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Pitt Football Game 11 Preview: Scouting Wake Forest

Pitt Football Game 11 Preview: Scouting Wake Forest

THE MATCHUP: PITT (6-4) VS WAKE FOREST (5-5)
WHEN: 12:00 P.M. EST
WHERE: BB&T FIELD, WINSTON-SALEM, NC
HOW TO WATCH: AT&T SPORTSNET
HOW TO LISTEN: 93.7 THE FAN & THE PITT IMG SPORTS NETWORK

On Saturday, the first ever gridiron showdown between Pitt and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons will take place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and what a game it could be for the Panthers.

A win over Wake Forest would secure Pitt’s first-ever Coastal division championship, a feat which seemed unlikely prior to their recent three-game winning streak. Although the Panthers can still earn the division title with a win in the season finale or by having other divisional foes like UVA suffer defeat, they can avoid a must-win scenario against Miami by defeating the Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest, in its fifth season under Dave Clawson, is one win away from bowl eligibility. In a year plagued by season-ending injuries, they hold wins over Rice, Louisville and NC State, and have fallen to the likes of Boston College, Notre Dame, Florida State and Syracuse. They will enter Saturday with both momentum and rest after last Thursday’s win at top-25 opponent NC State.

OFFENSE

Wake Forest implements an up-tempo, spread offense centered on the run-pass option. In fact, Pat Narduzzi asserted that there will be an “RPO every down, first down to third down” earlier this week. The Demon Deacons rank 31st nationally in total yards-per-game (451.6) and 44th in points-per-game (31.8). Averaging 215.8 yards-per-game on the ground (t-28th), the “R” in RPO has been the more effective half of the option.

True-freshman quarterback Sam Hartman commandeered the Demon Deacon’s offense for the first nine games of 2018 before sustaining a season-ending leg injury against Syracuse. In Hartman’s place, redshirt-sophomore Jamie Newman will make his second start after leading Wake to a win over NC State last week. Against the Wolfpack, the 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound dual-threat quarterback completed 22-of-33 passes for 297 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. On the ground, he rushed for 44 yards on 13 carries, with a long of 27. He may not have won the positional battle before the season, but if his lone start is an indicator of what Newman can do on the football field, Wake Forest will be just fine with him at quarterback.

Wake’s top receiver and overall playmaker is the 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound Greg Dortch. Lining up in the slot, Dortch is the type of undersized and explosive receiver that thrives in a modern-day spread offense. The redshirt-sophomore ranks 6th nationally in receptions-per-game (7.5) and 20th in receiving yards (921). He also has a pair of punt returns for touchdowns and averages 20.8 yards-per-return on kickoffs. When Dortch – a 2017 second-team All-ACC all-purpose player – is on the field, opposing fans should hold their breaths.

Redshirt-freshman Sage Surratt, coming off of a 109-yard receiving performance against NC State, is Wake’s second-leading receiver with 33 receptions for 478 yards and 2 touchdowns. And tight end Jack Freudenthal, with 4 touchdown receptions, is a player outside of the wide receivers that poses a threat through the air.

Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall may form the top running back duo in the ACC, but the Demon Deacons’ Matt Colburn II and Cade Carney are impressive, too. Although Colburn II has slightly more carries and yards, they contribute rather evenly and have amassed 1,367 yards and 11 touchdowns on 274 carries.

Up front, the offensive line is led by a pair of redshirt-seniors: center Ryan Anderson, a second-team All-ACC honoree in 2017; and left guard Phil Haynes, a third-team All-ACC honoree last year. As a unit, they are allowing a subpar 2.8 sacks-per-game (t-105th in FBS) in pass protection, but they are paving the way for the aforementioned top-30 rushing attack.

DEFENSE

Everyone, including Wake Forest, knows that Pitt intends to run the ball on Saturday. The question is: can the Demon Deacons do anything about it?

Considering that Wake ranks 103rd nationally in run defense, it seems unlikely that they will be the team to end Pitt’s impressive slew of rushing performances. However, the Demon Deacons did shut down NC State’s running game last week, conceding just 47 yards on the ground, so it remains a possibility.

If for some reason the run game is to stall for Pitt, the Demon Deacons can be beaten in other ways, though; Wake ranks 123rd in the FBS in pass defense, allowing 282.7 yards-per-game through the air. Teams also find the endzone frequently against them, and their 35.8 points allowed-per-game is tied for 110th.

With the Demon Deacon’s below-average run defense and a pass rush that is tied for 86th national in sacks-per-game (1.8), the defensive line isn’t getting the job done this year. Carlos Basham, Jr., at defensive end, leads the team in sacks with 3, and has also contributed 7 tackles-for-loss. In the middle, Willie Yarbary is undersized for a defensive tackle (6-feet-1-inches, 285 pounds), but he holds 7 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery.

Redshirt-junior Justin Strnad leads the linebackers from the middle, registering 78 tackles (team-lead), 7.5 tackles-for-loss (team-lead), 1.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. He is joined by Buck linebacker Luke Masterson and Rover linebacker Demetrius Kemp.

The Demon Deacons have only four interceptions on the season (t-116th), and their secondary owns just two of them. Free safety Cameron Glenn has put forth some strong performances in 2018, though, and his 76 tackles, 5 tackles-for-loss, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble reflect it. Meanwhile, junior cornerback Essang Bassey is third on the team in tackles (66), which typically is not a good sign. However, Bassey’s 1 interception and impressive 12 passes-broken-up show that he provides impactful coverage.

SEASON STATS

PITT WAKE FOREST
  PITT OPPONENTS WF OPPONENTS
POINTS SCORED 299 296 318 358
Points Per Game 29.9 29.6 31.8 35.8
FIRST DOWNS 182 227 249 232
Rushing 119 98 121 93
Passing 51 103 110 122
Penalty 12 26 18 17
RUSHING YARDAGE 2569 1720 2158 2036
Yards Gained Rushing 2815 2013 2436 2268
Yards Lost Rushing 246 293 278 232
Rushing Attempts 396 390 490 392
Average Yards Per Rush 6.5 4.4 4.4 5.2
Average Yards Per Game 256.9 172.0 215.8 203.6
Rushing Touchdowns 26 16 15 27
PASSING YARDAGE 1394 2449 2358 2897
Comp-Att-Int 129-217-5 109-315-7 192-349-10 253-394-4
Average Yards Per Game 139.4 244.9 235.8 282.7
Passing Touchdowns 9 21 19 21
TOTAL OFFENSE 3963 4169 4516 4863
Total Plays 613 705 839 786
Average Yards Per Play 6.5 5.9 5.4 6.2
Average Yards Per Game 396.3 416.9 451.6 486.3
KICK RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 20-525 24-492 22-441 30-712
PUNT RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 13-119 18-130 28-333 18-197
INTERCEPTION – RETURN YARDS 7-123 5-67 4-111 10-15
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 26.3 20.5 20.0 23.7
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 9.2 7.2 11.9 10.9
INTERCEPTION RETURN AVERAGE 17.6 13.4 27.8 1.5
FUMBLES – FUMBLES LOST 13-7 19-7 8-6 9-7
PENALTIES – YARDS 67-671 54-440 43-453 59-524
Average Per Game 67.1 44.0 45.3 52.4
PUNTS – YARDS 42-1672 38-1607 61-2502 63-2509
NET YARDS PER PUNT 35.8 37.6 36.8 33.0
TIME OF POSSESSION PER GAME 31:15 28:45 27:59 32:01
3rd-DOWN CONVERSIONS 47/116 65/144 74/180 69/167
3rd-Down Percentage 41% 45% 41% 41%
4th-Down CONVERSIONS 6/12 11/21 12/22 11/22
4th Down Percentage 50% 52% 55% 50%
SACKS BY – YARDS 25-181 20-148 18-102 27-156
FIELD GOALS/ATTEMPTS 9/12 10/14 13/16 8/10
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS/ATTEMPTS 19/29 23/38 26/46 25/32

Passing:

COMP ATT YDS TD INT EFFIC
PITT
Pickett, Kenny 128 213 1379 9 5 123.8
WF
Hartman, Sam 161 291 1984 16 8 125.2
Newman, Jamie 29 48 372 3 1 142.0

Rushing:

CAR YDS AVG TD LONG
PITT
Ollison, Qadree 149 1054 7.1 10 97
Hall, Darrin 96 844 8.8 8 75
Pickett, Kenny 77 214 2.8 3 30
WF
Colburn II, Matt 145 698 4.8 5 74
Carney, Cade 129 669 5.2 6 42
Hartman, Sam 107 275 2.6 2 23

Receiving:

REC YDS TD LONG
PITT
Ffrench, Maurice 21 377 5 78
Mack, Taysir 16 354 0 60
Araujo-Lopes, Rafael 22 217 3 68
Mathews, Aaron 8 107 0 31
WF
Dortch, Greg 75 921 7 54
Surratt, Sage 33 478 2 43
Bachman, Alex 23 294 4 38
Freudenthal, Jack 14 192 4 42

Defense:

SOLO TOTAL TFL FF FR INT SACKS
PITT
Hamlin, Damar 47 63 3.0 0 0 1 0.0
Idowu, Oluwaseun 39 56 6.5 2 0 0 1.0
Briggs, Dennis 37 47 2.0 1 0 0 2.0
Wirginis, Quintin 24 41 7.0 2 0 0 3.0
Zeise, Elijah 19 39 2.5 1 0 0 1.0
Weaver, Rashad 25 38 11.0 1 3 0 5.5
Reynolds, Elias 17 36 3.0 0 0 0 1.0
WF
Strnad, Justin 46 78 7.5 1 0 0 1.5
Glenn, Cameron 49 76 5.0 1 0 0 1.0
Bassey, Essang 48 66 2.5 0 1 1 1.0
Wade, Jr., Chuck 24 50 2.0 0 0 1 0.0
Basham, Jr., Carlos 25 46 7.0 0 2 0 3.0
Masterson, Luke 29 43 1.0 0 0 1 0.0
Willie, Yarbary 20 39 7.0 0 0 0 1.5

THE WRAP

Pitt enters Saturday as 7-point favorites to win the first meeting between the two teams. The game kicks off at noon on AT&T SportsNet, and radio listeners can tune in to 93.7 the Fan. As always, Pittsburgh Sports Now and its staff will provide in-game updates and observations via Twitter.

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