Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Enrollment: 28,664 (undergraduates and post graduates)
Panthers Football Facts
Home Stadium: Heinz Field (Capacity 68,400)
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi, 4th season, 21-17 (.553)
Conference: ACC Conference (Coastal Division)
Overall Bowl Record: 13-20 (.394)
Conference Titles: 2 (2004, 2010 – Big East)
Claimed National Titles: 10 (1910, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1936, 1937, 1976)
First Game: November 6, 1893 (Penn State won 32-0)
Last Game: September 9, 2017 (Penn State won 33-14)
Overall: In 98 total meetings, Penn State leads 51-43, 4 ties
Current Streak: Penn State, 1
Last Season (5-7 overall, 3-5 ACC Conference)
In 2017, the Pittsburgh Panthers started the season with a solid 28-21 win over then No. 9 Youngstown State, but lost their next three to No. 4 Penn State, No. 9 Oklahoma State and against Georgia Tech. The Panthers came back to defeat Rice, then lose to Syracuse and then No. 20 NC State. Pitt then defeated Duke and Virginia, lost to North Carolina and Virginia Tech, but ended the season with an unbelievable upset win over No. 2 Miami.
Recruiting and Offseason
The Pitt Panthers’ 2018 class ranks as the nation’s 46th recruiting class (eighth in the ACC) as compared to Penn State’s 2018 class, ranked at sixth in the nation and second in the Big10 (per 247 Sports)
The Panthers are off to a good start with a 33-7 win over the Albany Great Danes in their season opener. Pitt sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett threw two touchdowns and ran for another and finished 16 of 22 for 154 yards. Receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes had two touchdowns in the second quarter and wide receiver Maurice Ffrench returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, and later added a nine-yard touchdown run. Tailback Qadree Ollison had 73 yards for an average of 10.4 yards per carry in the win. Overall, Pitt rushed for 238 yards as a team.
On defense, Saleem Brightwell had 5 tackles, and Jazzee Stocker and Dennis Briggs each had 4 tackles.
Vincent Testaverde, son of former NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde, passed for 263 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in his first start for Albany.
In 2017, the Panthers averaged 366 yards and 24 points per game, and were 97th in total offense, 73rd in passing offense, and 85th in rushing offense.
But Pitt looks to have a decent quarterback in Kenny Pickett who was 39 of 66 (59.1%) for 509 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception as a backup in 2017 and played a large role in Pitt’s win over of No. 2 Miami. He also rushed for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2017 so expect to see him run the ball a little, too.
Pickett’s top target in the air will likely remain senior Rafael Araujo-Lopes who last year had 43 receptions for 531 yards and 2 touchdowns. Their receivers are young but keep an eye on freshman Dontavius Butler-Jenkins and sophomore Taysir Mack who was a transfer from Indiana and was ruled to be eligible to play immediately in 2018. Mack had 23 receptions for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns for Indiana in 2017.
The Panthers’ top rushers this year will remain senior Darrin Hall (128 attempts, 628 yards ,9 touchdowns rushing- and 16 receptions, 157 yards and 1 touchdown receiving in 2017). He’s joined by Qadree Ollison who last year claimed 90 attempts for 398 yards, 5 touchdowns and had 23 receptions for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Pitt’s offensive line lost key players this spring and summer, with just two of their top offensive linemen returning in redshirt sophomore center Jimmy Morrissey and guard Alex Bookser (who also has starts at right tackle). However, senior guards Mike Herndon and Connor Dintino, and senior graduate transfer Stefano Millin from Kent State, although largely untested, bring maturity to the unit
Last year, Pittsburgh was 69th in total defense, 41st in rushing defense, 105th in passing yards allowed and 65th in scoring defense in FBS.
The Panthers are looking to improve those stats with the return of key players, including the linebacker unit that brings back senior linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu (leading tackler in 2017 with 94 tackles, 11.5 TFLs and 5 sacks) and junior linebacker Saleem Brightwell who last year was second on the team with 73 tackles 5 TFLs and 1 interception. Also keep an eye on seniors Quintin Wirgins (who missed last year with an injury) and Elijah Zeise.
Standout defensive tackle Keyshon Camp, only a sophomore, had two tackles last week and 19 last year as a freshman. Defensive tackle Amir Watts, defensive end Rashard Weaver return along with seniors nose tackle Shane Roy and defensive end Dewayne Hendrix
Pitt is returning some experience in the secondary, including safeties Dennis Briggs, Damar Hamlin and Jazzee Stocker who return along with senior cornerbacks Phillippie Motley, junior Dane Jackson and sophomore Damarri Mathis.
Pitt’s punter is a redshirt freshman and a native of Australia, Kirk Christodoulou. Kicker Alex Kessman last year was 100% on extra points and 11 for 19 for 58/9% for 67 points last year and returns this year for the Panthers.
Look for Maurice Ffrench as a kickoff returner (2 returns 11 yards last year) who could repeat his 91-yard return from the win over Albany last week if Penn State’s defense isn’t watching.
Check out more about Panthers football at Cardiac Hill, the Pitt SB Nation blog.