Following every Pitt football game, PSN issues a weekly Pitt Panthers Report Card for our readers. We will assign a grade to every position and mention a few players that really stood out (good or bad).
Although the grades were somewhat better, they weren’t good enough to prevent Pitt’s third loss in a row.
For only his second college start and considering the circumstances, redshirt freshman Joey Yellen performed better than I believe many people expected him to. For the game, Yellen was 22/46 for 277 yards and one touchdown.
One thing was very evident was the difference in mobility between him and Pickett. On Pitt’s 1st drive of the game and in Miami territory, Yellen took a 12-yard sack on 1st and 10, which took Pitt out of field goal range and killed the drive. He needed to realize early that nothing was open and throw the ball away but that will come with experience.
Pitt settling for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns was costly, as it’s been all season. On the first of these drives, Yellen missed an open Jared Wayne while Pitt was inside Miami’s 10 yard line. On the third missed opportunity, with Pitt trailing 21-9, Yellen was crisp with the big gain coming on a deep completion to freshman Jordan Addison. However, Pitt settled for another Alex Kessman field goal.
As the game went on, Yellen looked to be gaining more confidence and was developing a comfort level with Addison. Yellen did a nice job of spreading the ball around, completing passes to nine different Panthers. If Yellen is given time and isn’t put in consistent 3rd and long situations, I think he can be more than fine. I was pleasantly surprised with his first start for Pitt.
Running Back: D
I can repeat the same thing I wrote last week. Pitt backs carried the ball 20 times and gained 44 yards. Obviously that isn’t good enough and doesn’t do the quarterback any favors.
Todd Sibley, Jr. was the Panthers best back but for whatever reason, Mark Whipple and Narduzzi only decided to give him the ball four times and he gained 23 yards. Vincent Davis carried the ball a team high nine times for zero yards. A.J. Davis returned to action after being sidelined with an injury and after a nice run of 8 yards on his first carry, gained just 13 yards on six carries for the remainder of the game.
For this game, the problem wasn’t so much the Pitt backs, it was that they had no place to go and had guys in the backfield as they were getting the ball. For example, with Pitt trailing 14-3 and at the Miami 4-yard line on 3rd and 1, A.J. Davis got the handoff and was tackled as soon as he took the handoff from Yellen.
Pitt’s running game is a mess and a big reason for the problems on offense.
Offensive Line: C-
Like with the running backs, the story with the offensive line remains the same. They did a pretty good job of pass blocking and protecting Yellen but continue to struggle in run blocking for Whipple’s run scheme. At this point, I’m not sure of anything that Narduzzi and Dave Borbely can do. Aside from Jimmy Morrisey, these are still young players in terms of playing experience and need to find out the remainder of the season who they can count on for 2021 as they’ll all be returning.
Wide Receivers: C+
Aside from Addison, the receivers were just OK. Much of this can be blamed on the conservative routes they’re being asked to run but once in awhile, someone has to make someone miss. For the second straight game, DJ Turner was a non-factor in the passing attack, which is mystifying with what we’ve seen from him leading up to the Boston College game. Shocky Jacques-Louis skills continue to not be used properly. It was nice to see tight end Daniel Moraga target a few times, as he caught two passes for 24 yards and a TD. Despite the average grade, this isn’t a group that I’m worried about because they have a bunch of talent in that room.
Defensive Line: B+
This group didn’t get much of a chance to get after the quarterback because Miami tried to offset the Pitt pass rush with a bunch of quick passes and didn’t have D’Eriq King drop back to pass very much. The best player on the field for Pitt on Saturday was Rashad Weaver, who deflected a couple of King’s passes, pressured the quarterback and did a good job of setting the edge and limiting Miami’s run game. John Morgan was another player that stood out to me for running sideline to sideline and being disruptive. Aside from the unnecessary facemask penalty by Tyler Bentley that extended a Miami drive and gave them a TD instead of a FG, the unit as a whole was very strong. Rashad Weaver, Calijah Kancey, DeAndre Jules, Dayon Hayes, Patrick Jones, Morgan, Bentley and Deslin Alexandre all either had a sack or a tackle for loss.
Here’s an evaluation and grade from our Pitt beat reporter Alan Saunders. “Two blown coverages from this group led to two Miami touchdowns that helped cost Pitt the game and there were not any big plays to offset the big mistakes.
Defensive Backs: B
Aside from the miscommunication with Jason Pinnock and Paris Ford on Mike Harley’s long TD, the defensive back rebounded from a couple of back-back subpar performances. Damar Hamlin, who was flagged for a questionable pass interference penalty, had a strong game as he led Pitt with 9 tackles and did a nice job in pass coverage. They also produced a couple of turnovers as Paris Ford and Marquis Williams recorded interceptions. The pick by Williams was really, really nice. I also thought redshirt freshman A.J. Woods accounted for himself nicely both in coverage and in run support.