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Game Preview

Weekly Preview: Pitt vs. Duke

THE MATCHUP: PITT (6-4) VS DUKE (4-6)
WHEN: 3:00 P.M. EST
WHERE: HEINZ FIELD, PITTSBURGH, PA
HOW TO WATCH: ROOT SPORTS; ACC NETWORK
HOW TO LISTEN: 93.7 THE FAN & THE PITT IMG SPORTS NETWORK

How can Pitt follow up on their road victory over the second ranked Clemson Tigers?

By not losing their next game. That’s how.

After suffering consecutive losses to Virginia Tech and Miami, Pitt regained momentum heading into their final two games with what will be remembered as one of the biggest victories in program history. Now, they must shift their focus towards maintaining that momentum on Saturday when the Duke Blue Devils visit Heinz Field.

Head Coach David Cutcliffe and his Duke Blue Devils present a drastically different team than last week’s opponent. When previewing Clemson, practically every positional group featured All-ACC performers and future NFL draft picks. Duke, on the other hand, returns just one All-ACC performer from 2015 (safety DeVon Edwards, honorable mention All-ACC), and he is out for the season. However, just because Duke lacks a bevy of nationally renowned players does not mean that Panther fans should slate Saturday as an automatic victory. Last week, Duke defeated then-15th ranked North Carolina in their annual rivalry game, 28-27. Aside from a 14-point loss to Virginia, Duke’s losses have all been decided by 10-points or fewer, including a 10-point defeat to the heavily favored Louisville Cardinals. Having witnessed three narrow losses themselves, Panther fans can appreciate just how easily a three-point loss can swing the other way.

On offense, Duke ranks right around the middle of the country in both passing and rushing production. Duke averages 173.9 yards-per-game through the air, ranking 67th nationally. On the ground, they average 231.8 yards-per-game, which also ranks 67th in the nation. When it comes to scoring, they fall closer to the bottom third of the country, ranking 94th overall with 24.5 points per-game.

Duke’s defense, which operates out of a 4-2-5 base formation, ranks slightly higher than their offense. They allow 224.4 passing yards-per-game (59th), 170.3 rushing yards-per-game (70th), and 24.2 points-per-game (42nd).

Here are the Blue Devils that Panther fans should know heading into Saturday afternoon:

Daniel Jones, Quarterback: Duke lost redshirt senior and team captain Thomas Sirk prior to the season, leaving the quarterback position in doubt. Enter Daniel Jones. Jones, a 6’5” 210-pound redshirt freshman, has been one of the ACC’s most impressive rookies in 2016. He has earned ACC Rookie of the Week honors three times, including last week when he played an integral role in Duke’s upset of UNC. Through the air, Jones has completed 208 of 334 passes for 2,277 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. His interception total is somewhat deceptive though, since five of his interceptions came in one game against Virginia. Instead of allowing a 5 interception performance to derail his season, Jones has rebounded nicely, throwing just 1 interception in the past 5 games.

David Cutcliffe’s offense also requires its quarterbacks to frequently contribute in the running game. Jones has rushed for over 90-yards in each of his past two games, and is the Blue Devils’ second leading rusher with 116 carries for 469 yards and 7 touchdowns. His athleticism can extend passing plays as well, which is useful when playing behind the nation’s 81st ranked offensive line in sacks allowed per game.

T.J. Rahming, Wide Receiver: The Panther’s defense now ranks second to last nationally in passing yards allowed per game. Any opponent’s top receiver poses a threat at this point, and sophomore T.J. Rahming is Daniel Jones’ number one target by 21 receptions. At 5’10” 165-pounds, Rahming may not possess elite size, but his stature does not hinder his production. On the season, he holds 50 catches for 509 yards and 1 touchdown. Rahming is also coming off of his best performance in 2016, when he recorded his first 100-yard performance of the year.

Erich Schneider, Tight End: When 6’5” 200-pound receiver Anthony Nash broke his clavicle against Louisville, the Blue Devils needed another tall target to emerge for Daniel Jones. At 6’7” 240-pounds, Erich Schneider fit the criteria for “tall target,” and he has seen his production increase since Nash’s injury. Overall, he holds 24 receptions for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season.

Shaun Wilson, Running Back: Jela Duncan began the season as Duke’s starting running back. However, Duncan missed the UVA game after sustaining a minor ankle injury. In his place, 5’9” 180-pound junior Shaun Wilson received the start, and he has maintained the starting position ever since. Wilson leads the Blue Devils in rushing with 135 attempts for 556 yards and 6 touchdowns. In Duke’s last three outings, Wilson has reached the endzone in each game, and has surpassed 100-yards rushing twice.

Note, although Jela Duncan did return from his ankle injury, do not expect Wilson to split carries with him on Saturday. Duncan was lost for the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon while celebrating a Blue Devils touchdown against Georgia Tech.

A.J. Wolf, Defensive Tackle: Duke selected four captains entering the 2016 season, and only one has managed to avoid sustaining a season-ending injury. That player is 6’4” 280-pound defensive tackle, A.J. Wolf. The anchor of Duke’s defensive line has 42 tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

Ben Humphreys, Linebacker: At the center of Dukes’ defense roams breakout sophomore linebacker Ben Humphreys. The 6’2” 215-pounder holds a team-high 93 tackles, with 10.0 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception. His 9.3 tackles-per-game are tied for 23rd nationally, and tied for 4th in the conference. The ACC boasts some of the nation’s top tacklers this season, and Humphreys ranks up there with the best.

Joe Giles-Harris, Linebacker: Humphreys isn’t the only breakout linebacker for the Blue Devils this season. Joe Giles-Harris, a 6’2” 220-pound redshirt freshman, has 88 tackles, 9.0 tackles-for-loss, 4.0 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception. His performance against North Carolina last week saw Giles-Harris named ACC Co-Linebacker of the Week—an honor he shared with Pitt’s Matt Galambos.

Corbin McCarthy, Safety: Duke needed to replace the 2015 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, safety Jeremy Cash, entering 2016. Corbin McCarthy earned the right to assume that responsibility, and his production thus far as the Blue Devil’s starting Strike safety merits recognition. He has 50 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

Deondre Singleton, Safety: Playing at the Bandit safety position is 3rd year starter Deondre Singleton. Singleton factors significantly into both the Blue Devils’ run and pass defenses. He has 48 tackles, 3.0 tackles-for-loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and a team-high 3 interceptions.

Below is this week’s statistical breakdown:

PITT DUKE
  PITT OPPONENTS DUKE OPPONENTS
POINTS SCORED 376 352 245 242
Points Per Game 37.6 35.2 24.5 24.2
Points Off Turnovers 61 37 45 34
FIRST DOWNS 210 220 218 174
Rushing 96 61 88 81
Passing 93 143 115 84
Penalty 21 16 15 9
RUSHING YARDAGE 2140 1054 1739 1703
Yards Gained Rushing 2368 1360 1985 2023
Yards Lost Rushing 228 306 246 320
Rushing Attempts 430 319 426 399
Average Yards Per Rush 5.0 3.3 4.1 4.3
Average Yards Per Game 214.0 105.4 173.9 170.3
Rushing Touchdowns 25 21 19 15
PASSING YARDAGE 2125 3434 2318 2244
Comp-Att-Int 153-258-4 256-406-7 215-347-9 144-269-9
Average Yards Per Pass 8.2 8.5 6.7 8.3
Average Yards Per Catch 13.9 13.4 10.8 15.6
Average Yards Per Game 212.5 343.4 231.8 224.4
Passing Touchdowns 19 21 14 14
TOTAL OFFENSE 4265 4488 4057 3947
Total Plays 688 725 773 668
Average Yards Per Play 6.2 6.2 5.2 5.9
Average Yards Per Game 426.5 448.8 405.7 394.7
KICK RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 29-875 43-861 27-710 39-728
PUNT RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 11-130 25-213 19-164 15-85
INTERCEPTION – RETURN YARDS 7-162 4-12 9-14 9-38
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 30.2 20.0 26.3 18.7
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 11.8 8.5 8.6 5.7
INTERCEPTION RETURN AVERAGE 23.1 3.0 1.6 4.2
FUMBLES – FUMBLES LOST 14-7 12-7 16-12 14-9
PENALTIES – YARDS 55-478 65-573 49-389 57-461
Average Per Game 47.8 57.3 38.9 46.1
PUNTS – YARDS 49-2101 48-1990 55-2172 61-2572
Average Yards Per Punt 42.9 41.5 39.5 42.2
Net Yards Per Punt 36.5 38.3 36.5 37.5
KICKOFFS – YARDS 67-4156 67-4211 44-2658 50-3175
Average Yards Per Kick 62.0 62.9 60.4 63.5
Net Yards Per Kick 40.2 36.4 41.6 37.8
TIME OF POSSESSION PER GAME 32:19 27:41 31:28 28:27
3rd-DOWN CONVERSIONS 57/137 58/144 69/157 56/149
3rd-Down Percentage 42% 40% 44% 38%
4th-Down CONVERSIONS 7/11 11/17 7/20 2/11
4th Down Percentage 64% 65% 35% 18%
SACKS BY – YARDS 31-241 8-52 28-153 23-122
TOUCHDOWNS SCORED 50 44 34 31
FIELD GOALS/ATTEMPTS 9/15 15/17 3/8 9/13
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS/ATTEMPTS 34/43 30/45 26/36 16/29
PAT’S MADE / ATTEMPTED 45/47 41/41 32/33 29/29

 

 

Passing:

COMP ATT YDS TD INT EFFIC
PITT
Peterman, Nate 152 252 2114 19 4 152.5
DUKE
Jones, Daniel 208 334 2277 12 9 126.0

 

Rushing:

CAR YDS AVG TD LONG
PITT
Conner, James 175 844 4.8 12 40
Henderson, Quadree 44 379 8.6 3 50
Moss, Chawntez 38 221 5.8 1 41
DUKE
Wilson, Shaun 135 556 4.1 4 57
Jones, Daniel 116 469 4.0 7 29
Duncan, Jela 88 450 5.1 6 50

 

Receiving:

REC YDS TD LONG
PITT
Orndoff, Scott 30 482 4 74
Weah, Jester 28 601 6 75
Henderson, Quadree 21 231 1 37
Conner, James 18 254 3 55
DUKE
Rahming, T.J. 50 509 1 51
Nash, Anthony 29 398 2 64
Schneider, Erich 24 229 3 26
Lloyd, Johnathan 23 232 2 55
Taylor, Chris 21 241 0 59

 

Defense:

SOLO TOTAL TFL FF FR INT SACKS
PITT
Whitehead, Jordan 46 65 1.5 1 1 1 0.0
Lewis, Ryan 49 64 0.5 0 0 2 0.0
Idowu, Oluwaseun 28 57 2.0 1 0 0 0.0
Galambos, Matt 25 52 2.5 0 1 0 0.5
Webb, Terrish 35 50 1.0 0 0 1 0.0
Soto, Shakir 27 36 7.0 0 0 0 2.5
Price, Ejuan 24 33 16.0 3 0 0 9.0
DUKE
Humphreys, Ben 46 93 10.0 0 2 1 3.5
Giles-Harris, Joe 47 88 9.0 0 1 1 4.0
McCarthy, Corbin 26 50 11.5 1 0 0 3.5
Singleton, Deondre 30 48 3.0 2 1 3 0.0
Saxton II, Alonzo 28 46 2.0 1 2 1 1.0
Wolf, A.J. 24 42 7.5 1 0 0 5.5
Edwards, DeVon 18 29 3.0 1 0 0 3.0

 

With the loss of Jordan Whitehead, Pitt fans might feel like the most injury stricken team in the country. However, Duke may actually top the Panthers in that department. As previously stated, three of their four captains heading into the season have been lost for the season: quarterback Thomas Sirk, running back Jela Duncan, and safety DeVon Edwards. 6’5” 200-pound receiver Anthony Nash, a player with the size to execute the back-shoulder fade that has haunted the Panther’s secondary, is out with a broken clavicle. Linebacker Tinashe Bere, defensive tackle Zach Morris, and punter Austin Parker will miss the remainder of 2016. Also, starting cornerback Breon Borders is expected to miss Saturday afternoon’s matchup.

For Pitt, Jordan Whitehead, Chawntez Moss, Phillipie Motley, Tre Tipton, and Zach Challingsworth have all been ruled out for Saturday. Meanwhile, Tyrique Jarrett and Amir Watts are listed as doubtful.

Saturday’s ACC showdown at Heinz Field kicks off at 3 p.m. The game will be aired on Root Sports and can be heard on 93.7 the Fan. As always, Pittsburgh Sports Now and its staff will provide in-game updates and observations via Twitter.

In college football, it is not about how you begin the season; it is about how you perform down the stretch that captures the nation’s attention. Defeating Duke and Syracuse could lead to a top-25 ranking and a quality bowl game for the Panthers. Additionally, last weekend’s upset generated positive feedback from many of Pitt’s top remaining recruiting targets in the 2017 and 2018 classes. While finishing the season strong will not define Pat Narduzzi’s legacy at Pitt, it may expedite the time it takes for him to build a team that can win the ACC Coastal Division.

But don’t forget: Duke needs a strong finish to their season, too. They can still earn bowl eligibility by season’s end, but not without going through the Panthers first.

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