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September 3, 2016

Nova Thoughts

Filed under: ACC,Football,Narduzzi — Justin @ 8:18 pm

Before I go into anything about the actual game, remember something: it’s just a game.

This is real life.

No matter what happens this season, it is truly an honor to be a fan of James Conner. I had a chance to talk to him after practice and a few games during my wannabe journalist time and it’ll be one of those things I talk about for the rest of my life. I’ve been choked up following his battle numerous times and his first touchdown was a special moment and vintage James Conner. His stiff arm started at the 6 and continued several yards into the end zone. It was a beautiful symbolism to see him attack a defender with such intensity.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.

I’ll start with the easy part: defense and special teams. Some quick stats

Yards allowed: 172

Points Allowed: 0

Points scored: 7

Turnovers: 2

Nova Trips to the red zone: 0

Not only did Villanova fail to score, the Wildcats offense barely even threatened to score. Villanova moved the ball at times against the defense, but unless you were expecting zero first downs, five turnovers, and a complete destruction of the suburbs of northwest Philadelphia, the defense and special teams did a phenomenal job. There were some mistakes, but nothing practice and tape sessions can’t fix.

Tyrique Jarrett was a monster in the middle, clogging up running lanes like nobody’s business. Jordan Whitehead had another quiet game full of little plays that don’t show up on the highlight reel but make a huge impact. Ejuan Price and Avonte Maddox picked up where they left off last season. The injuries to Dewayne Hendrix and Eli Zeise are concerning (both were in boots on the sidelines) so news on that will come in the next few days.

Overall, an A game from the defense. The challenge wasn’t high, but they delivered. Special teams, minus Chris Blewitt, were fine. Blewitt had an off game, but he’ll recover.

Offensively, there are some huge question marks. The biggest issue was offensive line play. This is the least expected concern given the depth and experience there. There were botched snaps, missed blocks, and next to no push in the run game. A dominant performance from the OL was expected and they did not deliver. Every miscue and short drive on offense had poor OL play to blame. An optimistic approach is the best bet here though. A unit with that much skill and experience doesn’t degrade dramatically over an offseason. Players have bad games. Units have bad games. Wait a few games more to see if the problems persist. I bet they won’t.

Nate Peterman was up and down and struggled with the deep ball primarily. He seemed to struggle early without the given “throw the ball to Boyd” decision. As time went on, he fared much better. Scott Orndoff was the beneficiary of his calmer presence and that won’t be the last good game we see from him. Peterman also showed some trust early in Quadree Henderson and it’s easy to see why. His speed is impressive as hell and it translates onto offense. We already knew he could return the ball, but he threw in a great touchdown juuuust for good measure. Weah threw in a good game that could’ve been great if Peterman hadn’t overthrown him on a deep ball.

RB struggles were a little rust, primarily from Conner, and a lot of poor blocking. Conner danced a bit much early on but he settled down in the second quarter. There just weren’t the type of holes an experienced OL with NFL caliber players on it should open against a FCS school. To reiterate, I think they had a bad game and that they’ll recover quickly.

One other note on the offense: they were incredibly simple. We did not see much of Matt Canada’s offense. I think part of the OL struggles were a very predictable offense; the Wildcats knew what was coming and could go after it. Next week, the offense can’t be predictable against a very good Penn State defense. To me, this was an OK tune up game. Ignore the first quarter and it looks a lot better.

What say yinz? Concerned, happy, or just thankful it’s over?




Count me in the concerned camp, Justin. Hopefully much of the woes on offense were due to vanilla play calling, but there were NO big runs in this game, which this o line and backfield should have been able to deliver against an inferior opponent .

Comment by PittPT 09.03.16 @ 8:40 pm

The defense righted the ship by the second quarter. I thought the line, linebackers and DBs all played well. Pitt put pressure on the QB. I thought Rori Blair had a solid game. The DBs lost their man a couple of times but I never felt like they were hopeless out there like I have at times over the past few years.

Agree that Conner was not consistently planting and hitting the hole. He was skipping and hopping. He needs to run like he did on the touchdown.

Conner made some very nice catches after missing an early opportunity.

Henderson looks like a very capable replacement for the Tyler Boyd of two years ago.

I thought that Winslow also did not have a good kicking game. He average was helped by some fortunate bounces.

The offensive line surely didn’t live up to what is expected. All that talent, size and experience and they still didn’t open any serious holes or give Peterman “all day” to throw.

Peterman certainly spread the ball around. The absence of Boyd helped in that regard.

Comment by Barvo 09.03.16 @ 9:03 pm

I was really hoping to see Ibrahim get some carries. The Line wasn’t opening many holes & it seemed like a smaller, quicker back could have hid behind the big boys & shot through to the second level like Dion Lewis used to. Officer better work on those snaps all week because Pitt was very lucky they didn’t cost them more than they did. Happy to get the win, but that was the most boring game I’ve ever seen & I was at the 2008 Sun Bowl. I was literally falling asleep in my seat late in the 4th qt.

Comment by Nick 09.03.16 @ 10:16 pm

Good summary Justin. I think we will have to wait till next week to learn how good we will be this year. Hopefully Canada has a real game plan for PSU. Obviously need the O-line to be much more consistent. The defense looked much better than last year, but it being Villanova, who really knows how much better.

Individual pluses were Henderson, the difference maker Orndorf and Weah, made us feel better about the receivers.

Defensive backs played very well with Whitehead and Webb with 6 tackles each and Webb with a great breakup and interception. Maddox with two sacks, Briggs and Lewis looked strong.

Much more of a test next week with much stronger individual talent at all positions, although their D-End and QB were pretty good today.

Great to see Conner’s stiff arm and excellent TD catch.

I think they thought they could just have their way with Villanova and Nova put up a fight, probably a better warm up because of it.

I noticed that Villanova had pretty good size and decent speed, unlike Kent State who looked a head shorter than PSU.

Should be a great week of anticipation.

Great to see Boyd on the sideline for the return of Conner.

Comment by gc 09.03.16 @ 10:22 pm

Nick, boring is much better than Youngstown St or Akron. Agree that the snaps are a major concern.

Comment by gc 09.03.16 @ 10:25 pm

I honestly expected more from the Pitt offense, but given the struggles of other very good teams–MSU and Tenn, for example, I’m very happy with the W and the surprisingly good D.

Comment by LA Panther 09.04.16 @ 1:09 am

Thankful it’s over. I had a bad feeling about this game, as I note previously. Something else going on besides just the game, when Pitt and Villimanilli square off.

Don’t ask me to explain 🙂

Comment by Emel 09.04.16 @ 6:05 am

Not concerned, yesterday’s game compared to the last few opening games wasn’t bad, the score could have been 31 to 0 and the game was never in doubt.

The oline will be ok, the offense was vanilla next week I believe you will see them opening up a bit more.

Comment by WLAT 910 radio and the big beat! 09.04.16 @ 6:41 am

Loved that the D pitched a shutout! I want to put a positive spin on the O, so here it goes. Obviously, this was just like a Narduzzi practice – nobody gets to see nuttin’. Even though the Vill D has ( I’ll call them the VD!) pledged to stop the run, and did a pretty good job of it, HCPN stuck to his guns, and kept attacking the middle. He refused to reveal anymore of our ground attack to the Country Boys in central Pa.

I felt like we should have been able to exploit what VD was giving up in order to stop the run – hope that changes for this week!

Comment by Savannah Panther 09.04.16 @ 7:19 am

Justin… good point on just “throw the ball to Boyd.”

Makes it much easier to play Quarterback. Just ask Chad Voytik who learned the hard way the other night what it’s like to not have a wide-open Tyler Boyd nearly every passing play.

Obvious, no ONE Receiver on the roster is capable of replacing Boyd.

His absence will continue to be felt throughout the Season.

Comment by PittofDreams 09.04.16 @ 9:03 am

But compliments to Jester Weah and the others for stepping up.

Especially Weah who has worked hard to overcome his struggles.

Comment by PittofDreams 09.04.16 @ 9:08 am

Didn’t hear anything about Chad Voytik playing. Do you have a link or can you elaborate?

Comment by panther94 09.04.16 @ 9:45 am

I just got back from Alaska in time to make it to the game. Glad to see the place so pumped up prior to the and that James Conner scored the first 2 touchdown. Sorry to see the team seemingly going through the motions and effectively taking the crowd out the game for the first quarter.

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 09.04.16 @ 9:54 am

The defense looked like a defense in year two of the same scheme … the offense looked like an offense in year one of a new scheme. Pitt fans hate it, but we’re just going to have to be patient. I think you’ll see it get better each week as they figure out which plays work and what their bread and butter will be. Based on what we’ve seen in the past against these types of opponents I thought it was a good game.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 09.04.16 @ 10:10 am

first off, congrats to Nick grigsby for making Rams’ roster

I saw no screen passes, draw plays, misdirection or gadget plays on offense … I am expecting a better offensive effort next Saturday

Comment by wbb 09.04.16 @ 10:26 am

When PSU watches the film, they should be licking their chops. Can the O-line improve that much from week one to week two?

I guess we will find out.

The other big problem is that the d-backs are making all the tackles. I don’t think that will work on Barkley.

Really had hoped that Hendrix would be a big plus. Now we have to hope Blair is up to the task. Pleased with Soto’s play though.

Comment by gc 09.04.16 @ 10:33 am

Any word on how bad Hendrix is hurt?

Comment by markp 09.04.16 @ 10:59 am

Panther… Here’s the link to Voytik’s stats from last Thursday. Don’t know about any available highlights.

Looked under duress most of the night… and about 15 lbs heavier.

Comment by PittofDreams 09.04.16 @ 11:30 am

Comment by PittofDreams 09.04.16 @ 11:30 am

I’m surprised that 11 for 24 with 124 total yards and no TD’s gets you an 89 passer rating.

Comment by Jackagain 09.04.16 @ 12:35 pm

jackagain – that’s like a 60 for NFL passer rating. College is skewed higher. Anything below like a 110 is bad.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 09.04.16 @ 12:40 pm

What was NP’s passer rating from the nova game? I’d guess 99 –

Hoping OC Canada has more of a variety to show the pedos. No injuries of note to the offensive side – the D lost two, but HCPN says they’ll be ok. That’s coach speak for “you’ll see them mid-season.

QO needs more touches…


Comment by Erie Express 09.04.16 @ 1:47 pm

What’s up with the technology issues at Heinz Field? Does anyone know if Coach Tomlinson and his staff had issues last season? Coach Duzz mentioned this a few times after the nova game yesterday and referenced it was a problem last season as well.

link to

That should not be a tough problem to fix unless they are using old technology – in other words, the Rooney’s are building a parking garage to make more money instead of spending money to fix a problem.

Comment by Erie Express 09.04.16 @ 3:57 pm

Tomlin not Tomlinson – spell check made the change and I missed it

Comment by Erie Express 09.04.16 @ 4:25 pm

Offense was very plain and predictable. Did what they had to do to win. I expect more of the playbook next week. Punting and field goal efforts were disappointments.

Comment by tomcat 09.04.16 @ 5:04 pm

Erie …. Heinz field is a mess technically year in and year out.
The Rooneys treat Pitt like SP is still the AD! I’ve been to 5 other NFL stadiums and Heinz is by far the worst engineered.

We come off as a D 3 school when these things happen. Of course looking at the logo in the middle and the end zone diagonal lines, maybe we are a D 3 school… We sure played like one most of yesterday!

Comment by Dan 72 09.04.16 @ 5:52 pm

Mt.Union would be nice.

Comment by DC33 09.04.16 @ 8:47 pm

As I’m watching nd’s D get shredded by Texas, I just read a Trib article by Jerry DiP. I cut the last section for your viewing pleasure, or not…


Pitt used one freshman in the game, defensive tackle Amir Watts, according to the team’s participation chart. … Pitt’s ground game averaged only 2.5 yards per attempt. … Chris Blewitt has missed five of his past six field goal attempts, dating to the Miami game last year. … Quarterback Nathan Peterman didn’t complete a pass longer than 19 yards.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib


Does Pitt have a back-up kicker worth trying? None of Blewitt’s KO’s reached the end zone vs nova on Saturday and we all know about the two missed FG’s.

I know the answer regarding the QB back-up…wait until next year?

Comment by Erie Express 09.04.16 @ 10:17 pm

@ErieExpress, yes Tomlin has said something in the past about it too.

Comment by Digdug 09.04.16 @ 10:43 pm

What’s up with the technology issues at Heinz Field? Does anyone know if Coach Tomlinson and his staff had issues last season? Coach Duzz mentioned this a few times after the nova game yesterday and referenced it was a problem last

That should not be a tough problem to fix unless they are using old technology – in other words, the Rooney’s are building a parking garage to make more money instead of spending money to fix a problem.

Erie …. Heinz field is a mess technically year in and year out.
The Rooneys treat Pitt like SP is still the AD! I’ve been to 5 other NFL stadiums and Heinz is by far the worst engineered.

HCPN mentioned this during his press conference and he specifically blamed CoachComm headsets.. He never mentioned anything about some larger technology problems at Heinz Field..

Comment by NickC 09.05.16 @ 4:04 am

@ErieExpress, yes Tomlin has said something in the past about it too.
Comment by Digdug 09.04.16

They only time he has ever addressed any type of communication issues the team has had.. was last year on road in New England.. I’ve never heard him mention any type of communication issues at home…

Comment by NickC 09.05.16 @ 4:09 am

Blew it has missed his last 5 out of 6 fgs. Carson Long anyone.

Comment by Alcofan 09.05.16 @ 7:48 am

Carson Long?? I’m going back to my Pitt days. Joe Spico put E-X-C-I-T-E-M-E-N-T back into the extra point!

Comment by Savannah Panther 09.05.16 @ 8:16 am

Anyone going to the game at Oklahoma State? Any tailgate suggestions? I’ll be there.

Comment by tedsptman 09.05.16 @ 9:21 am

I know if I believed everything Richie Walsh tweets we would be getting ready for the Sean Miller era to start, but…he is reporting Dewayne Hendrix has a broken foot.

I was in the bathroom at the game and Osborn said he was carted off with ice on his foot, so Richie is probably right here.

Just terrible news. Other than QB, the D Line just cannot afford injuries.


Comment by Pap76 09.05.16 @ 10:49 am

Ted I will be at the OK St. game. We are staying in OKC, driving up and back same day. Looks like parking near the stadium is all spoken for. My tentative plan is to park in downtown Stillwater and make the 15 min. walk to Boone Pickens, hitting some bars along the route.

There are a number of places south of the stadium: Eskimo Joes, The Garage, and others.

Comment by Iron Duke 09.05.16 @ 11:09 am

not optimistic on Pitt’s chances next week.
hopefully, Pitt doesn’t get blown out.
Why does Pitt Offense resemble a train wreck every year since Wlat?

Comment by Punxy Panther 09.05.16 @ 12:59 pm

Blew-it has Mark Brasco disease, its incurable.
time to move to plan B, the red shirt walk on.

Comment by Punxy Panther 09.05.16 @ 1:00 pm

Good summary Justin — next game will show what they have/don’t have. Not overly worried but too many drops on offense, and bad snaps are weird…maybe reverse Bookser and Officer?

Comment by Matt N. 09.05.16 @ 2:24 pm

If Henderson gets his foot down and the other guys catch easy balls, Nate’s numbers look very good for game 1.

Comment by Matt N. 09.05.16 @ 2:31 pm

So much panic. Haha. It was the first game with a new offense and they didn’t want to show their cards. The defense pitched a shutout. Almost every run was off tackle. James Conner shook off the rust. Weah got some confidence. The injuries are concerning but the game wasn’t even close. PItt won the game pretty handedly and is now getting ready for PSU.

BTW, I love the media blackout and shutting down the pro-PSU PGH media. No access to Pitt players all week.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 09.05.16 @ 2:40 pm

TT, I agree about the media access…I guess Narduzzi got the word when he got here that the media is 80% PSU people in this town. Smart move…

Comment by Jackagain 09.05.16 @ 3:48 pm

Really quite impressed with the defense. Villanova is historically a pretty good, well-run FCS program. They’re expected to be a top 15-20 FCS team this year, so for them to not really threaten much at all speaks well. As someone said above, I’ll take boring over making games against YSU tougher than they ever needed to be.

Jarrett looked good. I’m hoping he can bring that same sort of presence this Saturday. That will go a long toward containing Barkley. If he can manage to occupy two blockers, it limits how PSU can block the blitz.

Liked seeing pressure coming from everywhere. Briggs off that nickel blitz was nice.

Said this before, but bears repeating…Terrish Webb turned out to be a pretty good player for someone whose recruitment was rumored to be mostly a favor to Tyler Boyd.

Offense will get there. It was vanilla at best. I was a bit surprised to see Conner get as much consistent work as he did. I thought we’d see more of a rotation even in the first half.

Liked what I saw of Peterman working the football around to receivers. Orndoff, Henderson and Weah each with 4+ receptions is a good sign.

Comment by Stoosh 09.05.16 @ 4:54 pm

Glad to know we have nothing to worry about with Penn State.

Comment by PittofDreams 09.05.16 @ 5:46 pm

I agree with TT this is year 1 of Canada.
Tomlin only mentioned problem with headsets vis a vis at New England. Maybe the Rooneys will send out to Dollar Store. This is a joke of a pro stadium. The pro stadium in Charlotte is great compared to this joke. Does anyone know if the NCAA has NFL rules that if one teams headsets don’t work the other team must shut down? If not look for the little leprechauns (Rooneys) to help their favorite team – Ped State. Barnes, the Steelers ie Roooneys sued City of Pittsburgh to get them to pay for 5,000 new seats – perhaps your legal department at Pitt would like to do some work? Yeah right that would take brains and balls. HAIL TO PITT

Comment by rkb 09.05.16 @ 7:31 pm

@ Savannah Panther

I go back to the Spicko days too. He was so bad it was comical. Of course the whole team was comical during the Hart years.

Comment by tomcat 09.05.16 @ 7:40 pm

Blewit was a drag and could have been the difference with short kickoffs enabling run backs and missed field goals if it was a close game. Had same concerns about O line as others, hopefully it is limited play calling not dysfunction. Bad snaps hurt also. I thought some more plays with fullback could have helped.It seems our kicking and punting have gone south for some reason. Yeah I’ll take Carson Long or the short kid that learned to kick while playing soccer in Bolivia and used to kick the ball out of the end zone in the seventies.Kickers have never been an issue for Pitt which makes this tough to watch. A W over state makes this all go away and chances look better for Oklahoma State.

Comment by Pitt60 09.05.16 @ 8:08 pm

Well written Justin. First game under new offensive coordinator and the game plan was vanilla. Canada will open the playbook up next week with jet sweeps, etc. Worried about injuries a bit to defense. Hopefully have two backups that can play ’cause they will be needed against a spread team.

Comment by John the Listener 09.06.16 @ 9:07 pm

I am so glad to see Pitt Blather back.

No other site is as good.

Comment by 17YearsAtPitt 09.09.16 @ 4:32 pm

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