A win is a win, so Thursday night’s 38-31 win over West Virginia is what was needed, but there will need to be improvement across the roster when it comes to attacking the remainder of the schedule.
The offense scored 31 points, the defense scored a crucial pick-six to win the game and individual players across all three phases stepped up to lead Pitt to a rivalry win.
So, while the eye test showed one side of the game, what do the advanced stats show?
Kedon Slovis’s Room to Grow
Slovis completed 16 of his 24 passing attempts for 308 yards and a touchdown. That’s just a touch under 67% completion at just over 12 yards per completion.
That’s boosted by 173 yards of his receivers racking up yards after the catch, but Slovis still pushed the football downfield when he needed to — 7-of-11 on attempts over 10 yards downfield.
Slovis’s average depth of target Thursday night was 12.1 yards, and when factoring in drops, his adjusted completion percentage jumps all the way to 78%.
The area where Slovis struggled the most Thursday was when he faced pressure. He only threw the ball away once, and he took five sacks — a ghastly 38.5% of pressures turned into sacks. And when combined with a 3.32 average time to throw on drop backs, he held onto the football far too long.
However, despite that hesitancy and inconsistency in reading WVU’s defense, he still led Pitt to 31 points.
The offensive gameplan felt like Frank Cignetti Jr. was just feeling out the offensive personnel as a whole, with a new quarterback and a couple of new wide receivers integrating into the offense, but it’s clear Slovis’s debut — while flawed — has a lot of room for growth.
Slovis was only 1-of-4 on passes 20 yards downfield, and that is heavily weighed down by a Bub Means drop, but he went 6-of-7 for 143 yards (20.4 yards per attempt) on throws between 10-19 yards.
Konata Mumpfield is a Star
In a quietly excellent debut, Mumpfield hauled in five receptions for 71 yards — a touch over 14 yards per catch.
The Akron transfer is Pitt’s most talented wide receiver, and while he wasn’t given a true chance to shine Thursday night, he made the most of each of his targets. He’s an ultra-smooth route runner with strong hands and enough burst and quickness to find himself open on every route he runs.
Konata Mumpfield is a skilled and nuanced route runner that just moves like a pro
5/71 in his Pitt debut showing off a solid rapport with Kedon Slovis
— Joe O’Leary (@TheHQNerd) September 2, 2022
Mumpfield lined up inside (47% of his snaps) and outside (53% of his snaps) to test WVU’s underrated secondary. He only averaged two yards after catch per reception, but most of his work came in hauling in targets down the sideline.
With an average depth of target of 13 yards, his 2.37 yards per route run — with just a long gain of just 20 yards — showed his efficiency. And his two contested catches in two attempts — with zero drops — backed that up.
The deep ball, with just one target Thursday night, wasn’t there, but Mumpfield caught all four of his targets in the 10–19-yard range — racking up 64 yards and four first downs.
When the deep ball arrives, the passing offense works itself out, this is a receiver who will rake in the yards.
Taylor, Zubovic Show Offensive Line Has Legit Depth
Branson Taylor and Blake Zubovic received five pass blocking opportunities each Thursday night, and the shut down the WVU pass rush as the right tackle and guard, respectively.
Taylor jumped into the game on Pitt’s final offensive possession, and his continued progression through the summer was cause for excitement, but his actual on-field play in crunch time of the Backyard Brawl is reason for legitimate celebration.
He was a rock in pass protection on Pitt’s best drive of the night, helping to allow Slovis to drive Pitt’s offense down the field to score a game-tying touchdown.
It was a poor night across the board for Pitt’s offense line, especially when it came to Jake Kradel and Matt Goncalves on the right side of the line, but Zubovic and Taylor offer legitimate competition and — now — production.
Warren took every snap at left tackle; Minor took every snap at left guard and Drexel took every snap at center. Jake Kradel took snaps at right guard and extra offensive lineman, to go along with Zubovic, and Goncalves and Taylor took right tackle snaps.
M.J. Devonshire Isn’t One Trick Pony
M.J. Devonshire will forever be known for his game-winning pick-six against West Virginia in the 105th Backyard Brawl, but his performance Thursday night was far from just one play.
THIS. IS. THE. BACKYARD. BRAWL.
PITT SIX 🙌 @Mjdevonshirejr
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) September 2, 2022
Devonshire didn’t start against WVU, but he did rack up 43 defensive snaps, including 26 in coverage, and he didn’t disappoint. He racked up three tackles, but on seven targets, he allowed just three receptions for 19 yards with a long of nine yards.
Devonshire broke up two passes, and of course, he grabbed the interception of the hands of WVU’s Bryce Ford-Wheaton and raced back 56 yards through the defense for a crucial, game-winning touchdown. According to PFF, Devonshire accrued a team-low 10.7 NFL passer rating against.
With Marquis Williams, A.J. Woods and Rashad Battle alongside him, Devonshire has a deep, veteran unit of cornerbacks, but if his Week 1 performance is any indication, it’s a breakout watch for Devonshire.
John Morgan Carries QBK Against West Virginia
With just three sacks against WVU’s J.T. Daniels, it wasn’t the best game when it came to rushing the quarterback. Except for Morgan.
If Devonshire has a breakout watch in the secondary, Morgan’s own star-studded 2022 debut has shown the same. He was perhaps the best overall player on the roster Thursday, and it came courtesy of four tackles, three tackles for loss and a strip-sack.
Morgan wrecked WVU’s offensive line, showing his pass rushing capabilities on a roster that features Habakkuk Baldonado, Calijah Kancey, Dayon Hayes, SirVocea Dennis and so many more, and if he’s a legitimate breakout candidate, the defense is that much better.
Morgan’s six quarterback pressures tied Dennis for a team-high, and his five hurries led the team. With a 12.5%-win rate against WVU’s defense, he consistently got after Daniels.
If Morgan can build off a strong senior season last season, Pitt’s pash rushing unit that has the motivation to lead college football in both sacks and tackles for loss can be that much better.