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October 27, 2016

Sorry about the week off. I was out of town on business and then meetings that took up way more time than anticipated. Got back late last night, and it is right back to everything else. Tonight it is Virginia Tech coming to Heinz Field for the big Thursday night ACC game.

As is tradition, the guys at The Key Play and I exchanged questions about the respective programs ahead of the game. You can find my answers to Joey’s questions here.

1. Even in the two losses, the Hokies piled up the yards. Is Jerod Evans just a perfect fit for Justin Fuente’s offense or is it something more about the system and players VT already had in place?
I’d call it a healthy mix of both. Evans has been a great fit for Fuente’s offense, a reliable signal-caller who has proved dangerous both through the air and on the ground. He’s been remarkably consistent at delivering expected outcomes – something Fuente stressed all offseason. In other words, take what the defense gives you, and get ready for the next play.
With that being said, Evans certainly inherited a special group of skill players. Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips have been an exceptional duo at wide receiver since the day they arrived in Blacksburg, and “tight end” Bucky Hodges is the very definition of a matchup nightmare. Throw in returning 1,000-yard rusher Travon McMillian, and it’s not hard to see why Evans chose Virginia Tech last summer. Some of that credit goes to Scot Loeffler (I know, cue the pitchforks), but it’s been encouraging to see Fuente’s offense paying such early dividends.
2. Seriously, what happened in Syracuse? 
I try not to think about it. It was a textbook trap game, sandwiched directly in between higher-profile matchups with North Carolina and Miami. But that’s not an excuse – the fact is, Syracuse outplayed Tech.
Eric Dungey beat the Hokies deep for a touchdown on the game’s very first possession, and Bud Foster answered with a more conservative game plan in the secondary. The Orange proceeded to dink and dunk down the field for the remainder of the afternoon, completely dominating the flow of the game to the tune of 561 yards on 100 plays.
 
The Hokies weren’t necessarily bad on offense, but two key turnovers and a less than timely phantom holding call led to a fairly comfortable Syracuse victory.

3. Defensively, things seem the same with Bud Foster remaining in place (though, it appears that VT has finally used up their allotment of Fuller brothers). It seems that VT is a little more susceptible to the pass this year. Is that accurate, or is it more about the nature of college football these days.

Yeah, unfortunately we’ll be forced to wait for the Fuller children to produce more Fullers. Clock’s ticking, Vinny.
But as you mentioned, the Hokies’ defense has been stellar this fall. It really feels like a vintage Foster defense – nearly impossible to pick out a weakness. Woody Baron and Ken Ekanem have led the way up front, holding up solidly against the run while also putting constant pressure on the quarterback. The big question heading into the season was linebacker play, but sophomore Tremaine Edmunds has proved to be an All-ACC type performer. Depth at mike and backer remains a concern, so if Edmunds or Andrew Motuapuaka are forced to miss any extended time, unproven backups will need to step up.
On the back end, the Hokies are loaded with exciting young talent. They’re good for a bust or two, but “DBU” hasn’t lost its swagger. Expect them to be aggressive against the Panthers in passing situations, eager to jump routes and create turnovers to get the football back in the hands of Jerod Evans.

4. Winning obviously makes the change easier, but it seems that Justin Fuente has been a great fit for Virginia Tech and the fanbase. Would that be accurate? What exactly has it been?

He’s been a perfect fit. Winning helps, no doubt, but I think the Virginia Tech community really appreciates how Fuente has handled the transition from Frank Beamer. It would have been easy for a young head coach like Fuente to come in and blow things up, eager to step outside the iconic shadows of Frank. Fuente hasn’t done that. He’s done the exact opposite, in fact.
He’s continued to stress special teams – or as Beamer called it, the kickin’ game – and has let Foster do his thing uninterrupted on the defensive side of the ball. Every week the special teams player of the week dons the number 25, a unique tribute that hails back to Beamer’s playing days in Blacksburg. Throw in an offense that, you know, scores points, and it’s no wonder why Hokie Nation has taken to Fuente so quickly.

5. Finally, your predictions for Thursday night.

I’m expecting a great game. I think the Hokies’ defense gets just enough stops and Tech pulls out a squeaker, 35-31.




Chas – welcome back. Thanks for the insight into Pitt’s opponent tonight. The Vegas line moved slightly from 4.5 points to Pitt down to 3.5.

I think Pitt’s Canadian offense (nod to PoD for coming up with that name) will throw a few more wrinkles at the vt jokies that we (nor vt) haven’t seen this year and the Pitt D strings together 4 good qtr’s to get the W.

Also, our Oline will have to be better than the vt Dline for Pitt to win.

The Pens are at home tonight vs the NY Islanders at 7am. Do you think the ESPN announcers are equipped with that information or will the sparce crowd be emphasized?

I’ll be at Heinz cheering loud and proud!

Go PITT

Comment by Erie Express 10.27.16 @ 6:54 am

Everyone is predicting a close one with well over 50 points scored. Where is the love for the run game and the fullback. This looks like an old school match up where three touchdowns will win it. Pitt looks good in this type of game. The Panther offense has shown enough of the crazy stuff all year to confuse Tech’s defense. It is time for that grinding rush dominated performance we have been waiting for.

I say Pitt wins 20 to 13 with at least one fullback touchdown. We could be lamenting the UNC game after a bittersweet 9 and 3 season. Look for the defense to pressure the QB and redeem themselves from earlier torching.

Comment by scriptrules 10.27.16 @ 6:56 am

Chas… Simple but GREAT insight into the Game. And I mean that.

You “Cut to the Chase” (or Chas as it might be).

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 7:05 am

And thanks for taking time to Post right after your trip.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 7:07 am

Tonight’s Game is really the BIGGEST Game of the Year for Pitt so far when it comes to STANDING in the ACC.

Lose… and the rest is history.

WIN… and Pitt Football just became RELEVANT for the first time in a LONG time.

Problem is, as I’ve been saying since last Thursday, VaTech’s Defense is downright SCARY… and a BAD MISMATCH for Pitt’s Canadian Offense (or Canada’s “SMOKE ‘n MIRRORS” Offense as I also like to call it).

Here’s an excerpt from from this morning’s Post Gazette and a Jenn Menendez interview with VaTech Beat Writer Andy Bitter who basically outlines the CAUSE for CONCERN.

********

“… The front seven’s been much-improved against the run this year, a little bigger and more active on the line and more consistent at linebacker, where Andrew Motuapuaka has improved drastically and Tremaine Edmunds has had a breakout year.

They probably haven’t faced an offensive line as good at Pitt’s this year, however, so this will be a challenge from a physical standpoint.

As for the strength of this team, Foster’s been good when he can get opponents in must-throw situations.

If the Hokies are good on first and second down — which they have been this year — they can send the house at the quarterback.

********

However, there is a Light at the end of the Tunnel for us Pitt Faithful.

The Trib’s Jerry DiPaola picks VaTech to win by the Las Vegas line 31-27.

However, it’s a VERY SMALL Light.

Besides, the possibility of Pitt pulling an upset as a Home Dog… DiPaola’s pick could also signal a VaTech BLOWOUT.

Let’s just hope Jerry has it wrong as has often been the case.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 7:24 am

I don’t like hearing “exceptional duo at wide receiver.” I fear we’ll see 2-3 long ball TDs. Defense needs to come up big, as does Peterman. Time for him to have an over-the-top performance.

Comment by Praise the Lard 10.27.16 @ 8:42 am

DiPaola, who picked PSU 19th this week on his ballot, would probably like to see Pitt lose … although of course he would deny it

Comment by wbb 10.27.16 @ 8:43 am

DiPaolo has consistently been wrong all season and he is also picked PSU 19th in the last AP poll. That was the 8th highest pick for them. I like his insight but he is hardly an expert at judging the team or other teams.

Smoke and mirrors has given us 200 yards rushing every game this season and Pitt’s current record of scoring 36+ in consecutive games is now the longest in the country … and Pitt has not played a cupcake schedule.

link to twitter.com

VT’s O-line is a little banged up. The trenches will be the difference. VT’s QB has one 300 yard game and it’s a loss. The run sets up the pass. Pitt’s strength on defense is first the run and then pressure on the QB. Hopefully the stars align. Should be a competitive game. Rain should help Pitt and further reduce the impact of the passing game.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 10.27.16 @ 8:49 am

The smart money comes in late, which is a good sign for Pitt.

Comment by 66Goat 10.27.16 @ 9:01 am

UPDATED Injury Report for tonight

********
Terrish Webb… Upper Body… Questionable

Avonte Maddox… Elbow… Doubtful

Dontez Ford… Collarbone… Doubtful

Bam Bradley… Upper Body… Doubtful

Zach Challingsworth… Upper Body… Questionable

Mike Caprara… Lower Body… Probable

Ejuan Price… Lower Body… Probable

Quintin Wirginis… Undisclosed… Questionable

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 10:35 am

Assuming “Upper Body” according to Narduzzi means the Kid has got to get their HEAD RIGHT.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 10:37 am

“Lower Body” = STUBBED TOE

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 10:38 am

@POD Ha ha. I was thinking “Lower Body” = “Narduzzi’s Foot up Their Rear”

Also, for any Phoenix, AZ area readers:

Phoenix AZ Game Watch Info

The Alumni Club Game Watch information is below:

Arcadia Tavern
4801 E. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018
4:00 pm kickoff

#H2P

Comment by CNorwoodAZ 10.27.16 @ 12:15 pm

Look for Sam Rogers to be the guy who exploits the D. Not that the notable guys won’t either, but with the keying on them, he’ll have a big day. He’s like Aston only a bit faster and more of a pass catcher.

Comment by JJ 10.27.16 @ 12:41 pm

Really nervous on how bad the crowd is going to be. God it’s frustrating. It’s late October. It’s football weather. My buddy scored a couple tickets in a suite. Free beer and food. Can’t pass that up, so I won’t be in my normal seats. But without the upgrade, no chance would I let a chilly and damp October night stop me from going.

Heading down soon. Hope crowd is better than I anticipate…

Comment by Pap76 10.27.16 @ 3:28 pm

Yep I was looking at Stub Hub and only 8 sections besides the Student Sections, didn’t have tickets available.

Playing the Pedo’s might have sold more Season Tickets, but those seats are not being filled at any of the other games.

Comment by Emel 10.27.16 @ 3:32 pm

One hour before game time and there are 30 people in the stands.

If the fans don’t show, hopefully the team does.

Comment by Erie Express 10.27.16 @ 5:00 pm

For some reason, ESPN.com’s football power index matchup predictor has Pitt with a 56.5% chance of winning.

Good luck men!!!

H2P!!!

Comment by Pitt Dad 10.27.16 @ 5:30 pm

Defense is keeping them in the game, imagine that!

Comment by WLAT 910 radio and the big beat! 10.27.16 @ 6:27 pm

And OH by the way… these UNIS are pretty Putrid.

The Emperor has No Clothes.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 6:56 pm

Where’s Maddox when you need him.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 7:00 pm

Canada ABANDONING his “Smoke ‘n Mirrors” Offense for a more TRADITIONAL Offense the Best he can run one.

It’s working.

But would WORK a LOT BETTER if he would just put PARRISH in the Backfield as a Blocking FULLBACK for Conner.

It would be GAME OVER!

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 7:39 pm

The Uni’s are putrid. Amazing the Blue and Yellow is the Sh8t and ESPN and everyone loved them.

And they come out in these horrid things.

Comment by Emel 10.27.16 @ 7:51 pm

No Game Thread. Was hoping for dueling Game Threads.
🙁

Comment by Emel 10.27.16 @ 7:55 pm

It’s the modern look… 😉

Glad we’re still in this. At least the TV’s are still on. I’m afraid that most bars have the Pens game on though.

I remember walking into a local bar to see the 13-9 game and my brother & I asked them to put the Pitt game on. They had no idea what we were even talking about…..the backyard brawl no less.

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 7:57 pm

I thought this was a game thread….

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 8:01 pm

Conner 3 TDs… NOW we’re Talk’n

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 8:02 pm

Prediction… Whitehead going to figure into the OUTCOME of this Game.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 8:20 pm

It looks like we have a game now

Comment by WLAT 910 radio and the big beat! 10.27.16 @ 8:21 pm

Did he get off the bus yet POD?

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 8:25 pm

It’s TOUGH being RIGHT all the Time.

Somebody Else’s turn.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 8:38 pm

Conner… Keeping Pitt in the Game.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 8:39 pm

Good game for recruiting O-lineman.

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 8:47 pm

Might be a good game for recruiting D-backs too. Play as a frosh….

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 8:48 pm

Hamlin redshirt burned. As was he on last play

Comment by Pap76 10.27.16 @ 8:53 pm

As I said….lol. Might as well start him now.

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 8:56 pm

a bad punt with the wind

Comment by WLAT 910 radio and the big beat! 10.27.16 @ 8:59 pm

Shame is… Conner is BY FAR your BEST Player… and Canada does NOT have an Offense capable of taking ADVANTAGE of that.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 9:01 pm

Canada doesn’t have a defense capable of taking advantage of that.

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 9:06 pm

That dumb offsides early on when we got the int may have cost us this game if we lose. They got a TD and we would have had the mo….

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 9:30 pm

Tough to win against a better team when you turn the ball over in their territory….Another record setting night for an opponent against Duzzi’s “scheme”.

Comment by HbgFrank 10.27.16 @ 9:36 pm

Sorry… wish I wasn’t right about this one.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 9:36 pm

Truth is… Canada ABANDONED his Own Offense.

Too Little TOO Late.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.27.16 @ 9:39 pm

For an experienced offensive line, there is no discipline. None!
How many times is Pitt gonna keep shooting itself in the foot.
Narduzzi, I like him, but he is stubborn. No adjustments.
Why did C. Moss not play?
I’ve never seen a defensive backfield be so horrendous. Never!

Comment by pittinlivingcolor 10.27.16 @ 9:40 pm

I’m still waiting for Whitehead to get off the bus though….

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 9:43 pm

Our DBs seem to be in the right position, but the only thing they do is grab. They don’t look for the ball, they don’t jump, they never go for the ball. Maybe they’re just too short. Maybe in a year or two Narduzzi’s defense will get the right players but for now….

Comment by 66Goat 10.27.16 @ 9:52 pm

We made critical mistakes all night long….culminating with Webb dropping an INT right to him and Whitehead whiffing on that last 3rd down missed tackle

Comment by HbgFrank 10.27.16 @ 9:55 pm

Man I’m bummed out (remember that). We had NEVER EVER lost to the Gobblers at Ketchup Bottle.

3 or more losses means Sh*t Bowl again. 🙁

Comment by Emel 10.27.16 @ 10:03 pm

Or no bowl….of course ND may not get one this year either.

Comment by Jackagain 10.27.16 @ 10:20 pm

Don’t count on a bowl with Clemson and Miami still on the schedule. (Both on the road)

Comment by OrlandoPittAlum 10.27.16 @ 10:31 pm

I’m with you Emel. Bummed out…

Those back to back 3 and out offensive series in the 4th qtr were killers. On one series we ran the ball 3 times and punted???

There were lots of plays that were costly – 1st qtr fumble, INT – Pitt was fortunate vt could only convert FG’s or we would have been on the bad end of a blowout.

I got on the elevator after the game and this women said to my wife and I – “did I just witness Pitt losing to vt AND the refs?” Hmmm… did she have a point? – the 6’7″ vt WR did a lot of pushing off and never once got called for PI.

HCPN seemed to be going nuts on the sidelines all game – it is hard to tell when you are in the stadium – how did it look on TV and did the announcers chime in one way or the other?

Awe, screw it – I don’t want to know those answers – a loss is a loss and this one really stinks – our boys came out flat and it was off of a bye week.

They did not give up though, which gives me a little hope for the future – but just a little.

I need to find something else to entertain myself with…

Oh and we had a great opportunity to bring Conner in at DE in the 4th qtr. The MO was on our side – the crowd would have gone wild as the students did not leave after THE SONG. That and the loss were disappointing – not much pressure on the QB tonight.

I hate pedo state!

Comment by Erie Express 10.27.16 @ 10:44 pm

VT WR’s pushed off all night long and Pitt DBs grabbed jersey all night long…This offense deserves better support than Duzzi’s defense provides

Comment by HbgFrank 10.27.16 @ 10:51 pm

NARDUZZI IS A JOKE DONT BE NICE AND CALL HIM NARD DOG BE REAL HE CANT RECRUIT AND BARNES IS A DAM LIAR HE SAID WE WILL SUPRISE U WITH OUR NEW HEAD COACH yea right u hired a jackass NARDUZZI IS A DAMN LOSEr HEAD COACH AND I AM DONE WITH WORTHLSS PITT JUST FORGET IT THE SAME OLD GOD DAMN SHIT I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO

Comment by Boo Boo #1 10.28.16 @ 12:35 am

And Narduzzi makes 2 million a year or more…Beam Me Up.. There is no intelligent life on this planet

Comment by Boo Boo #1 10.28.16 @ 1:38 am

Give the VT QB(Evans) and WR’s a lot of credit. Most of his passes were right on the money and his WR’s for the most part adjusted to the ball very well. Yes ,there were some very questionable interference calls by the refs. But for the most part we were just outclassed by their passing game. Had Evans not returned, I believe we would have won the game. But he did and he threw some very nice passes flat footed after the injury.

Comment by jrnpitt 10.28.16 @ 3:56 am

This game was given to VT. Our DB’s are not good maybe terrible but they got pushed off all night. The VT QB did not impress me. His total game is to throw a lob pass let his receivers push off and have a 6’7″ guy get it over a 5’9″ DB.

Comment by JP 10.28.16 @ 7:17 am

Now that Pitt is pretty much out of the Coastal division title race, I’ll reference my thoughts on next year.

QB – we need to break in a new one as NP will use up his eligility this year. No other QB has received a snap in 2016 – not good for 2017.

RB – should be ok.

WR – not impressed with our 2016 core – 2017 looks similar.

TE – Orndoff and Parish graduate – Clark and Reeves replace with no Pitt snaps to show – I think Orndoff is underutilized with how weak our receivers are this year.

OL – Biz and Johnson are gone and possibly O’Niell – that’s a lot to replace.

K – Blewitt graduates – watch, we will be saying next year that we miss Chris.

DL – 3/4ths graduate – ouch!

LB – Time for a personnel turnover – the current group has proven they only occasionally make plays. I see them standing over the play more than making the play – that needs to change.

DB – I could write a book here – I hope we have a development program in the works…

I’m surrounded by hokie fans at breakfast – reminding myself it is JUST A GAME.

I hate pedo state!

Comment by Erie Express 10.28.16 @ 7:40 am

“HCPN seemed to be going nuts on the sidelines all game – it is hard to tell when you are in the stadium – how did it look on TV and did the announcers chime in one way or the other?”

It looked like he was going nuts on the sidelines all game.

Comment by JoeP 10.28.16 @ 8:16 am

JoeP – lol

How about the calls and no-calls by the refs?

Fair / Unfair / Even both ways

Comment by Erie Express 10.28.16 @ 8:34 am

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