he’s not always patient when it comes to his team’s performance, and that knowing Pitt has struggled in second halves, he wanted to try to alter the course of the game, if possible.

The body language of DiNucci after the game seem a little irritated and deflated, which would be par for course, for any starting quarterback standing in his shoes. Internally, this could play mind games, on the Wexford, PA native. How can we rule out that after an incompletion, interception or bad series, he notices No. 7 warming up on the sidelines?

That is a terrible feeling to fight off and awful way to prepare to perform at your best. Unfortunately, that is the cards that have been dealt to DiNucci.

The reality of it all, is that Coach Narduzzi must do what he feels best is for his team, regardless of the player or where they sit on the depth chart. That may ruffle a few feathers and cause these types of disruptions, but at the end of the day, it all falls on his shoulders, as it should for any coach in control of his program.

Expect more of the same moving forward this year, where both DiNucci and Pickett swap roles as the team’s quarterback under center. The hiccups of this season should provide a much better nucleus for next year. Five games remain on their schedule and making a bowl, while not out of the question, appear to be a stretch under the current set of circumstances.

Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro

Mike Gundy Knows WR Talent

Mike Gundy Preparing NFL For Next Top Rookie Receiver

by Bo Marchionte

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy is a great recruiter and his expertise in nabbing the best receiving talent leaving high school is surely an argument that he is second to none.

Gundy took over at Oklahoma State in 2005 prior to being the school’s offensive coordinator. Barring a catastrophic set of circumstances, James Washington will join Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon as Gundy’s third receiver taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Washington entered the 2017 college football season ranked as the top senior receiver in the nation. After four weeks of action he is vying for to be mentioned as the top receiver in the nation – Period.

Washington ranks second in the country with 520 receiving yards and has accumulated 19 catches along with four touchdowns. He plays in one of the deepest and most talented receiving units in the nation.

Quarterback and teammate Mason Rudolph is pacing himself in the running to be called a Heisman Trophy winner if he continues his high level of play that trickles down to Washington.

Going inside the game and see what makes Washington one of the best talents at the receiver position in college football.

Off The Snap
Trump NFL

Washington stares his defensive back down leaving the defender little knowledge on what way he’ll explode into his route. His Sterling Sharpe type-frame allows him the bulk to beat the jam.

Physical With Explosion

Winning the one-on-one match-up is critical at the top of a receivers route. Washington sets up his defender and shows good short area burst to begin gaining separation.

Gaining Separation
Mike Gundy Mallett

The defender tries to tangle up Washington and keeping him from hitting his stride. Washington possesses to much strength to be contained off the jam. We see the progression quickly as Washington is gettting past his opponent.

Fast Enough To Win
James Washington

Washington has done everything right on this route, thus far. He now transitions from his quick burst off the ball to using his overall speed. Washington uses technique and route running create to mismatches to win one-on-one battles.

Great Concentration
Trump NFL Draft

With his man beat, it is now Mason Rudolph’s job to find his favorite target. Washignton high points the ball on this particular catch and hauling in the pass.

Consistent In Winning His Match Up
Trump NFL Draft

Securing the football and making the catch all part of the process that Washington makes look so easy. For any rookie receiver route running is the biggest challenge to be successful. Washington excels at that and along with his natural given talent make him very exciting to watch.

 

Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro

Heisman Worthy Performance

Mason Rudolph’s Arm Forces Pitt To Shake Up QB Hierarchy

by Bo Marchionte

Pittsburgh – The Panthers witnessed Heisman candidate Mason Rudolph first hand in their 59-21 defeat to No. 9 ranked Oklahoma Cowboys. Rudolph threw two first quarter touchdowns, helping the Cowboys jump out to an early 21-0 first quarter lead.

Rudolph was simply unstoppable.

“He’s a good quarterback,” Avonte Maddox said about Rudolph. “He puts it where it is hard to get. I was running on that deep ball and felt like I had James Washington cut off. Then all of a sudden it is (football) on his back shoulder and he got it.”

Maddox saw first hand the combination of one of the most elite quarterback to receiver combos and arsenals in college football.

‘That’s a good team they execute on every play,” Maddox said. The Cowboys’ had four receiver go above and beyond the century mark in the game.

A little over six minutes (6:12) remained in the second quarter, Rudolph already accumulated 334 passing yards and four touchdowns. The Panthers defense allowed more first half yards (516) than in their previous two games over four quarters.

It forced Pitt head coach to insert sophomore quarterback Ben DiNucci.

“Ben came in and gave us a spark,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said after the lopsided defeat. “We thought he could and that is why we made the decision.”

DiNucci replaced Max Browne who completed seven of his 10 passes, but for only 60 yards. His inability to get the football down field likely played a part in head coach Pat Narduzzi making the switch. The offense needed a jolt and DiNucci provided that quickly.

He definitely provided a spark but even with the game already well out of reach.

His first pass went 74 yards setting up the Panthers first touchdown, making the score 35-7.

Talk about a spark!

Rudolph immediately responded on the next drive going 3 for 3 on the ensuing drive and finding his favorite target James Washington for his first three catches of the game covering 61 yards.

It helped set up another Cowboys’ touchdown, making the score 42-7, off the nimble feet of running back Justice Hill, who finished with 91 yards rushing on 11 carries along with two touchdowns.

DiNucci was doing his best of trying to keep pace with Rudolph. Mason completed another touchdown (Five) while Ben threw his first touchdown of his Pittsburgh career.

The only way Oklahoma State could be stopped was by kneeling. Sixteen seconds before halftime, the Cowboys decided to head into the locker room with a 49-14 point lead. Rudolph would finish with 497 passing yards and five touchdowns.

The story looks like lopsided defeat for Pittsburgh but the reality of it is that DiNucci showed plenty of promise against the 9th ranked team in the country. The Panthers defense was out matched, out played and out scored by Oklahoma State and by the time DiNucci arrived under center (35-0).

“You try not to let that factor that into anything,” DiNucci responded to coming in so early in the game while facing such a large deficient. “The biggest thing for me was taking the team down for their first score.”

The halftime comparisons between Browne and DiNucci showed the sophomore was up to the task of providing the Panthers’ offense a much needed spark. DiNucci had 87 more passing yards than Browne with the same amount of completions (Seven). He also had two plays of 25 yards longer while Browne’s long was 16 yards.

“Yes, I have decision to make at the quarterback position,” Narduzzi said after describing to the media it was a bad day on the office. “Max Browne wasn’t very productive when he was in there. Ben DiNucci came in and gave us some life.”

In the moment the devastation to the Panthers defense may be the biggest concern. Allowing Youngstown State to get back into the game after a 21-0 lead in their opener and giving up 33 points to Penn State in their second game and today allowing 516 total yards… That was not in the entire game but in just the first two quarters of action. Oklahoma State would finish with 676 total yards of offense.

The Cowboys’ defense joined in the scoring festival against the Panthers. With first and 10 on their own two yard line, DiNucci threw his first career interception that was returned ten yards for the score. The crowd of 38,592 was now seeing a score of 56-14 with 9:54 left in the third quarter.

Rudolph went to the sidelines as the Cowboys’ coaching staff starting replacing the starters with back-ups. The fourth quarter was now being played with second string players aiming to gain valuable time. Pitt remained committed to trying to close the score, but was unable to fulfill the task.

The offensive explosion was silenced in the third quarter with the only points being scored were by each teams defenses.

Oklahoma State would add three more points in the fourth quarter as Pitt missed their only attempt leaving the final score 59-21. It put the Panthers’ at 1-2 overall on the season with questions moving forward on their starting quarterback position.

The Panthers begin ACC play next with the team traveling on the road to face Georgia Tech.

Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro

Mental Miscues

Speight Must Fix Mechanics

by Bo Marchionte

Ann Arbor – The skies above Ann Arbor, Michigan were welcoming a crowd of over 100,000 strong to a perfect fall preview. An early morning chill in the air, giving way to the warmth of a midday afternoon, in the ‘Big House’, except autumn colors are replaced with maze and blue.

Nearly 12 minutes still remained in the first quarter and Wilton Speight was running towards the end zone to congratulate teammate Kekoa Crawford after they connected for a 43 yard touchdown pass.

The 6-foot-6 and 240 pound native of Richmond, Virginia possesses a lot of qualities to garner attention as an NFL Prospect. After being named the Wolverines 2016 Most Improved Player by the Michigan coaching staff, Speight has the Maze and Blue fan base eager for more.

After two games this season, he had completed 28 of 54 pass attempts for 402 yards three touchdowns and two interceptions. Against the Cincinnati Bearcats his 14th career start, Speight had more issues it appeared with handoffs and snaps than delivering the football downfield.

Speight passed both Drew Henson (15th), John Wrangler (14th) with Jake Rudock (12th) on deck to be surpassed on the next sevens yards are added to his career total. Speight now ranks 13th overall but has to grasp the techniques better to succeed.

His ability to protect the football has been a slight concern during the Wolverines 2-0 start to the 2017 campaign. Last week, against the Florida Gators he threw two interceptions and against the Bearcats, Speight had trouble with handling the football.

“I told him it was a matter of time before it slipped out,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said after the teams 36-14 victory. “He could be better with the ball.”

Speight addressed another issue, explaining that he must do a better job of delivering the football when he is moving around in the pocket to avoid pressure.

“When I move around in the pocket I get sloppy with my feet,” Speight explained and added “the balls sails.”

Several times Speight has the opportunity hit the open target but the football was off the mark. Those miscues may get the Wolverines past the Bearcats who were 31.5 point underdogs but against a higher level opponent it could cost the team dearly.

In all fairness to Speight this is only his 14th career at quarterback. That barely covers a full college season under the current format of post season play.

“Definitely slowing down with each game,” Speight revealed in terms gaining knowledge on how to process it all under center. “Windows are opening up.”

“He’s is going to hit most of them,” Harbaugh said in regards to Speight’s pass completion rate. One disturbing things for the Wolverines offense was his lack of consistently getting the ball down field.

During one point in the contest he was averaging 3.6 yards per completion after 12 pass connections. He did bump it up to 7.5 yards per completion by the end of the game.

Ollison Continues Success

Ollison Takes Aim On Another 1,000 Season

by Bo Marchionte

Pittsburgh – It was easy to reminisce of James Conner’s legacy walking towards Heinz Field. The most prominent jersey I observed being worn was that of the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie No. 30 or his vintage No. 24 throwback.

The largest fan reaction was with 10:06 remaining in the third quarter, when the camera showed Conner standing on the sidelines. Without a doubt Conner has made an ever lasting imprint on the city and fans of Pittsburgh.

“That’s my brother right there and I love him to death,” Oadree Ollison said after the Panthers 28-21 overtime win over the Youngstown State Penguins.

“Just having him here and giving me tips,” Ollison said and added, “He deserves that standing ovation for what he has done here for the university.”

Ollison was the running back who filled in for Conner after he tore his ACL in the first game of the year in 2015, against the exact same team (YSU). He came off the bench to set a Pitt freshman record for rushing (206) in a season opener. He never looked back, reaching the century mark in five games that same season.

The Niagara Falls, native rushed for 1,121 yards that season and now aims to become the sixth Panthers running back with multiple 1,000 yards season. That workload was diminished last year with Conner returning and Ollison on the sidelines watching the hometown hero work his magic.

Now entering his junior season, with Conner in the NFL, Ollison has the chance to endear himself Panthers faithful.

“I hope so,” Ollison replied with a genuine smile when asked how he would feel to get the same kind of response from the crowd after his playing days are over for the Panthers.

The 6-foot-2 and 230 pound former ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year, he is now in the same position his dear friend was as the teams lead running back.

He scored the first two touchdowns of the year for the Panthers, while adding 91 rushing yards on 22 carries. It marked his second game with multiple touchdowns. The most impressive statistic for Ollison is he has scored 15 touchdowns in only 14 starts.

“It felt good,” Ollison said. “It felt really good to go out there and do what I could for the team,”

Besides being a powerful move the chains running back for the Panthers he also possesses terrific hands. Against YSU, he led the team in catches (5) and tied for the team high in receiving yards with 35.

Ollison feels comfortable in his role and relishes in the idea that the offense will distribute the football amongst his teammates like Darrin Hall, A.J. Davis and Mr. Versatility Qadree Henderson.

“We were rotating guys,” Ollison said. “I don’t want to get the ball 40 times, no running back does.”

Keeping Ollison fresh will help keep the Pitt offense moving in the right direction. He has proven without a doubt that when given the opportunity he can be one of the best backs in the country.

With new quarterback Max Browne finding his way, it will be even more imperative that Ollison finds his way to the endzone.

Ollison can become the sixth all-time Panthers’ running back to reach 1,000 yards rushing in multiple seasons if he can gains 909 more rushing yards by the time the last whistle sounds this year for Pittsburgh.

Photos by Jason Pohuski

This is an unofficial and independent source of news and information not affiliated with any team(s) or the National Football League (NFL).

Skip to toolbar