clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pitt-UVA Preview: Q&A with Cardiac Hill

Are we heading towards a shootout on Saturday? Anson Whaley from Cardiac Hill chats this weekend’s matchup with Pitt.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh
Panthers and Hoos to clash in Charlottesville Saturday.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoos are back in action this weekend as Pitt comes to town for a tussle. In order to better under our feline foes, we reached out to Anson Whaley (@AnsonWhaley) of Cardiac Hill (@PittPantherBlog) to answer some hard-hitting questions.

You can check out my replies to his questions here.

STL: The Panthers sit 1-1 in the ACC after two VERY close conference games with a loss to UNC (37-36) and a win over Georgia Tech (37-34). Where does the Pitt fan base stand on grading their performance so far? What can you glean from this team at this point in the season?

AW: I actually wrote a midseason article sort of addressing this point. Through six games, it's hard to not be encouraged by the Panthers' play so far. They've already had difficult games against Penn State, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, and to be 4-2 at this point is pretty solid. In hindsight, it's a little frustrating considering that they could be 5-1 or even 6-0 with a few more plays. But all things considered, 4-2 is a decent start for them.

At this point, I think we all know that Pitt can score points. It's how they play defensively that will determine where they finish.

STL: James Conner is a heckuva player and a helluva dude. He's got 441 yards on the season and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. What's the biggest key to stopping him? What kind of support and space creation has he gotten from the offensive line?

AW: Conner is a solid back and also benefiting from having a great offensive line. That's not to take anything away from him at all, but the line has two guys that will be drafted next year (maybe even relatively high) and another one or two that could be taken when their careers are over. His strength makes him difficult to bring down and he has the tendency to wear out opposing defenses. Conner isn't as good as he was back in 2014 when he was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and is losing some carries to true freshman Chawntez Moss, who has been very good. But he's still a punishing running back that will make plays and one thing I like that they've done is use him in the passing game a bit more to get him the ball in open space.

STL: Nate Peterman is no slouch in the pocket with 1115 yards, 9 TD, and just two interceptions this season, completing 65% of his pass attempts. The Hoos had five interceptions, seven pass breakups, three QB hurries, and two sacks against Duke's (freshman) QB. How has your pass protection been, and who should we be looking out for besides Weah?

AW: The pass protection has been very good, but Pitt's passing game has only been average at best. It's come on a bit in recent weeks, but they still could be doing a little more. Aside from Weah, there's Quadree Henderson, who's tied with Weah for the team lead in receptions (17). Weah has been a bigger downfield threat but Henderson has developed into a star since he does so much in the running game. He's second on the team in rushing yardage and is among the nation's leaders in terms of all-purpose yardage because of his work on special teams returns. He's a dangerous playmaker that has been crucial to the offense.

Another guy to watch is tight end Scott Orndoff. He's, in my estimation, a very good receiver and they'll even look for him on deeper routes from time to time. He's second on the team in terms of yardage and has been a touchdown target when they get down near the end zone throughout his career.

STL: Defensively, y'all have struggled with the secondary. How do you see Pitt slowing down Kurt Benkert and the Virginia offense that has apparently remembered how to offense in the last two games?

AW: That's clearly the biggest concern for Pitt fans and even if the secondary plays better, I imagine Benkert will still get his fair share of plays against them. I like Pitt's offense to carry them but at some point, they'll have to make plays defensively. Third down will be absolutely crucial for them, but they also need to avoid giving up the big passing plays - something they do in pretty much every game.

The Panthers' pass rush will be a big part of that and those guys have been solid, led by Ejuan Price who leads the country in sacks with 8 1/2. But if the secondary doesn't play better this week, it could be a very long day for them.

STL: Who are some names to know for Pitt's defense?

AW: Price is the top guy there at defensive end, who has created all sorts of havoc. In the secondary is safety Jordan Whitehead, who was last year's ACC Rookie of the Year. He's dropped off a little so far this season as the secondary has been exposed, but he's still very capable. Those are the top two names, although defensive tackles Shakir Soto and Tyrique Jarrett have been particular good against the run.

STL: Will you guys wear those throwbacks again? They were awesome.

AW: The short answer is, 'almost certainly.' Pitt said earlier this year they were going to leave it up to the players if they brought them back and by all accounts, the players love them. How often they do so is the big question. A lot of fans want them as the regular, full-time uniforms. They're not scheduled to wear them again this season and it could be an annual thing. I don't know that they'll ever bring them back full time but my guess is that we'll definitely see them again in the near future. The buzz has been too great to ignore and when you have national media talking about them as they were this past weekend, that's a sign that they're very marketable.

STL: What's your prediction for the game?

AW: Virginia's passing game gives me a lot of cause of concern, but so far this year, Pitt has played well as a whole. Even when other passing offenses have gained a lot of yardage, the Panthers still scored enough to be right there. I expect that Virginia will score a good amount of points but the Panthers will do that, too, and get a few stops. I'll take Pitt, 38-31.

Huge thanks to Anson for taking the time out to answer our questions! Game kicks off at 12:30 in Charlottesville and will be televised by the ACC Network!