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Storylines to Follow as Pitt Looks to Build Win Streak Against Wake Forest



A Pitt football lays on the turf on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now.) College Football

Pitt has not yet won on the road this season, but that can change as quickly as Saturday afternoon. As the Panthers take on Wake Forest Saturday, Pitt will look to notch its first win away from Acrisure Stadium and start a winning streak.

The win against No. 14 Louisville wasn’t perfect, but it showed that Pitt hasn’t given up this season. And the chance to build on that win arrives with the Demon Deacons.

So, let’s look at some storylines.

‘Christian’s a Baller’: How the New QB Has Impressed

It took Christian Veilleux six pass attempts to finally complete one Saturday night. And it wasn’t until Kenny Johnson took a jet sweep for six yards — the 10th Pitt offensive snap against Louisville — that the Panthers hit positive offensive yardage.

But Veilleux didn’t let any of it get to him. He stuck to what he’s been taught and when an opportunity arose, he took it — and it resulted in a 46-yard touchdown.

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a completion before that one, so I was just missing throws, being too antsy,” Veilleux said Saturday night following the win. “On that one, I got back there and I trusted it. I watched in the locker room, and it’s like I really stood back there and waited for him to get open and then got him the ball, and definitely getting that throw off settled me down and made me feel comfortable.”

Veilleux loaded up as the Cardinals’ pass rush closed in, stood in the pocket and took a hit to deliver a perfect ball to Bub Means on a deep post. It was a perfect play, and it breathed life back into a stagnant offense.

Means, who had his best game of the season Saturday with Veilleux under center, wasn’t surprised at all to see the offensive success.

‘Christian’s a Baller’: New Pitt Quarterback Impresses in First Career Start

The Spoken and Shown: What Goes Into Leading the Pitt WRs

It wasn’t so long ago that the Pitt wide receiving corps entered the season as a major question mark. No offense to Daejon Reynolds, who arrived from Florida over the winter, but there was an expectation that the Panthers would try to further supplement a room that lost Jared Wayne.

It didn’t happen.

When Pitt began camp in August, it was with Reynolds, Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means leading the way — the latter two more so than ever. But as camp unfolded, the four freshman wide receivers, Kenny Johnson in particular, stole the show.

And it seemed like it was either Pat Narduzzi or Frank Cignetti Jr. or Tiquan Underwood who brought up how the wide receivers were flashing every practice over the summer. OK… maybe the wide receivers wouldn’t be as much of a question mark as expected.

Well… Johnson certainly has made a name for himself, emerging as a true freshman who should be in Pitt’s long-term plans, but it’s taken just about a month and a half to establish any sort of consistency from the wide receivers.

The Spoken and the Shown: What Goes Into Leading the Pitt Wideouts

Pitt Defense Has Major Opportunity Against Leaky Wake Forest Line

If there’s an area where Wake Forest stands out offensively, it’s in sacks allowed.

That’s not exactly a stat you wanted to be known for — or lead the conference in (by a wide margin, with a bye week already in the books). But it’s not as if the Wake Forest offensive line has given up an unparalleled number of pressures and hurries this season either.

Wake Forest has allowed 68 pressures and 36 hurries (as opposed to 62 pressures and 38 hurries from the Pitt offensive line), but the Demon Deacons have allowed 29 sacks (sixth worst in the NCAA) and 4.83 sacks per game (third worst) this season. PFF credits the Deacons’ line with allowing 19 sacks. That’s 10 sacks that the quarterbacks played themselves into.

Wake Forest has not benefited from its play under center this season, that’s for sure.

Mitch Griffis — the opening day starter — was benched in the first half of Wake Forest’s loss to Virginia Tech last weekend, giving way to backup Michael Kern in the first half, and Griffis was forced back into the lineup after Kern left with a shoulder injury.

Kerns was ruled out against Pitt this weekend, and now Griffis is questionable with an injury of his own, too. That would leave Santino Marucci, a third-year sophomore with just six snaps under his belt, as the potential starter against Pitt. But no matter who it is, the Pitt defensive linemen and defensive backs have a massive opportunity.

Pitt Defense Has Major Opportunity Against Leaky Wake Forest Line

Pitt Reveals New All-White Uniform Combo 

There was speculation swirling that Pitt would be unveiling a new white helmet at some point this season, and it’s finally come to fruition as the Panthers will wear all-white this weekend.

Pitt football unveiled its uniform combo for Wake Forest Saturday afternoon, and it does include that white helmet.

The uniform combo features a white helmet with the “Cathedral Stripe” and blue script and an H2P on the faceplate, white jerseys with blue script and white pants with a blue stripe. It’s a new variation of the traditional road uniforms.

Pitt Reveals New All-White Uniforms for Wake Forest

M.J. Devonshire Channeled His Idol in Big Way 

Whenever Darrelle Revis comes around, M.J. Devonshire can’t help but get nervous — especially if he’s playing. But it doesn’t happen too often, not since the 2021 ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C.

And before that, it had been since his high school days at Aliquippa High School.

“One time in high school, we were playing Hopewell, and I was nervous like we were gonna lose, and I knew we were gonna win by a million, but when he comes around — being around him, it’s like this is my idol, he’s so humble, I got to tell the story of how he scored a million touchdowns in the state championship and then dropped 30 on Tuesday,” Devonshire said Saturday after knocking off Louisville.

Well, Revis was in the building at Acrisure Stadium — on the field technically — Saturday, and if Devonshire was nervous, he certainly didn’t show it on the field.

M.J. Devonshire Channeled His Idol in a Big Way Against Louisville

Who’s Playing Quarterback Against Pitt?

Wake Forest has had an interesting quarterback situation this season and that will continue as they face Pitt this Saturday at home.

Les Johns, of Demon Deacon Digest, reported Monday that Wake Forest is going ahead with redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Griffis as the starter against Pitt.

Griffis began 2023 as the starter for the Demon Deacons, but head coach Dave Clawson chose to bench him during the game against the Virginia Tech Hokies last Saturday due to performance. Redshirt junior Michael Kern came in against the Hokies, completing 14 of 22 passes for 166 yards, before suffering a right shoulder injury on a sack in the fourth quarter.

Griffis came back in for Kern, completing eight of his 17 passes for 61 yards and one interception in the 30-13 loss to Virginia Tech.

Report: Wake Forest QB Situation Settled Ahead of Matchup with Pitt

Pat Narduzzi Liked What He Saw From His New QB

No one can say Christian Veilleux played perfectly against Louisville — Veilleux himself wouldn’t even say that. But he did provide Pitt with a new look Saturday.

Veilleux, who made his first start in an upset win over No. 14 Louisville, provided Pitt with a winning look actually. He wasn’t perfect, no, but he didn’t actively drag the Panthers down. In fact, he did more than enough to lift Pitt toward a victory.

He completed 12-of-26 pass attempts for 200 yards and two touchdowns, and that’s not exactly a flashy stat line, but if you account for an 0-of-5 start and steady rain throughout the night Saturday, it was a pretty solid performance.

But Pat Narduzzi didn’t look back upon the performance and give the conditions much consideration. Instead, it was the Pitt personnel.

Pat Narduzzi Liked What He Saw in Christian Veilleux’s First Start

The Pitt Linebacking Corps is in Good Hands

Jordan Bass has been playing on special teams for Pitt this season, but he finally got a crack defensively against No. 14 Louisville over the weekend. And he couldn’t wait to tell Pat Narduzzi about it.

“Jordan was so excited,” Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly news conference. “He came up to me, ‘Coach, I got my reps in.’ I didn’t even know he was in there.

“As a matter of fact, when you watch the tape, I usually don’t look to say, ‘Let me watch how Jordan is doing.’ I’m usually looking for all the problems and who screwed up. When he was out there, I didn’t say, ‘What is Jordan doing?’ So he’s just going to keep getting better.”

Bass didn’t play a whole bunch defensively against Lousiville, just four snaps, but he recorded his first collegiate tackle — and he continued to receive a bigger workload on special teams.

He had a chance to make an impact — no matter the size — and he managed to do so.

The Pitt Linebacking Corps is in Good Hands Going Forward

Blake Zubovic’s Absence Wasn’t Because of Performance

Pitt put together one of its best blocking efforts against No. 14 Louisville over the weekend, giving up just one sack to the Cardinals’ pass rush, and it came with a very young offensive line combination.

Ryan Baer and Branson Taylor played — just about — every snap at right and left tackle, respectively, and the interior of BJ Williams, Terrence Moore and Jason Collier Jr. played every snap at their respective positions. The young line allowed just five pressures and four hurries against the Cards.

“Overall, pretty good,” Pat Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly news conference. “That front was a nasty front really. I think coming in — they did a good job neutralizing up front. Again, there are still fundamental things, a couple of ID issues as far as where we’re blocking to and the run game, but you give up one sack, you’re getting a little bit better, I’d say, based on what they — I don’t know what their sack total is on the year, how many they’re averaging a game, but I would imagine one is underneath their total. I don’t know how many times they got Hartman the week before, but it was quite a few times.”

The young offensive line had featured Blake Zubovic for much of the season, but he missed the game against the Cardinals Saturday.

Pitt OL Blake Zubovic Didn’t Miss Louisville Because of Performance

Pat Narduzzi: ‘(Sign Stealing) is not Good for the Game’ 

Pat Narduzzi knows that stealing signs in college football isn’t some sort of new trend. Its origins date back years and years, and Narduzzi himself has seen it happening since his days as the Cincinnati defensive coordinator in the mid-2000s.

As news of Michigan being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly stealing signs from its opponents broke Thursday afternoon, Narduzzi was asked about sign stealing in college football at his weekly press conference.

And he reflected upon a former Big East rival — he wouldn’t name the program — recording during games. It’s not a trend that Narduzzi likes, but he’s certain it’s still taking place around the country.

“You see our big tarps up out there,” Narduzzi said Thursday. “Let me tell you … I think it’s ridiculous what goes on, and it doesn’t shock me if it happened. Not accusing anybody, but to me, that’s been happening for a while, and I think it can happen with someone going to other games and watching stuff and stealing stuff.

“You can sit in Acrisure Stadium in row five on the 50-yard line and take a camera and video their sideline the whole time, and I’ve heard of people doing this, where you match up the video — ‘Here’s the signals for play 1, here’s play 1, here’s the signals for play 2, here’s play 2.’ And they go, ‘Oh, okay, when he taps his nose, it’s an inside zone, when he taps his ear, it’s an outside zone. Hey, outside, inside.’”

Pat Narduzzi on Sign Stealing in NCAA: ‘It’s Not Good for the Game’

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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