Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry had some interesting things to say about Pitt prior to their matchup this Saturday night in Blacksburg, Va.
Pry spoke to members of the media on Tuesday and spoke on his team, their performance so far and, of course, about the Panthers. When someone asked Pry what he sees in the Panthers ahead of their meeting, he had some
“They are physical,” Pry said. “They don’t do a whole lot. They’re pretty simple. I think everybody in the business kind of knows, they’re a little bit like Iowa that way. This is what they are defensively. This is who they are. They’re not going to change, but they’re going to be very good in what they do. That’s complemented by their commitment to the run game. Just staying on schedule and playing complimentary ball. I think he’s done a nice job there. He’s done a nice job recruiting. Despite a couple of injuries, they’re bringing a good football team in.
The comments on Pitt playing like Iowa, particularly on offense, are certainly not complimentary. Iowa currently has the second worst offense in the FBS in terms of yards per game, at 245.5, for teams with four games played. Pitt is the worst in the ACC and the second worst Power 5 team at 317.8 yards of offense per game themselves.
The Panthers offense has been poor, mostly due to the quarterback play in the most recent games. Redshirt senior Phil Jurkovec struggled mightily in losses against rivals Cincinnati and West Virginia in back-t0-back weekends. He completed just 10 of 32 passes, 31.3%, versus Cincinnati and then just eight of 20 passes, 40%, along with three interceptions in the Backyard Brawl.
He improved against then ranked No. 17 North Carolina last Saturday, completing 11 of 15 passes for 109 yards, but most of those passes came on screens and short throws. Jurkovec didn’t make it through the entirety of the game, as he took a big hit towards the end of the first half that forced him to the locker room.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Veilleux came in for Jurkovec, but also had a tough time in the loss to the Tar Heels. He completed just seven of 18 passes, 38.9%, and threw two interceptions in the 41-24 defeat at home last Saturday, Sept. 23.
Pry is preparing his Virginia Tech players to be ready for either quarterback to start on Saturday for Pitt. He also spoke on knowing Veilleux from his time at Penn State, where he spent eight seasons coaching various defensive positions.
“I think they’re very similar in what they would bring to the position, outside of the fact that Veilleux doesn’t have nearly the [amount of] experience,” Pry said. “Obviously, I know Christian from our time at Penn State. He’s a talented guy, he can run, he’s got a strong arm. He was one of the guys on our list as we were looking out in the [transfer] portal months ago. Jurkovec just has such good experiences and that would be the difference there. When you look at a young inexperienced guy, defending him, versus a guy that has seen much more.”
Iowa has also struggled with their quarterback play in Cade McNamara and their game plan under offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. McNamara is No. 120 out of 124 FBS quarterbacks with a completion percentage of 50.6, as he has made just 43 of his 85 throws. His 459 passing yards places him at No. 117 out of 130 FBS quarterbacks and his 114.75 passing yards per game at No. 119.
Iowa also ranks low in terms of rushing offense at No. 104 in the nation, with 474 total yards, good for 118.5 per game. Pitt ranks higher than them with 540 total rushing yards and 135.0 per game. That total is higher than Virginia Tech has for their running attack in 2023, with just 433 total yards, 108.3 per game.
Pitt used a legendary performance from Israel Abaniakanda last season to defeat Virginia Tech 45-29 at Acrisure Stadium. Abanikanda ran for a school record 320 yards and tied a school record with six rushing touchdowns in the victory.
Both teams come into this matchup 1-3 and looking for their first ACC win. With these comments from Pry, will the Pitt offense step up and show their potential they displayed in camp against Virginia Tech for the first conference win? Or will Pry’s comparison of Pitt’s offense to Iowa be correct?