How does UVA D match up with emerging Pitt offense?
Did you see what Pitt was able to do in the driving rain at Virginia Tech on Saturday? The final stats won’t look all that impressive because of the rain and wind associated with the weekend’s coastal low, but it was telling what the Panthers were able to do in controlling the line of scrimmage against the Hokies.
Pitt (3-1, 1-0 ACC) ran for 166 yards on 46 attempts on the wet track, with freshman Qadree Ollison putting up 122 yards on 19 carries.
The Panthers offense, under first-year coach Pat Narduzzi, is dead last in the ACC in total offense (330.8 yards per game), but it seemed on Saturday that it is a group that is starting to come into its own.
“We’re getting closer,” Narduzzi said as he talked with reporters on Monday about Pitt’s upcoming game with UVA (1-3, 0-0 ACC) on Saturday. “We were physical at the point of attack. I really thought [offensive linemen] Dorian Johnson and Adam Bisnowaty got after it up front and that was good to see. That was one of our focuses. Virginia Tech has a great defense, and they stopped the run, especially against a team like us, where they spread the offense. We did a pretty good job. There’s little things every game.”
Pitt lost 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year James Connor in its Week 1 win over Youngstown State, and that figured to portend doom for Narduzzi and his program, but they quickly devised a workaround.
“They’re still basically running their offense, the scheme, or the system of it. It’s just a different cast of individuals that are carrying the ball for them. They still have Tyler Boyd, who is a tremendous athlete who they use the jet sweep with and do different things with him. So it’s when you start to get up to stop the run then they do the play action passes and feature Tyler Boyd, so the scheme and style of it looks very similar, but the who, who is doing it, those are things that are different,” UVA coach London said on Monday.
Another difference for the 2015 Panthers is how Chad Voytik, who was the starter at quarterback when Pitt played UVA in Charlottesville last October, is being used. Voytik was in for a few plays at Virginia Tech in a sort of wildcat package, and ran five times for 37 yards against the Hokies.
Voytik didn’t drop back to pass on any of his sets last weekend.
“I think he’s a great football player, and we want to keep him warmed up and ready to go,” Narduzzi said. “As a defensive coordinator, everyone is vulnerable to quarterback runs, and it’s the eleventh guy. He does it so well. I was really disappointed he didn’t get a chance to throw the ball. We had some other stuff that we didn’t use. People think that he’s the running guy. I really wanted his first play to be a pass, so maybe this week.”
Narduzzi is also still trying to figure out how to get Pitt wideout Tyler Boyd more involved in the offense. After putting up 85 catches for 1,174 yards as a freshman in 2013 and 78 catches for 1,261 yards in 2014, Boyd has had just 26 catches for 274 yards through four games in 2015.
Narduzzi said Boyd has seen consistent double teams and bracket coverage, and he can expect more of the same this week from the Virginia D, according to London.
“Yeah, you have to know where he’s at based on his splits, based on the type of plays that they utilize his strengths,” said London, said London, who expects to see Pitt use Boyd in the passing game and maybe also in the running game, though he has only had three rushes from scrimmage in 2015.
“When you have one of your better players, you try to get the ball in his hands as many times as you can. There is no doubt that’s one of the things that you do,” London said.
The key to the Pitt offense, according to London, starts up front.
“You look at their offensive line. They double team and try to push to the next level,” said London, whose defense is ranked dead last in scoring defense (38.2 points per game), dead last in pass yards allowed (285.5 yards per game), dead last in pass efficiency defense (159.5) and 11th in rush defense (159.8 yards per game).
– Story by Chris Graham