UVA opens what looks to be a promising 2019 season as a road favorite at Pitt.
Yeah, that Pitt. The defending ACC Coastal champ.
Which happened in no small degree because of how much the Panthers dominated the ‘Hoos in Charlottesville in November in Scott Stadium.
Remember that one? Virginia came in 4-1 in the ACC and atop the Coastal, but Pitt bulldozed its way to a 23-13 win on a Friday night in the rain.
The coroner’s report on that one reveals the Panthers running for 254 yards, and holding UVA to just 44 yards on the ground, on 20 tough tries.
This continued a trend in the series. Pitt has controlled Virginia in all three matchups in the Bronco Mendenhall era, winning 31-14 in 2017 and 45-31 in Mendenhall’s first year in Charlottesville, in 2016.
The commonality to all three: “Pitt has been the more physical team in the previous three years, especially in the trenches on both sides,” Mendenhall said at his weekly presser on Monday.
Pitt, under coach Pat Narduzzi, has made it a practice of trying to out-physical whoever is on the other side of the field, so it’s not just Virginia bearing the brunt of it.
It will be a little tougher for Pitt in the 2019 opener, with Narduzzi and his new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple, needing to replace four starters on the offensive line.
The talk in training camp was that the focus would be on trying to retool the passing game to get more from junior Kenny Pickett, who returns after throwing for 1,969 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago.
The disadvantage to playing a team with a new coordinator in an opener is not having game tape to study and analyze.
“I’m not sure what we’ll see,” Mendenhall concedes. “What I do know is the offensive coordinator in Whipple that’s coming in, they are certainly capable of points. The system he’s run in the past is explosive and very difficult to stop.”
The advantage for Virginia heading into this one is that Pitt has to replace those four starters on the O-line, which could result in some hiccups without game-speed reps going into a Week 1 matchup.
Will that get Whipple thinking even more about trying to attack UVA through the air on Saturday night?
“We have to prepare for it all,” Mendenhall said. “So, their ability to run the ball, we have to be prepared for that. We’ll have to be prepared for all the other things that their coach has done in the past if given the free reign for him to do that. So, we don’t know.”
Story by Chris Graham