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Pitt Preparing for Wofford Like it Would Any Other Opponent



Former Pitt football offensive coordinator Shawn Watson

Pitt has never played a football game against Wofford, but that’s gonna change on Saturday afternoon when new head coach Shawn Watson and the Terriers come to town.

It isn’t quite the Backyard Brawl, but it is yet another season opener for Pitt. And Pitt’s approach to preparation isn’t changed in any way.

“We take every team the same way,” Bub Means said after practice Tuesday. “We respect all of our opponents, we don’t care who it is, we don’t let up. We prepare the same way, we go out there and expect to execute the same way no matter the opponent, no matter the jersey. We go and play for Pitt, put on for Pitt.”

Wofford is coming off a 3-8 season, with all three wins coming after former Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson took over for former Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin midway through the 2022 season. It’s been a tough run for the Terriers since the COVID-19-enforced spring season in 2021.

After a 1-4 spring slate of games, Wofford went 1-10 in the actual 2021 season. And after an 0-5 start in 2022, Conklin and Wofford parted ways.

It’s hard for Pat Narduzzi and the coaching staff to evaluate this season’s Wofford squad simply because there’s so much uncertainty across the roster.

“It starts with the quarterback, and I kind of talked a bit about him,” Narduzzi said Thursday. “It’s hard to tell. I think their offensive line is pretty good, I think they’ve got four guys who have played a lot. Some of them didn’t finish the season, so you’re not watching a lot of early tape because it was a different kind of offense as the season went on.

“But I think both of their tackles are solid players. The quarterback is good. They’ve got guys who make plays on defense. They’re a good football team, and we’ll find out, but you never know what you’re dealing with until you get there. It’s not a team that you’ve got a lot of information on either way.”

Wofford switched to a spread offense last season, and starting quarterback Jimmy Weirich set records for passing attempts (322), completions (187), passing yards (2,480) in a single season. But he plays at TCU now.

Bryce Corriston is listed as Wofford’s starting quarterback on its preseason depth chart, but he threw just two passes last season, with more interceptions (1) than completions (0). He played in eight games in 2021, completing 18-of-41 pass attempts (44%) for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He does offer somewhat of a dual-threat at quarterback, but there isn’t a whole lot of him to watch.

“We have 21 snaps of the quarterback we expect to start,” Narduzzi said. “I think 18 or 19 of them are from the COVID-19 year in the spring season, not spring ball but the spring season because that’s when they played. So, those are what we have to deal with there. The backup, we believe, is a true freshman. We go back and watch Hudl tape, good player, but you’re watching high school football tape.”

Ryan Ingram and Kyle Parsons will form a duo at running back, as the Terriers return four of their five leading rushers from 2022, and the wide receiving corps will attempt to fill the void left by last season’s leading receiver Landon Parker. Dylan Diete is the top returning receiver on the roster, and he’s joined by Kyle Pinnix (11-135-1), Alec Holt (4-42) and Kyle Watkins (11-130-1). 


Former Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and Pitt football HC Pat Narduzzi

It’s a Watson-led team, and he serves as the head coach and offensive coordinator, so make of that point what you will. Narduzzi doesn’t think a prior relationship has any sort of relevance Saturday — at least at an actual football level.

“Offense is offense,” Narduzzi said. “They’re going to do different things. I don’t think that it helps you a bit. I know who Shawn is, I know where his heart is. I know what kind of person he is. But as far as what they are going to try to do, defensively, we went back and watched some spring and fall scrimmages, but no one really game plans like that for a game.”

Narduzzi just wants Pitt to come out and execute as it would if it were Wofford or Georgia or West Virginia lined up across the field.

“We’re gonna have to do what we normally do,” Narduzzi said. “They run some unbalanced formations, which we’ll have to do a good job of communicating, but every formation takes communication. I don’t care if it’s two tight ends and two backs, empty formation, we’re gonna have to communicate. That’s what we do, be loud in communicating — that’s one of the keys to victory really. Offensively and defensively.”

From that defensive standpoint, especially when it comes to the defensive backs matching up with the Wofford wide receivers, Archie Collins echoed Narduzzi’s sentiments. It’s about making the right reads, and those right fits, and he has confidence in the unit to execute as needed.

“Obviously, they’ve got a couple of new pieces with their quarterback,” Collins said Tuesday. “Obviously, coach Watson was here back in 2017 and 18, so it will be interesting to see what he wants to come out and try to do.

“But we’ll be ready for it based on our preparation because what we’re trying to focus on is being really fundamental. … If we do that good stuff, I think whatever they bring to the table, we should be ready for.”

It’s an FCS opponent at the end of the day, and as much as the Pitt coaching staff and its players say they respect every opponent, there’s an expectation that it’s a tune-up game.

Phil Jurkovec and the Pitt offense aren’t going to come out and start unloading on the Terriers’ defense. Narduzzi doesn’t really know what to expect out of the Wofford defense himself, so he wants to take a quarter, see what looks his squad is receiving and adjust from there. He wants to take what is given.

“I think first off, we want to come out and establish the run,” Narduzzi said. “We’ll see that, and it depends on what they’re giving us. A year ago when we opened up — then we played … Rhode Island, they were playing back deep, and it was like, ‘Hey, we’re going to run the ball. They wanted us to run the ball because they didn’t want the ball to go over their head, so we’ll find out how they’re playing and decide based on that.”

A season-opening win is the No. 1 priority, but walking away Saturday night with a win, no injuries and a bit of cohesion offensively and defensively should be the goal.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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