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August 31, 2015

Here is the shortened version of the official Pitt vs Youngstown State University game that will be played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Saturday, September 5th.  The game begins at 1:00 pm.

Here is the full .pdf of the same game notes put out by the Pitt Athletic Media  Department.  There is a ton of info here and it has been helpful to me to have a copy by my side as I watch/listen to the games.

GAME STORYLINES

PITT OPENS ITS 126TH SEASON OF INTERCOLLEGIATE FOOTBALL—AND THE PAT NARDUZZI COACHING ERA—WHEN THE PANTHERS HOST YOUNGSTOWN STATE AT HEINZ FIELD.

NARDUZZI MAKES HIS PITT DEBUT FOLLOWING AN ACCOMPLISHED EIGHT-YEAR TENURE AT MICHIGAN STATE (2007-14) AS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR. UNDER HIS DIRECTION, THE SPARTANS WERE THE ONLY TEAM TO RANK IN THE NATION’S TOP 10 IN TOTAL DEFENSE AND RUSHING DEFENSE EACH SEASON FROM 2011-14.

NARDUZZI HAS DEEP TIES TO YOUNGSTOWN AND YSU. HIS FATHER, THE LATE BILL NARDUZZI, WAS THE PENGUINS’ HEAD COACH FROM 1975-85, LEADING THEM TO TWO NCAA DIVISION II PLAYOFF APPEARANCES, INCLUDING THE 1979 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.

PAT NARDUZZI WAS A STARTING LINEBACKER FOR HIS FATHER IN 1985, LEADING THE OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE (OVC) IN TACKLES AS A FRESHMAN AT YSU.

YSU WILL ALSO HAVE A NEW HEAD COACH ON ITS SIDELINE IN BO PELINI, WHO SPENT THE PAST SEVEN SEASONS LEADING NEBRASKA. LIKE NARDUZZI, PELINI IS ALSO A YOUNGSTOWN NATIVE.

NARDUZZI (URSULINE) AND PELINI (CARDINAL MOONEY) STARRED AT RIVAL YOUNGSTOWN HIGH SCHOOLS. IN THEIR LAST MEETING AGAINST EACH OTHER, URSULINE ROUTED MOONEY, 35-0, IN A GAME THAT DECIDED THE 1984 STEEL VALLEY CONFERENCE TITLE.

PITT’S ADDITIONAL YOUNGSTOWN TIES INCLUDE DEFENSIVE LINE COACH TOM SIMS, WHO COACHED AT YSU FROM 2010-14.

GRADUATE ASSISTANT PHIL DECAPITO, A FORMER PENGUINS G.A. FROM 2012-14; AND FRESHMAN TAILBACK DARRIN HALL, WHO STARRED AT NEARBY AUSTINTOWN FITCH HIGH SCHOOL.

THIS WILL BE THE FOURTH ALL-TIME MEETING BETWEEN PITT AND YSU. THE PANTHERS WILL LOOK TO AVENGE A 2012 SEASON-OPENING LOSS (31-17) TO THE PENGUINS.

(more…)

August 30, 2015

Pre-Official Two-Deep

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Opponent(s),Players — Reed @ 5:02 pm

Coach Narduzzi is going to post the official Youngstown State game two-deep roster tomorrow.  Here is what I guess, from reading other media reports, who we’ll see listed going into Saturday’s game

OFFENSE

Quarterback – Chad Voytik, Nate Peterman

Running back – James Conner, Chris James

Tight end – JP Holtz, Scott Orndoff, 

Wide receiver – Dontez Ford, Quadree Henderson (Slot Receiver)

Wide Receiver – Elijah Zeise, Zach Challingsworth

Left tackle – Adam Bisnowaty, Aaron Reese

Left guard – Dorian Johnson, John Guy

Center – Alex Officer, Gabe Roberts

Right guard – Alex Bookser, Alex Officer,

Right tackle – Brian O’Neill, ??

I’m a self-professed idiot when it comes to the OL but Rowell hasn’t practiced at all as far as I can tell so he may not go against YSU. His replacement, Alex Officer, sliding over to Center will create a starting role for newly baptized ex-TE OL rsFR Brian O’Neill.  Great! Someone who has never played on the OL in his entire football career starting in this Saturday’s game.

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August 28, 2015

This is a very long one folks; enjoy it for your weekend reading pleasure.

As we all know that in any Pitt pre-season there is nothing even remotely negative written about the team, players and the coaching staff by the local media, especially with a brand new head coach such as we now have. The only straight opinions you’ll get will be from some local bloggers and maybe a recruiting website that follows the Panthers. Keep that in mind while you read this article please and realize there is certainly some good about this team to go along with the not-so good…  like the ‘good news’ media has been feeding us all preseason.

We all have thoughts about what’s positive with Pitt in 2015; here are my thoughts about what I see and feel. Earlier in the pre-season we mentioned that we would hold off on a season W/L projection until fall camp had ended.  Now is that time and here’s mine.

We are a week until the start of the 2015 season and the real beginning of year one of ‘The Narduzzi Experiment’.  We’ve been getting camp reports, scrimmage stats, leaks about this and news about that and we have all been doing what fans always do at this point. We are wondering just how good or how bad the team in going to be this year.

Every season is a blank slate to start anew, especially with a shiny new Head Coach and his eager staff coaches. Those new additions add another layer of mystery and excitement for us when looking at what will happen over the next 12 weeks.  What it does also is add a new layer of concern, and to some fans, worry because of the unknowns with the staff.

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August 5, 2015

New Athletic Director Scott Barnes just tweeted out a link to let Pitt fans reserve tickets to the Penn State game next year early. Here are the details:

2015 Pitt Football Season Ticket Holders and Mini Package Holders may now request additional tickets to the highly anticipated matchup in 2016 between Pitt and Penn State at Heinz Field. Additional single game ticket requests can be made by calling the Panthers Ticket Office at 800-643-7488 or by clicking here.

TICKET ALLOCATION
The following order of ticket allocation will be used:

  1. Season Ticket Holders that are Panther Club members that have requested additional tickets by rank
  2. Mini Package Holders that are Panther Club members that have requested additional tickets by rank
  3. Season Ticket Holders that are non-Panther Club members that have requested additional tickets by rank
  4. Mini Package Holders that are non-Panther Club members that have requested additional tickets by rank

Following the Ticket Allocation of requests from Pitt Football Season Ticket and Mini Package Holders we will offer an exclusive opportunity to the following groups based on availability…

  1. Panther Club members that are not Pitt Football Season Ticket or Mini Package holders by rank
  2. Pitt Alumni Association members

After this exclusive period any remaining single game tickets will be made available to the general public.

I can’t stress how important it will be to make sure Heinz is as pro-Pitt as possible. None of us like Penn State, but we can’t deny they have a large fan base that will attend in droves. This is a great way to make the stadium as friendly as possible, so do your part and reserve tickets today!

July 24, 2015

Talking to a third party can be good therapy. Especially as the long, empty, offseason has continued it’s plodding pace. You can crystallize some thoughts. Realize a few things. And generally get out of the echo chamber.

So, I want to thank Pierson of TheKeyPlay for reaching out to me for a pre-season Q&A exchange. I get to unload a little on their site. Wait, that came out wrong. I get to write some things out that have been percolating, and we get some insight into the hopes and fears of the Hokies in 2015.

(more…)

July 13, 2015

Now is the time, before football is being practiced and scrimmages played, where we fans like to sit down and compare what we have seen in the past from Pitt football and then speculate how the new kid on the block is going to handle his first time at the rodeo.

Our new kid is Pat Narduzzi, a first time head coach and a football mind that should fit right in with the Western PA football traditions of an aggressive and strong defense. The thing is that we can’t really look at his individual history, most recently as the Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State University, and see that for as successful as he was it doesn’t predict his success as a new head coach.

What we can do though is look backwards 18 years to 1997 when the first of our last three coaches who had at least three seasons under their belts at Pitt was hired.  That guy is Walt Harris, a second time HC who did a stint as the HC at Pacific University out in California.

(more…)

June 5, 2015

PITT Needs You at YSU!!!

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Media,Opponent(s) — Reed @ 9:04 am

PITT is bending over backward to get that sellout.  PITT will have free “Pat Signal” tatoos before the game…

pat signal

 

Here’s the windup and the pitch…

Fathers Day Special

 

In exactly three months we’ll start to see how the “Narduzzi Ultimatum”  project is going to play out for the 2015 season.  September 5th is the opening game against the Youngstown State Penguins and who knows at this point what will happen.

(more…)

May 27, 2015

What a great day yesterday. It seems like we are learning about each other and each other’s families more and more on here.  It was a nice day for me and the feedback on the article made my ego run more rampant that it usually does.

Back to football though, that’s what we are here for.

PITT has sent out a press release on the new renovations going on in the Southside Football facilities. Here is the advertisement and the link takes you to the actual website.:

Renovations

As it is and will be for some time it eventually ties into donor giving.  The levels are listed and it is a good cause for us PITT fans.  I’m donating one month of the salary I get from Chas for my writing on The Blather.

Even if we media types can’t get into the actual fall camp practices and scrimmages we’ll be able to get into the facility.  So, next time I get up to Pittsburgh I’ll take photos.  If anyone else has access before me feel free to snap some and send them to me and I post them.

Here also is a May 16th article by Sam Werner of the Post-Gazette that I’ll link to again.  It is a background piece on the facility renovations.  I’m not sure about this quote from Narduzzi though:

As far as the aesthetic part of the renovation, Narduzzi even admitted that’s not for the players currently on Pitt’s roster.

“It’s obviously something visual where you go in, look it and go ‘Wow, this is beautiful,’” he said. “It’s not about the beautiful factor for the kids currently in our program. The beautiful factor is for the guys that are walking through those doors on recruiting visits.”

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May 16, 2015

PITT’S 2015 SEASON-OPENING GAME WITH YSU TO KICK OFF AT 1 P.M.
The Panthers are already slated for two ESPN national telecasts.

PITTSBURGH—Pat Narduzzi will make his Pitt head coaching debut when the Panthers host Youngstown State on Sept. 5 at 1 p.m.

The opening kickoff time was announced by the Pitt Athletic Department today. The 2015 season marks the 126th in school history.

Narduzzi has multiple ties to YSU and the city of Youngstown. His father, the late Bill Narduzzi, was the Penguins’ head coach from 1975-85 and was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Pat was an all-state performer at Youngstown’s Ursuline High School, leading the Irish to the Steel Valley championship and Ohio state playoffs as a senior in 1984. He was a starting linebacker under his father as a freshman at Youngstown State in 1985 before transferring to Rhode Island, where he was a three-year starter for the Rams from 1987-89.

Youngstown State will also have a new coach on the sideline when it visits Heinz Field. Bo Pelini, who spent the past seven years as head coach at Nebraska, was named head coach of the Penguins in December.

In addition to the season-opening start time, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced that Pitt’s Oct. 29 home game with North Carolina will be an ESPN Thursday night national telecast and kick off at 7 p.m. The Panthers’ Nov. 27 game with Miami at Heinz Field has been earmarked for either an ABC or ESPN telecast. The kickoff time for the game with the Hurricanes is TBA.

Narduzzi enters his first season at Pitt with 17 returning starters at his disposal, including All-America running back James Conner, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, and dynamic wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

(more…)

May 9, 2015

PITT vs Iowa @ 8:00 PM

Filed under: Football,Media,Opponent(s) — Reed @ 7:58 am

The Iowa game mentioned below is the second of three consecutive away games in the months of September and early October.  The teams in the first two of those three games; Akron (5-7 in ’14), Iowa (7-6) and then  Virginia Tech (7-6)  accounted for two of our seven losses last season.  This will be, to me anyway, a benchmark for Narduzzi.  If he isn’t 3-1 or at the very least 2-2 after the first four games it will be very disappointing… even if three of those games are away.

Narduzzi is working with 17 returning starters, less any starter changes he makes in fall camp, so that has to work in his favor. Plus he is the best defensive mind ever to coach in college football.

PITT’S GAME AT IOWA TO KICK AT 8 P.M.

    PITTSBURGH—The Pitt football team’s Sept. 19 game at Iowa will kick off at 8 p.m. (ET), and be televised by the Big Ten Network, it was announced today.

This is the first kickoff time announced for the Panthers’ 2015 schedule. Additional start times will be announced once television arrangements have been confirmed.  Pitt and Iowa have played six prior times and the series is tied, 3-3. The Hawkeyes rallied for a 24-20 win at Heinz Field last year.

Season tickets and mini-plans for the 2015 Pitt football season are now on sale. Call the Pitt Ticket Office at (800) 643-PITT (7488) or log on to PittsburghPanthers.com. First-year head coach Pat Narduzzi will have 17 returning starters at his disposal this fall, including All-America running back James Conner, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, and dynamic wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

For the latest Pitt football news, follow the Panthers on Twitter and Instagram at @GoPittFootball.

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April 5, 2015

Bits and Pieces for the Holiday

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s),Players — Reed @ 10:17 am

Jerry DiPaola of the Trib put up a nice article about the difference in coaching styles between our old OL coach Jim Hueber and the current coach John Peterson.  What steps out is the aggressive approach of the former and the passive nature of teaching of the latter.

One good point in comparison is this:

“Coach Hueber got after you a little bit,” left tackle Adam Bisnowaty said. “Coach Pete is not like that. (He) rolls slow with you and makes sure you get the techniques down and understand everything we are doing.”

The landscape has changed on the Pitt offensive line — for the players and their coach.  Peterson’s patience can be traced to the experienced players under him. When Hueber arrived three years ago, he didn’t have that luxury. He needed to push.”

I find it kind of hard to judge the actual play of the OL during practices because being at ground level the only thing you can really see is what is right in front of you on your side of the play.  So I have to take other’s words for it then and that makes me less interested in research and commenting on that unit.  Apparently, at this point in the practices, the starting five OL shakes out like this:

“The starters include Bisnowaty, left guard Dorian Johnson, center Alex Officer, right guard Alex Bookser and right tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith.”

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March 18, 2015

Football Scheduling Note

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Reed @ 11:36 am

Hot off the presses…

PITT AND TENNESSEE AGREE TO PLAY HOME-AND-HOME SERIES IN 2021 AND 2022

   PITTSBURGH—Pitt and Tennessee have agreed to a home-and-home football series for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the schools announced today.  The initial game of the agreement will be played at Tennessee on September 11, 2021. The Panthers will host the Volunteers at Heinz Field on September 10, 2022.  Pitt and Tennessee have played just twice before. The Panthers won both meetings—30-6 in 1980 and 13-3 in 1983—with each of those games taking place at the Vols’ Neyland Stadium.

The 1980 game was memorable for being Pitt’s first encounter with its former head coach, Johnny Majors, who returned home to Tennessee after leading the Panthers to the 1976 national championship. Majors’ former top lieutenant at Pitt, Jackie Sherrill, succeeded him as the Panthers’ head coach. Sherrill’s 1980 squad, considered one of the finest in Pitt history, finished 11-1, including the victory at Tennessee.  NoteJackie Sherrill left PITT for the highest paid contract in college football at Texas A&M. Then came Foge Fazio.

The 1983 game served as the season opener for both teams. Pitt, under the direction of head coach Foge Fazio, defeated the host Volunteers, who were picked by Beano Cook in Sport magazine to win the national title that year. (In response to that prediction, Majors said that Cook, Pitt’s former sports information director, told him “he did it to get back at me for leaving Pittsburgh…Beano likes to kid around and play jokes.”)

BeanoCookPghSkyline

The Panthers’ finished the ’83 campaign with an 8-3-1 record and Fiesta Bowl berth. Tennessee did not win the national championship but did go 9-3, the Vols’ finest mark in 11 years.

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January 8, 2015

Running through the usual list of PITT sports websites I visit every morning while I have my first cup of Joe I read an opinion piece by Joe Starkey of the Tribune Review titled What PITT Football could be that he posted on Wednesday night. I found that it mostly made sense and was well thought out, hitting on the the root of the matter of PITT football program’s mediocrity over the last 31 years and what Pat Narduzzi has to bring to PITT to change the culture of apathy on the part of the administration, students, local populace and, in my opinion, the local media as well.

Starkey opens his article with a simple declaration “It’s time for a key substitution regarding Pitt football: Excuses out. Expectations in”. That is a pretty simple stance to take and one he expounds upon later in his piece when he says:

Time will tell whether Pat Narduzzi is the guy to change all this, but you have to like the fact he is coming from a place (Michigan State) where Mark Dantonio & Co. looked at all the built-in excuses, kicked them in the face and created an entirely new culture. And did so without batches of five-star recruits. After decades of mediocrity, Michigan State has become a bastion of positivity and big wins.

That is fantastic! PITT will do it right now if only Starkey would let us in on exactly how Dantonio & Co. accomplished it! I do wonder if Starkey and PITT fans forget that sometimes ‘excuses’ can also be seen as ‘reasons’ for an outcome and vice versa. If in the past, as a lot of us believe, the PITT administration tried to create and sustain a successful football program while stinting on the financial resources to make it happen then is it an excuse that it didn’t work out or is it a reason we did what we did?

Perhaps it depends on how one looks at the University’s financial situation as a whole or maybe just the level of honest interest the Chancellor and the BoT had in fielding a successful team, which might have been even less than we saw in public. To me that is a contributing reason for the poor results we have seen over the last two decades, to others it may just be an excuse. Nothing happens in a vacuum, there are always reasons things turn out the way they do.

(more…)

January 4, 2015

I have a confession to make, with a question to go with it.

Was anyone else laughing when the buzzer went off at the end of the bowl game? Honest to God, I was and my wife couldn’t understand it (and I wasn’t even drinking or taking any Windowpane acid either).  When we went up 31-6 she turned to me and said “I guess you didn’t expect this to happen, did you?”  My reply was that there was no way the game was going to end nicely.  Not that I thought we’d lose, I didn’t, but I was sure there would be drama at the end.

When the Houston QB hit those two long completions in a row, 43 yards and 32 yards down to our 7 yard line at the 4:00 mark I was resigned to it.  Then, when Nick Grigsby grabbed his own balls instead of the football on that second on-side kick I knew we were sunk.  Silly women, she couldn’t believe what happened but we PITT fans weren’t that surprised were we?  Reading the 600+ comments in the game thread I can see that that is true.  There was much anger and some disgust but really, no one was saying ‘I can’t believe this happened‘ because deep in our hearts we knew it could.

That’s why I’m not even parsing the game that was played.  It doesn’t matter who did or didn’t do whatever whenever.  IT JUST WAS.  As PITT fans we ‘get’ that.

And perhaps that was Fate’s way of saying “Boys, it is time for a completely clean slate for 2015“.  The Chancellorship changed, the old AD was shown the door,  the head coaching job turned over and I believe all the staff coaches will be gone this week.  Perhaps in the long run, and especially given our recent four year history, this kick in the nuts loss is the perfect way to make us sit back and clear our own minds as far as being a PITT football fan goes.

I’ve decided not to have any expectations whatsoever with Narduzzi and the new people he’ll bring in.  I firmly believe we have a 50/50 chance of being ‘Same Old PITT” as we do with winning lots of football games.  I’ll take things day to day and will walk the “Show me!” line as the off season goes by and the games begin.  I look at PITT football with tabula rasa; a blank slate to imprint with facts and opinions as things unfold and not before.

Anyway, I had a great time writing and conversing with everyone on here during the ramp up to and then the playing of 2014’s games.  We’ll have just as much fun, hopefully more, starting today for the new 2015 season.

Chin up boys and HTP!

January 1, 2015

As seems to happen regularly with PITT football this last year was one that was neither very satisfying or particularly exciting until the last days of the last week of the last month when the personnel changes began happening. Then things started to roll into developments that we can sink our teeth into on here. Some good, some undecided but that still excites fans.

Let’s start from the New Year of 2014 and look back at the most interesting thing that happened in each month. This will be Part 1 and will encompass January until the end of September and the four games played to that date.

Jan 6th:  Tyler Boyd was named as a Freshman All-American Wide Receiver for the ’13 season. That made sense considering he broke the big receiving records that a past PITT star, Larry Fitzgerald (that never gets old), had set back in 2002. Boyd racked up 85 receptions for 1174 yards and seven TDs in his rookie year, all from the arm of transfer SR QB Tom Savage. Not too many people in Western PA were surprised that Boyd did this since he had been a star at undefeated Clariton HS for the past four years. If you remember, the first thing PITT had to do after Boyd signed his Letter of Intent back in 2013 to was enroll Boyd in a Personal Therapy program to teach him how to accept losing football games. He had six chances to show that he was OK in that area. That was a good thing as in this, his second year, Boyd was a fine all-around player and teammate and has built on that to be a stalwart of the future Panther teams.

Feb 5th: LOI day came and went without any real surprises. We signed almost the expected full class with the exception of QB Wade Freebeck who bagged on us for the Vanderbilt Robber Barons. That left us with one QB in the class in Adam Bertke who looked good in the fall camp. As has been Chryst’s plan, a lot of these true FR saw playing time. On offense the FR who contributed most was RB Chris James who played in all 12 games, had 82 carries for 406 yards (4.9 ypc!) and 4 TDs which is a great first year especially considering he was playing behind our star RB Conner. WR Adonis Jennings got in some games in the 2nd half of the season, held back because of limited time in camp practices due to an injury, and had 6 catches for 55 yards (9.2 ypc). Both those guys, including the redshirted RB Qadree Ollison, who at 6’2” & 220 could fill the FB role later or more likely be the thunder to James’ lightning, will be the nucleus of the skill positions in the future.

But it was on defense where we saw the most impact from this recruiting class. DB Avonte Maddox , a future star for us, played in all 12 games eventually starting five in the latter part of the season. He had 27 total tackles. DB Pat Amara played in nine games starting two and had 18 tackles;. LB Quentin Wirginis played in all the games, mainly on special teams coverage squads and had five tackles. Wirginis has a ton of potential and is a ‘tough kid’ as stated by the staff. I don’t doubt that as I know his father from my professional life (he owns the Gateway Clipper Fleet) and he’s no pushover either. (more…)

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