The Pittsburgh Panthers are a team for UNC to watch out for. They are a solid squad coming off a huge win against #23-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday. Pittsburgh has two receivers with six touchdowns apiece, two running backs with five or more touchdowns apiece, and a quarterback with 16 touchdowns and over 2,000 passing yards on his resume. They sit at 5-4 and have only lost to #11 ranked Florida State, #24 ranked Virginia Tech, Navy, and a strong Georgia Tech team (that beat UNC earlier this season). UNC will have its work cut out for themselves in this game.
Emphasis #1: Get Tom Savage’s jersey dirty
Pitt sits 69th ranked in the nation with 225 passing yards a game. This is due to Pitt’s senior quarterback, Tom Savage, slinging the rock all over the field to the tune of 16 touchdowns and 2,000 yards so far. He’s a big body (6’5’’, 230 pounds) and Pennsylvania native playing in his second to last home game.
The way UNC disrupts Pitt is by shutting down their best weapon. This means using Savage’s big size against him. Big quarterbacks are often not very mobile. The defensive line must get in Tom’s face, as well as the linebackers having to blitz early and often. This is critical in the first half of the game. Get the senior quarterback off rhythm and the team follows. Or, as they say, cut the head off the snake.
Emphasis #2: Get physical with Receivers’ Devin Street and Tyler Boyd
Street is a senior wide receiver with 44 receptions and 766 yards. He averages 17.4 yards per catch this season. He’s 6’4’’, 190. Boyd is 6’2’’, 185. He’s a freshman force to be reckoned with, at 53 receptions for 729 yards. Both young men have six touchdowns apiece and both are Pennsylvania natives.
They’re both big receivers. However, they’re not thick. They’re thin. UNC should put their toughest secondary players on these guys and play them tight. Get into their uniforms. Talk some trash within the confines of the game. Get them to focus energy on anger instead of offensive strategy. Most of all, make them think twice about getting hit.
With UNC rushing the quarterback the way they should, Pitt will move to three and five-step drops. This will mean Chapel Hill’s linebackers will most likely be put in positions to make tackles. This is good for UNC. The bigger the body that hits the top two receivers, the more punishment they inflict—not to injure, just within the confines of the game and rattle them. Chapel Hill will not win if they let Street and Boyd average 15-plus yards per catch. They must win the battle at the line.
Emphasis #3: Marquise Williams needs to be careful with the ball
Pittsburgh intercepted Notre Dame twice in the fourth quarter to seal their win over the #23-ranked team in the land.
Now, Williams looked good against Virginia in the 45-14 win against the Cavs. He did. The sophomore rose to the occasion when his number was called and threw two touchdowns. Marquise was 15 of 28 (53%) for 185 yards and he also gave another dimension to UNC’s system—a consistent running threat. He found a pay dirt touchdown with his feet to the tune of 16 rushes for 46 yards. These are all positives.
However, Virginia is most definitely not Pittsburgh. The Panthers sealed the victory a top-25 team by having an opportunistic secondary. Williams threw an interception against UVA and Pitt is well aware that this game is his first big test by himself. They will throw different defensive looks and packages at the sophomore. He must be ready and he must be willing to throw the ball away instead of trying to squeeze it into a tight window. Pitt’s cornerbacks and safeties are too good. Their offense is too good…and our secondary is too shaky to give the Panthers any more shots downfield than they deserve.