Connect with us

Pitt Football

Five Takeaways: Pitt Handled Business Against Wofford

Published

on

Pitt wide receivers Zion Fowler-El and Jake McConnachie.

PITTSBURGH — It’s hard to be mad — or take much stock, really — in a win over an FCS opponent like Wofford, but Pitt came out and handled its business in exactly the way it should have.

A 45-7 win in which the offense moved the ball pretty well throughout, and the defense completely suffocated Wofford quarterback Bryce Corriston is what you wanted to see. It wasn’t the explosive, high-powered passing attack that some may have wanted, but Pat Narduzzi was never going to let Frank Cignetti Jr. open the playbook up.

And Pitt didn’t need to.

“I don’t know if it could have been a better first half the way our guys played and came out and played a solid second half,” Narduzzi said after Saturday’s win. “We got a lot of guys to play today.”

It was a game that Narduzzi felt Pitt could’ve done whatever it wanted, and in some aspects, it did. Other aspects still need some work as Pitt now faces down a schedule that features 11 straight Power Five opponents. So, let’s look at a few takeaways from the Wofford win.

Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Christian Veilleux (11) September 2, 2023 David Hague/PSN

A Win is a Win 

Pitt certainly did not pull out all the stops against Wofford, running a very vanilla offense for a lot of the game against the Terriers and not truly testing the deep ball, but it was a win.

“Game one under our belt,” Narduzzi said. “You know, we talked earlier in the week, I think it was Wednesday morning, just about what kind of team we were, what kind of material do we have. We were able to come out here and play an FCS team and play the way we’re supposed to. Not play down; play up.”

If there’s one thing Pitt has had the misfortune of doing under Narduzzi, it’s been to lose games it had no business losing. Wofford would’ve been inexcusable, and now that’s water under the bridge after a 37-point win in the opening weekend.

There were some positives throughout the performance, especially defensively, but Pitt’s offense took a balanced approach that spread the football to its playmakers, ran well behind the offensive line and showed some flashes of good quarterback play with Phil Jurkovec.

And. There were no blocked punts either. That’s already progress.

Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Phil Jurkovec (5) September 2, 2023 David Hague/PSN

Phil Jurkovec Offers More With His Legs

A few boo-birds flew as Frank Cignetti Jr. called a quarterback draw on a 3rd-and-22 early in the first quarter, with Phil Jurkovec managing just a yard or two. It’s a good thing that play wasn’t indicative of Jurkovec’s whole afternoon of work.

He completed 17-of-23 pass attempts for 214 yards (74%) with a touchdown. And he added 41 yards and another score on the ground. It was an efficient, largely mistake-free day of football after that poor opening drive. And Narduzzi chalked it up to just shaking the rust off.

“The first drive, I told him that one doesn’t count,” Narduzzi said. “We just came out and whatever, but that happens sometimes.”

Jurkovec completed passes to nine different targets Saturday, Konata Mumpfield leading the way with three receptions and Bub Means leading the way with 39 yards, and he looked more and more comfortable in the pocket as the game wore on. He’s a large human being at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, and it may not look like he’s motoring out there, but he can move.

His off-platform play was important to see even against an inferior opponent in Wofford. And his 23-yard touchdown trot was nine yards longer than Kedon Slovis’ longest rushing attempt last season. His 41 rushing yards were more than the entire Wofford offense late in the third quarter.

“I thought Phil was really good,” Narduzzi said. “I thought executed the game plan. I wish they were out a couple of times late instead of trying to throw. You know, grass in front of him. He is such a good runner, let him run. There’s nothing that defense hates more than scrambling out of the pocket, decent coverage, and then you throw an incomplete pass.

“So, that’s something we’ll clean up. He is smart, and he just hadn’t had an opportunity to run very much in practice. That’s something that comes with going out there and taking your first hit as a quarterback.”

Narduzzi was ‘really, really happy’ with Jurkovec’s performance Saturday. I don’t know if that’s how I would describe it, but he showed some encouraging signs Saturday — things Pitt didn’t have last season.

He isn’t going to come out and throw tight, tight spirals, but if he can get the football where it needs to go and extend plays with his legs, he doesn’t need to.

Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker Bangally Kamara (11) September 2, 2023 David Hague/PSN

A Nearly Perfect Defensive Performance 

Deandre Jules looked like he was shot out of a cannon on Pitt’s first defensive snap, and as a 6-foot-3, 310-pound cannonball, Wofford’s offensive line couldn’t stop him.

Jules ripped through the Wofford line, flushed Corriston out of the pocket and into the waiting arms of Dayon Hayes. Sack. He followed it up by once again exploding through the line, dragging Wofford running back Ryan Ingram down for a four-yard loss. It led to the first three and out of the afternoon.

“There was a lot of three-and-outs,” Narduzzi said. “That’s what you love. I don’t know what the time of possession was today, but it was pretty large, I think …

“When your defense is going three-and-out, and your offense is driving the football and converting fourth downs, I think it’s going to be a good day for you.”

Pitt forced four three-and-outs Saturday, burning just over eight minutes and allowing -5 yards on those four possessions. Another three-play possession ended with a fumble. It was a 41:33 to 18.27 time of possession advantage for Pitt.

If the referees had called a push-off on Wofford wideout Tyler Parker’s 75-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, the Terriers would’ve managed just about 50 yards of total offense. The Terriers didn’t even break even rushing, managing -1 yards.

“Again, just like the receivers and the tight ends, there’s a lot of guys that made plays on defense as well,” Narduzzi said. “Up front, whether it’s Bangally with a sack and Sam O had one. So, there was a lot of good things out there. We’ll go back and watch the tape and see. There was a couple of times the ball got onto the edge that we don’t want to see, but we’ll evaluate it.”

It was a dominant defensive effort, across all three phases of the defense, that was to be expected. There was an expectation, and Pitt delivered defensively.

Dayon Hayes — four tackles (two solo), a tackle for loss and a sack

Bam Brima — two tackles (one solo), a tackle for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.

Samuel Okunlola — one tackle (one solo), a tackle for loss and a sack

Bangally Kamara — four tackles (two solo), a tackle for loss and a sack

Deandre Jules — two tackles (one solo) and a tackle for loss

Solomon DeShields — two tackles (two solo) and a tackle for loss

Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Kenny Johnson (2) September 2, 2023 David Hague/PSN

Depth Shines Across the Roster 

Christian Veilleux threw a 39-yard touchdown to Jake McConnachie on a drive that featured passes to Kenny Johnson and Zion Fowler-El and key rush attempts from Montravius Lloyd. That’s the future of Pitt’s offense on display.

Lloyd carried the ball five times for 20 yards, adding a 7-yard first down conversion on a nice route, and Che Nwabuko turned a trick play into a 24-yard rush of his own. Johnson caught two passes, Jake Renda caught two passes, Zion Fowler-El caught two passes. It was the kids on display throughout the fourth quarter.

“There’s competition now,” Narduzzi said. “Some of the young guys come out there and do something better than maybe one of the older guys, like, hey, watch out. We’re going to keep getting them reps.

“The depth is huge. It gives you competition at every position. I think we talked all through August we were happy with the depth. Primarily we stayed pretty healthy as well. So, we have to keep that going.”

And there was just as much depth on display defensively as Kyle Louis, Nick Lapi and Braylan Lovelace received snaps at linebacker, and Ryland Gandy and Steph Hall each received playing time. It’s hard to think of Okunlola as a kid anymore, but he received snaps with Elliot Donald and Isaiah Neal and Jimmy Scott.

There’s a lot of young talent on the roster, and there’s a chance that this will be the extent of their playing time when it comes to this season, but it’s always nice to get the young players a bit of actual experience when possible — and it’s even nicer when that experience is good experience.

We’ll Get Better 

I think Pitt should be encouraged by its efforts against Wofford. A 38-point win is impressive regardless of the opponent, and it could’ve very easily been a shutout, too.

Yes, it was against a Wofford squad that didn’t offer much resistance, but Pitt has a game under its belt, there don’t appear to be any major injuries and there’s a chance to start a winning streak against Cincinnati now next weekend. But Narduzzi knows there are plenty of things to improve upon.

“There will be so much we have to — there will be so much that could have been better,” Narduzzi said. “Don’t get me wrong. When we watch the tape, we’re going to nitpick, and we’ll get better from game one to game two, I guarantee you that. There’s a lot of things we can clean up, for sure.”

It’s hard to take too much stock in games against FCS opponents, but it was a tune-up that Narduzzi and the coaching staff will use to get better as a squad. They’ll certainly need to.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
2 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Denny
Denny
10 months ago

Super Article! H2P

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
10 months ago

45-7 is a 38 point win. Hire an editor that is proficient at first grade level math

Get PSN in your inbox!

Enter your email and get all of our posts delivered straight to your inbox.

 
Like Pittsburgh Sports Now on Facebook!
Send this to a friend