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Game Preview

Weekly Preview: Pitt at Miami

 


THE MATCHUP: Pitt (5-3) at Miami (4-4)
WHEN: 12:30 PM EST
WHERE: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
HOW TO WATCH: WTAE and the ACC Network
HOW TO LISTEN: 93.7 The Fan & The Pitt IMG Sports Network

The loss to Virginia Tech last Thursday has many Panther fans anxious for win number six, especially with a trip to Clemson waiting in the on-deck circle. Two years ago, a road trip to play the University of Miami would sound like one of the least promising places to find that victory. However, in 2014 Pitt defeated “The U” in Miami for the first time since 1963, making Saturday’s matchup far less daunting from a historical standpoint. But just because the Panthers broke their long standing losing streak does not mean a win will be easy.

The Hurricanes’ first season under head coach Mark Richt can be separated into two halves: their 4-game winning streak, and their 4-game losing streak. After defeating Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, and Georgia Tech, Miami reached #10 in the AP poll with a perfect 4-0 record. However, the Hurricanes’ dropped their next four contests to Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame. For Mark Richt, the tenth winningest active coach in college football, 4-game losing streaks are unfamiliar territory. Today, we preview the Miami Hurricane team that awaits Pitt at Hard Rock Stadium.

Miami’s offense flows through quarterback and potential first-round draft pick, Brad Kaaya. Entering the season, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projected Kaaya as the potential second-overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft. The junior remains an intriguing first round prospect, although his 2016 statistics have not quite met the expectations of a second-overall selection. Kaaya has completed 147 of 238 passes for 1,984 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions this season. However, Miami’s offensive line has struggled in pass protection, allowing 2.5 sacks-per-game (tied for 91st in the FBS). In the Hurricanes’ last two games alone, opposing teams have sacked Kaaya 13 times, and the effects of this punishment show. Per Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald, Kaaya was seen “windmilling his right arm in apparent discomfort on the sideline” last week against Notre Dame. His throwing shoulder seemingly continues to bother him following a hit sustained weeks ago against Florida State.

Kaaya will utilize a receiving corps highlighted by senior Stacy Coley when facing a struggling Panther secondary. Coley, a 2015 second team All-ACC honoree, holds 36 receptions for 433 yards and 6 touchdowns. Pairing with Coley is impact true freshman Ahmmon Richards, a receiver capable of hurdling over defenders in the open field. The 4-star recruit has registered 23 receptions for 488 yards and 1 touchdown in his young but promising career. Also, as has been the case in recent years, Miami features talented tight ends capable of impacting the passing game: David Njoku, a 6’4” 245-pound redshirt sophomore, has 21 receptions for 346 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season; Christopher Herndon IV, a 6’4” 253 junior, has 19 receptions for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns.

At running back, Miami disperses a majority of their carries between sophomore Mark Walton and junior Joseph Yearby. After three straight 100-yard performances to begin the season, Walton has failed to reach the century mark since. Still, his 649 yards and 9 touchdowns on 130 carries closely resemble the season totals of Pitt’s leading rusher, James Conner (143 carries, 672 yards, and 10 touchdowns). Yearby, a 2015 third team All-ACC performer, adds 79 carries for 494 yards and 6 touchdowns to Walton’s total. Overall, Miami averages 148.9 yards-per-game on the ground, ranking 95th in the nation. The yards lost on each sack obviously affect this total, detracting from the net yardage gained by Walton and Yearby. After a loss to Notre Dame that saw the Hurricanes gain 18 yards rushing (yards lost on sacks included), college football analyst and former Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt stated that Miami must commit to the run, even when the team is struggling. This will be a difficult week for the Hurricanes to heed such advice, considering that the Panthers’ defense ranks sixth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game.

On defense, Miami features only four players with over 10 career starts. Despite their inexperience, they remain talented and have performed quite well. The Canes are tied for 16th nationally in scoring defense (18.9 points-per-game), and 28th nationally in total defense (354.1 yards allowed-per-game). They also rank second overall in tackles-for-loss with 9.4 per game. All of this is even more impressive considering the Canes lost their three top tacklers from 2015 right before the season began. Linebackers Jermaine Grace and Juwon Young, and defensive end Al Quadin Muhammed violated NCAA rules by receiving improper use of a luxury rental vehicle. Grace and Muhammed were dismissed from the team, while Young transferred to Marshall after receiving an indefinite suspension.

Up front, Miami’s defensive line is comprised of three first year starters. Defensive end Chad Thomas has 24 tackles, 8 tackles-for-loss, and 3.5 sacks, while sophomore defensive tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton have combined for 60 tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, and 2.5 sacks. The Hurricanes were actually starting four first year starters until Demetrius Jackson’s sustained a knee injury against North Carolina. Aiding Miami’s starters is true freshman defensive end Joe Jackson. Jackson may feature primarily as a rotational defensive end, but the 6’5” 250-pounder leads the Canes in sacks with 4.5.

Behind the front four roam three true freshman linebackers, including Shaquille Quarterman, the nation’s fourth ranked inside linebacker in 2016. Quarterman leads the Hurricanes in tackles with 51, and is second in tackles-for-loss with 7.5. Fellow linebacker Michael Pinckney is also in the midst of a special debut season with 38 tackles, 6 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks, and 1 interception.

Miami’s secondary is their most experienced defensive unit. Corn Elder, a senior cornerback, has 47 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks, 1 interception, and 8 pass breakups. Rayshawn Jenkins, a senior safety, adds 46 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, 0.5 sacks, and 1 interception. Due to an injury to starting senior cornerback Adrian Colbert, the secondary will feature one first year starter. Sophomore Sheldrick Redwine is likely to fill in for Colbert, just as he did earlier this season when Colbert missed time with a knee injury.

The Hurricanes also demonstrate an impressive ability on special teams: they are very successful at preventing punts and field goals from crossing the line of scrimmage. Miami currently leads the nation in both blocked punts (3) and blocked kicks (5). Considering the proven success of Panther return man Quadree Henderson, special teams could be an area of excitement tomorrow afternoon.

Below is this week’s statistical comparison:

TEAM STATS

PITT

MIAMI

 

PITT

OPPONENTS MIAMI OPPONENTS
POINTS SCORED 305 259 263 151
Points Per Game 38.1 32.4 32.9 18.9
Points Off Turnovers 48 23 56 24
FIRST DOWNS 165 165 151 158
Rushing 80 54 53 73
Passing 71 97 88 73
Penalty 14 14 10 12
RUSHING YARDAGE 1854 826 1191 1190
Yards Gained Rushing 2026 1114 1387 1517
Yards Lost Rushing 172 288 196 327
Rushing Attempts 363 258 261 337
Average Yards Per Rush 5.1 3.2 4.6 3.5
Average Yards Per Game 231.8 103.2 148.9 148.8
Rushing Touchdowns 23 16 17 5
PASSING YARDAGE 1530 2498 2016 1625
Comp-Att-Int 114-184-3 172-289-4 149-243-6 155-256-6
Average Yards Per Pass 8.3 8.6 8.3 6.3
Average Yards Per Catch 13.4 14.5 13.5 10.5
Average Yards Per Game 191.2 312.2 252.0 203.1
Passing Touchdowns 12 14 13 11
TOTAL OFFENSE 3384 3324 3207 2815
Total Plays 547 547 504 593
Average Yards Per Play 6.2 6.1 6.4 4.7
Average Yards Per Game 423.0 415.5 400.9 351.9
KICK RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 26-748 33-661 10-184 19-387
PUNT RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 10-113 20-190 15-205 16-111
INTERCEPTION – RETURN YARDS 4-92 3-12 6-58 6-80
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 28.8 20.0 18.4 20.4
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 11.3 9.5 13.7 6.9
INTERCEPTION RETURN AVERAGE 23.0 4.0 9.7 13.3
FUMBLES – FUMBLES LOST 11-5 11-7 4-2 12-4
PENALTIES – YARDS 47-413 48-401 58-557 55-453
Average Per Game 51.6 50.1 69.6 56.6
PUNTS – YARDS 39-1661 40-1650 43-1874 50-2023
Average Yards Per Punt 42.6 41.2 43.6 40.5
Net Yards Per Punt 36.7 37.9 40.5 34.4
KICKOFFS – YARDS 54-3355 50-3120 50-3202 37-2293
Average Yards Per Kick 62.1 62.4 64.0 62.0
Net Yards Per Kick 40.2 35.9 41.8 40.1
TIME OF POSSESSION PER GAME 33:48 26:12 26:23 33:37
3rd-DOWN CONVERSIONS 48/112 38/110 36/102 48/130
3rd-Down Percentage 43% 35% 35% 37%
4th-Down CONVERSIONS 6/8 10/15 4/9 4/13
4th Down Percentage 75% 67% 44% 31%
SACKS BY – YARDS 28-230 5-33 24-144 20-141
TOUCHDOWNS SCORED 40 32 34 16
FIELD GOALS/ATTEMPTS 8/12 12/14 9/12 13/16
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS/ATTEMPTS 29/36 20/31 20/33 11/23
PAT’S MADE / ATTEMPTED 37/38 29/29 32/34 16/16

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Passing:

COMP ATT YDS TD INT EFFIC
PITT
Peterman, Nate 113 180 1519 12 3 152.3
MIAMI
Kaaya, Brad 147 238 1984 13 6 144.8

Rushing:

CAR YDS AVG TD LONG
PITT
Conner, James 143 672 4.7 10 40
Henderson, Quadree 37 345 9.3 3 50
Moss, Chawntez 36 223 6.2 1 41
MIAMI
Walton, Mark 130 649 5.0 9 80
Yearby, Joseph 79 494 6.3 6 64
Edwards, Gus 16 126 7.9 1 74

Receiving:

REC YDS TD LONG
PITT
Weah, Jester 23 448 5 60
Orndoff, Scott 20 221 1 37
Henderson, Quadree 19 324 2 74
Conner, James 15 197 2 55
MIAMI
Coley, Stacy 36 433 6 55
Richards, Ahmmon 23 488 1 62
Njoku, David 21 346 2 54
Herndon IV, Christopher 19 270 2 48

Defense:

SOLO TOTAL TFL FF FR INT SACKS
PITT
Lewis, Ryan 42 52 0.5 0 0 1 0.0
Whitehead, Jordan 34 46 1.5 1 1 1 0.0
Idowu, Oluwaseun 19 40 2.0 1 0 0 0.0
Galambos, Matt 18 37 1.5 0 1 0 0.0
Webb, Terrish 28 35 1.0 0 0 1 0.0
Price, Ejuan 23 32 16.0 3 0 0 9.0
Soto, Shakir 25 31 6.5 0 0 0 2.5
MIAMI
Quarterman, Shaquille 28 51 7.5 0 1 0 1.5
Elder, Corn 36 47 3.5 0 0 1 2.0
Jenkins, Rayshawn 35 46 2.0 0 0 1 0.5
Carter Sr, Jamal 31 43 0.0 0 0 0 0.0
Pinckney, Michael 24 38 6.0 0 0 1 2.5
Thomas, Chad 15 24 8.0 0 0 0 3.5
Jackson, Joe 10 20 6.5 1 1 0 4.5

Miami will be without starting cornerback Adrian Colbert, starting defensive end Demetrius Jackson, starting right tackle Sunny Odogwu, and defensive lineman Scott Patchan this week. On the other side of the ball, Avonte Maddox, Bam Bradley, and Rori Blair are all questionable for Pitt. Phillipie Motley, Zach Challingsworth, and the players previously lost for the season are out.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 12:30pm. It will be aired locally on WTAE, and can be heard on 93.7 The Fan. PSN’s staff will also provide updates and in-game observations via Twitter.

While a win tomorrow is very important for the Panthers’ season, the sense of urgency for finding a win in Miami must be significant as well. Following the loss to Notre Dame, Mark Richt was asked, “Where do you go from here?” The former Hurricane quarterback wasted little time in providing a quick and clear response.

“Go play Pitt,” Richt answered.

And that is exactly what will happen. But which team will display more resiliency remains to be seen.

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