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Pitt Football Game 12 Preview: Scouting Miami

Pitt Football Game 12 Preview: Scouting Miami

THE MATCHUP: #24 PITT (7-4) AT MIAMI (6-5)
WHEN: 3:30 P.M. EST
WHERE: HARD ROCK STADIUM, MIAMI GARDENS, FL
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN
HOW TO LISTEN: 93.7 THE FAN & THE PITT IMG SPORTS NETWORK

Pitt secured a spot in the 2018 ACC championship game with their win over Wake Forest last week. Ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2016, the Panthers can now make a statement before the title game by defeating the Miami Hurricanes on the road. A win will not matter from an ACC standings perspective, but it will show that the Panthers intend to finish the regular season strong and remain a Top 25 team.

Miami entered 2018 ranked No. 8 in both the AP and Coaches polls. They were favored to repeat as ACC Coastal division champions and appeared poised to challenge Clemson for the conference crown. A convincing 33-17 loss to LSU on opening weekend quickly tempered those expectations, but Miami’s proceeding five-game winning streak – paired with LSU’s rise up the rankings – restored optimism and momentum. The Hurricanes would drop their next four games to Boston College, Virginia, Duke and Georgia Tech, though, before defeating Virginia Tech last week, 38-14. Since their FBS-best 15-game winning streak was snapped last year by Pitt, the Canes have lost seven out of their last thirteen games (including the loss at Heinz Field). Head Coach Mark Richt isn’t on the “hot seat” after one subpar season, but four-game losing streaks aren’t welcomed at the U, and avenging last year’s loss against Pitt and closing the year with a string of wins might ease the fan base’s disappointment.

OFFENSE

Miami averages an underwhelming 377.3 total yards-per-game (92nd in the FBS), and their 31.5 points-per-game (t-47th)  is inflated by the 173 total points they scored against Savannah State, Toledo and North Carolina. They average 188.6 yards-per-game in both the run game and the passing game, although that yardage is more impressive from a rushing perspective. Mark Richt has a reputation as an offensive guru, but this has not been his finest year.

Heading into the Hurricane’s game versus Virginia Tech, the crew on ESPN’s College GameDay rained criticism upon Miami’s quarterbacks, blaming their play for the team’s mediocre record. Mark Richt has been rotating a pair of dual-threat passers, redshirt-senior Malik Rosier and redshirt-freshman N’Kosi Perry, looking for one to grab the starting position. Overall, Perry has been the slightly better passer, and after his performance last week, his hold on the starting position is strengthening. Against Virginia Tech, Perry completed 21-of-34 passes for 171 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added a touchdown on the ground and orchestrated some key drives in the Canes’ come-from-behind win.

Miami’s quarterback play deserves its share of credit for the team’s struggles in the passing game, but losing top receiver Ahmmon Richards to a career-ending neck injury at the beginning of the season hasn’t helped. Without Richards, speedy sophomore slot receiver Jeff Thomas emerged as the team’s top pass-catcher, but Thomas left the program earlier this week and will no longer factor into the passing game. Z-receiver Lawrence Cager, a 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound redshirt-junior, is the logical “next man up” at the receiver position with Thomas out. With 19 receptions for 344 yards and a team-high 6 touchdowns, he is the most productive active receiver in 2018.

The Hurricanes have just as much claim to the title of “Tight End U” as any team in college football, and true-freshman Brevin Jordan appears like the next man to carry on this reputation. After losing yet another All-ACC tight end to the NFL after last season in Chris Herndon IV, the Canes have turned to Jordan, the No.2 tight end recruit in the class of 2018. Jordan made ESPN’s Midseason Freshman All-America team, and the 6-foot-3-inch, 245 pounder has 30 receptions for 275 yards and 4 touchdowns. With Thomas out, Jordan’s importance in the offensive game plan may even grow.

At running back, Travis Homer, a second-team All-ACC honoree in 2017, leads Miami in rushing for the second year in a row with 146 carries for 801 yards and 3 touchdowns. DeeJay Davis is the team’s second-leading rusher overall in carries and yards, but true-freshman Cam’Ron Davis might be the second option on Saturday. Having officially burned his redshirt against Virginia Tech, Davis led the team in rushing yards last week and is watching his role grow.

DEFENSE

 If Miami’s success was measured strictly by its defense, then the Hurricanes would still be in the ACC race, and perhaps even the Top 10. Ranking 3rd nationally in total yards allowed-per-game (274.5) and 19th in scoring defense (19.5), it is tough to both move the ball and score against them. While they do limit the run, their 2nd-ranked passing defense is conceding a mere 141.7 yards-per-game through the air. Once again, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has put a fine product on the field.

Defensive success starts up front, and Miami’s line has lived in opposing backfields this season; they lead the nation in tackles-for-loss per-game (10.2), and they’re tied for 20th in sacks-per-game with 2.82. Defensive ends Joe Jackson (CBSSports.com’s 36th-ranked prospect overall for the 2019 NFL draft) and Jon Garvin, and defensive tackle Gerald Willis III have combined for 15 sacks and an overwhelming 43.5 tackles-for-loss. This will be the toughest front four that the Panthers’ offensive line has faced so far this season, and they will be doing so without center Jimmy Morrissey, who was lost for the season after sustaining an ankle injury against Wake Forest.

For the third season in a row, Miami will feature the same trio of linebackers: juniors Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud. Quarterman, a second-team All-ACC selection in 2017, leads the group from the middle linebacker position with 70 tackles, 12.5 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. On Monday, Pat Narduzzi provided a brief but complimentary scouting report on what Pitt fans can expect to see in Quarterman.

“This guy is a scary dude that goes sideline to sideline, and he’s been playing for three years and playing at a high level,” said Narduzzi. “That guy is an NFL linebacker if I’ve ever seen one.”

Rounding out the defense is a secondary that may make it difficult for Kenny Pickett to follow up last week’s stellar performance with another dazzling display. Miami has forced 15 interceptions this season, tying them for 9th in the country, and while the team’s pass rush creates the pressure, their secondary has come away with many of the picks. Michael Jackson, Sr., a second-team All-ACC honoree in 2017, highlights the cornerbacks, although he has yet to register an interception this year. Playing with Jackson are Trajan Bandy and Jhavonte Dean, a pair of corners who have registered 3 interceptions each. And at safety, 2017 second-team All-ACC honoree Jaquon Johnson is the team’s second-leading tackler with 69 total tackles, and Sheldrick Redwine has contributed 3 interceptions to the team’s total this year.

 

SEASON STATS

PITT

MIAMI

  PITT OPPONENTS MIAMI OPPONENTS
POINTS SCORED 333 309 347 215
Points Per Game 30.3 28.1 31.5 19.5
FIRST DOWNS 202 243 204 174
Rushing 128 104 108 86
Passing 61 112 82 72
Penalty 13 27 14 16
RUSHING YARDAGE 2723 1799 2075 1461
Yards Gained Rushing 2987 2118 2333 1846
Yards Lost Rushing 264 319 258 385
Rushing Attempts 443 418 424 430
Average Yards Per Rush 6.1 4.3 4.9 3.4
Average Yards Per Game 247.5 163.5 188.6 132.8
Rushing Touchdowns 28 16 23 11
PASSING YARDAGE 1710 2655 2075 1559
Comp-Att-Int 152-247-5 205-345-9 170-315-10 148-282-15
Average Yards Per Game 155.5 241.4 188.6 141.7
Passing Touchdowns 12 22 19 10
TOTAL OFFENSE 4433 4454 4150 3020
Total Plays 690 763 739 712
Average Yards Per Play 6.4 5.8 5.6 4.2
Average Yards Per Game 403.0 404.9 377.3 274.5
KICK RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 21-547 25-515 26-619 23-522
PUNT RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 14-120 20-147 17-329 16-213
INTERCEPTION – RETURN YARDS 9-148 5-67 15-230 10-257
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 26.1 20.6 23.8 22.7
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 8.6 7.4 19.4 13.3
INTERCEPTION RETURN AVERAGE 16.4 13.4 15.3 25.7
FUMBLES – FUMBLES LOST 14-7 19-7 15-9 15-8
PENALTIES – YARDS 77-749 55-455 69-567 51-496
Average Per Game 68.1 41.4 51.5 45.1
PUNTS – YARDS 47-1930 43-1821 52-1958 67-2747
NET YARDS PER PUNT 36.7 38.2 33.2 34.6
TIME OF POSSESSION PER GAME 32:00 28:00 30:17 29:43
3rd-DOWN CONVERSIONS 58/134 69/156 67/154 40/158
3rd-Down Percentage 43% 44% 44% 25%
4th-Down CONVERSIONS 7/14 12/22 9/21 6/13
4th Down Percentage 50% 55% 43% 46%
SACKS BY – YARDS 27-192 22-160 31-190 25-171
FIELD GOALS/ATTEMPTS 9/12 12/16 7/10 18/24
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS/ATTEMPTS 23/33 23/40 31/44 15/32

 

Passing:

COMP ATT YDS TD INT EFFIC
PITT
Pickett, Kenny 151 243 1695 12 5 132.9
MIAMI
Perry, N’Kosi 90 162 1037 13 5 129.6
Rosier, Malik 77 144 1007 6 5 119.0

Rushing:

CAR YDS AVG TD LONG
PITT
Ollison, Qadree 167 1106 6.6 10 97
Hall, Darrin 109 888 8.1 9 75
Pickett, Kenny 85 220 2.6 3 30
MIAMI
Homer, Travis 146 801 5.5 3 70
Dallas, DeeJay 97 570 5.9 5 83
Rosier, Malik 54 210 3.9 6 37

Receiving:

REC YDS TD LONG
PITT
Mack, Taysir 19 459 1 63
Ffrench, Maurice 27 453 6 78
Araujo-Lopes, Rafael 28 290 4 68
Mathews, Aaron 9 120 0 31
MIAMI
Thomas, Jeff 35 563 3 67
Cager, Lawrence 19 344 6 36
Jordan, Brevin 30 275 4 41
Harley, Mike 19 222 0 42

Defense:

SOLO TOTAL TFL FF FR INT SACKS
PITT
Hamlin, Damar 49 70 3.0 0 0 2 0.0
Idowu, Oluwaseun 44 64 7.5 2 0 0 1.0
Briggs, Dennis 40 51 2.0 1 0 0 2.0
Weaver, Rashad 27 41 12.0 1 3 0 5.5
Wirginis, Quintin 24 41 7.0 2 0 0 3.0
Zeise, Elijah 20 40 2.5 1 0 0 1.0
Jackson, Dane 32 38 4.0 4 2 0 0.0
MIAMI
Quarterman, Shaquille 38 70 12.5 1 1 1 5.5
Johnson, Jaquan 31 69 1.5 1 0 1 0.0
Pinckney, Michael 31 61 8.5 0 0 1 2.5
Willis III, Gerald 31 55 17.0 0 1 0 3.0
Redwine, Sheldrick 28 52 3.5 1 1 3 3.0
Garvin, Jonathan 18 51 14.5 0 2 0 5.5
Jackson, Joe 14 41 12.0 2 0 1 6.5

THE WRAP

Despite fielding the better recording and owning the title of ACC Coastal Division Champions, Pitt enters Saturday as 4.5-point underdogs. The game will kick off at 3:30 P.M. on ESPN, and local 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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