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Breaking Down the Two Deep: Pitt at Penn State

Pitt’s depth chart heading into the PSU game on Saturday

Quarterback

  1. Max Browne 6’5” 230 Senior
  2. Ben DiNucci 6’2” 220 Sophomore

Max Browne won his first start in a Pitt uniform, and that’s about all there is to say about that. Browne’s performance was a bit underwhelming, but then again, the whole team’s was. He threw for 140 yards completing 17 of his 24 attempts. Browne was sacked three times and looked inaccurate and unwilling to take shots down field. He did have some nice throws, one that went to tight end, Matt Flanagan down the middle for a big gain and the game winner to Jester Weah.

You would like to see Browne play a little better for the rest of the season. He has a strong arm, it would be nice to see it. Penn State will try to eliminate the rushing offense and Henderson’s touches, so for Pitt to win, Browne is going to have to make some plays.

Running Back

  1. Qadree Ollison 6’2” 230 Junior
  2. Darrin Hall 5’11” 220 Junior

Same set up as last week, with Ollison as the starter and Hall the only reserve listed. Ollison had his moments in week one, for sure. He looks better out of the backfield as a receiver, and he seems a bit lighter on his feet than in prior years. The hurdle over the Youngstown State defender was rather impressive. Still, he lacks that big play threat sometimes. He’s a solid player, but I think there’s a reason multiple running backs will play this year also.

Darrin Hall made some nice runs and provided 52 yards on 13 carries. He seems to have more burst than Ollison, and changes the pace effectively. Beyond the top two, true freshman AJ Davis carried the ball 4 times for 8 yards and a touchdown, and interestingly enough he was in the game during crucial points, including a fourth and short and a goalline touchdown run. I expect to see Davis more and more, and we should see Chawntez Moss this week as well.

Fullback

  1. Colton Lively 6’0” 235 Senior
  2. Erik Sellers 6’1” 230 Sophomore

Pitt employed a fullback in some packages in week one, but Lively did not touch the ball. I still think the position changes without Aston, as he is able to do more than the average fullback.

Wide Receiver

  1. Jester Weah 6’3” 210 Senior // Quadree Henderson 5’8” 190 Junior
  2. Ruben Flowers III 6’3” 205 Freshman OR Aaron Mathews 6’4” 205 Sophomore // Maurice Ffrench 5’11” 190 Sophomore
  3. Rafael Araujo-Lopes 5’9” 190 Junior

The personnel is the same as last week, the only distinction that changes is that there is an “OR” between Ruben Flowers and Aaron Mathews as the top backup to Weah. Seems like an inconsequential move.

Jester Weah only had one catch, but it was a big one. He hauled in a touchdown in overtime to win the game. Weah probably should have had another touchdown, as he was seemingly interfered with in the back of the end zone in the first half. Penn State will look to key on Weah, but he’s proven last year he can still make plays in big games. The big question will be, Can Browne get him the ball?

Quadree Henderson was once again a better rusher than receiver. He totaled 77 rushing yards and just one catch for seven yards. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands, so Pitt will find ways to get him involved. Beyond that, Araujo-Lopes and Aaron Mathews each recorded a catch, while Maurice Ffrench had three. Someone besides the two starters needs to step up, and I still believe that will be Ffrench.

Tight End

  1. Matt Flanagan 6’6” 260 Senior
  2. Chris Clark 6’6” 260 Sophomore
  3. Devon Edwards 6’4” 275 Senior

Matt Flanagan had two catches for 35 yards, including a nice 30 yard play that set Pitt up inside the redzone. He was not known as a pass catcher coming from Rutgers, but it seems he has the ability to make plays. Chris Clark was used quite a bit, but primarily as a blocker. He has a lot of talent, and it will be interesting to see how he is used this week.

Also seeing action last week was Tyler Sear, the true freshman. Many thought it would be Charles Reeves to see the field among the incoming freshmen, but Sear brought down one pass for 10 yards.

Left Tackle

  1. Brian O’Neill 6’6” 305 Junior
  2. Tony Pilato 6’5” 320 Sophomore

Left Guard

  1. Alex Officer 6’4” 340 Senior
  2. Brandon Ford 6’5” 310 Freshman

Center

  1. Jimmy Morrissey 6’3” 300 Freshman
  2. Connor Dintino 6’3” 315 Junior

Right Guard

  1. Brandon Hodges 6’4” 315 Senior OR Alex Bookser 6’6” 315 Junior
  2. Mike Herndon 6’4” 310 Junior

Right Tackle

  1. Jaryd Jones-Smith 6’7” 320 Senior

Jerry Drake 6’5” 315 Freshman

After serving a one game suspension, Alex Bookser is back and is listed as an “OR” starter alongside Brandon Hodges at right guard. Bookser was a former four-star recruit that started every game last season. After Brian O’Neill, he is probably the second best lineman on the team. His presence will likely be a nice boost.

The line did not play great last week, but still opened some running lanes. Pitt rushed for 208 yards as a team, but it took them 53 carries to get there. They need to be more efficient this week. Browne was sacked three times, and some were his own doing, but Pitt can’t afford to allow sacks this week in what will be a hostile environment.

Defensive End

  1. Dewayne Hendrix 6’4” 260 Junior OR Rashad Weaver 6’5” 265 Freshman // Allen Edwards 6’5” 255 Senior
  2. James Folston Jr. 6’4” 250 Junior
  3. Patrick Jones II 6’5” 245 Freshman

Not a very impressive day for the defensive ends last week statistically. They were able to get some pressure on the YSU quarterback, but not nearly enough. They have to be better this week. Pitt’s win last year over Penn State was aided big time from Ejuan Price’s performance. He had multiple forced fumbles and really bothered McSorely. Pitt needs to find a pass rush this week if they want any chance of winning.

Nose Tackle

  1. Shane Roy 6’4” 280 Junior
  2. Rashad Wheeler 6’3” 290 Freshman
  3. Jaylen Twyman 6’2” 315 Freshman

Defensive Tackle

  1. Keyshon Camp 6’4” 290 Freshman
  2. Amir Watts 6’3” 285 Sophomore
  3. Kam Carter 6’4” 295 Sophomore

Pitt lists the same six guys as they did last week. Keyshon Camp got banged up a little, but returned later in the game. All six guys were used in a rotation, and they did not have a ton of production. Amir Watts had Pitt’s lone sack last week. Roy and Camp made a few tackles each, but nothing of great significance. Maybe we’ll see an inspired Kam Carter coming up against his former team on Saturday.

Money Linebacker

  1. Elijah Zeise 6’2” 230 Junior
  2. Jalen Williams 6’2” 215 Junior

Mike Linebacker

  1. Saleem Brightwell 6’0” 220 Sophomore
  2. Chase Pine 6’2” 240 Freshman

Star Linebacker

  1. Seun Idowu 6’0” 225 Junior
  2. Anthony McKee Jr. 6’2” 215 Sophomore
  3. Rimoni Dorsey 6’0” 195 Sophomore

All three starting linebackers made some plays last week. Still, this unit will be a work in progress throughout the season. There were multiple breakdowns in coverage against simple things like wheel routes out of the backfield. It will be tough enough to stay with Saquon Barkley as it is, but to blow an assignment against him will be a touchdown every time. This unit has to play better.

Pitt played OK against the run last week. Generally Narduzzi’s strength since coming to Pitt has been selling out against the run. It doesn’t always do Pitt favors against the pass, however. As we all know.

Cornerback

  1. Avonte Maddox 5’9” 180 Senior // Dane Jackson 6’0” 180 Sophomore OR Damarri Mathis 5’11” 185 Freshman
  2. Jason Pinnock 6’0” 190 Freshman
  3. Malik Henderson 6’0” 190 Sophomore

You hate to get too excited, but Pitt’s cornerbacks turned the backs and made plays on the ball last week. Hopefully that’s a trend that can continue. Of all the players last week, I thought Dane Jackson had a very nice performance. He showed some athleticism and ball skills. Again it was an FCS team, but Jackson seems to be a bit better than last year.

Strong Safety

  1. Dennis Briggs 5’10” 195 Junior
  2. Phil Campbell 6’1” 195 Freshman
  3. Henry Miller 6’3” 205 Freshman

Free Safety

  1. Bricen Garner 6’1” 180 Freshman OR Jazzee Stocker 6’2” 190 Sophomore

Dennis Briggs led Pitt in tackles last week, but that does not tell the whole story. He was beat a few times in coverage and did not have a great overall game. Overall, I liked what I see from Bricen Garner. Obviously he had the interception to win the game, but he did some other nice things. It’s still unfortunate Pitt is without Jordan Whitehead, who would likely make a big impact in this game.

Kicker - Alex Kessman 6’3” 190 Freshman

Punter - Ryan Winslow 6’6” 225 Senior

Long Snapper - Cal Adomitis 6’1” 210 Freshman

Alex Kessman was 0-2 from field goals, including won that would have won the game in regulation. Both misses were from under 40 yards, and that’s very concerning heading into Saturday.

Kick Returner - Quadree Henderson // Maurice Ffrench

Punt Returner - Quadree Henderson // Avonte Maddox

As expected, Henderson was pretty good in the return game. He did not break a deep one, but had a few nice returns that set Pitt up with good field position.

Against the Odds: Pitt heavy underdog against Penn State

Pitt faces Penn State this weekend in Happy Valley and you don't need me to tell you that they're big time underdogs.

Back in May, a line was released that had the Nittany Lions favored by 19 points. That seemed high for some people that considered it a rivalry contest that would be played much closer but now, with the game days away, the line is actually higher than it was before.

NCAA Sportsbook TopBet has the odds with the Panthers as a whopping 20.5-point underdog for this week's game.

That might seem high but the Panthers probably didn't do themselves any favors if they wanted to lower it after the first week of the season. Pitt grabbed an early 21-0 lead against Youngstown State but allowed the Penguins to come back and tie it before defeating them in overtime. Penn State, meanwhile, faced a higher-level opponent in Akron and pitched a shutout, winning handily, 52-0.

The odds for the Pitt-Penn State game are among the highest on the board in college football this week. NCAA Sportsbook TopBet has them as the 12th largest of all of the D-I games out there.

Pitt will have its hands full but, as we saw last year with the Clemson game, the Panthers have faced big odds on the road against a top team and pulled off an upset. Those odds?

Some books placed them at exactly 20.5 points.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Penn State no ordinary opponent for Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi

Judging by Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi's approach with restricting media access to his players, it's clear that he doesn't consider the Penn State game like any other. On Monday in his weekly press conference, he talked more about the rivalry with the Nittany Lions. While acknowledging that every game is in its own right a big one, there's little question that the Penn State one means a little more to him.

"Penn State game is a big game because it's an in-state rivalry game," explained Narduzzi. "It's important not only to the guys that sit in this room but the community out there, the state of Pennsylvania, to the city of Pittsburgh. It's a pride thing, and that's why it's big."

Narduzzi talked up other games like Oklahoma State and Youngstown State. And that's not even touching on the conference games, which are arguably the biggest of all. But the game against the Nittany Lions has all sorts of factors, including recruiting, the team's overall record, and just plain old pride.

And in case you weren't convinced where Narduzzi stood about the question of a rivalry from that first quote, he spoke more about it later in the presser.

"I'm not going to speak for them," Narduzzi said, regarding Penn State. "I know it's a rivalry game for us, but some people think it's a rivalry game, some people don't. It doesn't matter what they think. It just matters what we think, and if we think it is, then it is for us, and it doesn't have to be for them. It really doesn't. Everybody has different rivalries."

There's a lot to be said for that. Rivalries don't always have to be a two-way street. And, even though I think it's foolish of Penn State fans that don't consider Pitt a rival, at the end of the day, none of that matters. Pitt is clearly Penn State's biggest rival historically and, even if their side doesn't acknowledge it, it doesn't really change that fact.

Rivalry? Yes. Hatred? Narduzzi wasn't willing to take things that far.

"We're just going to play the game," he added. "We're just going to play football. There's no hate here. I know that. But I don't think there's any hate there, either."

I sort of chuckled when I heard that line and I'm doing the same now even as I think about it again. Do I buy that? I don't know. I guess there's a thin line between hatred and having a healthy dislike for a program.

My guess is that, ultimately, Narduzzi feels the way most Pitt fans do. We just really, really don't like the Nittany Lions. Do we hate them? Ask me Saturday.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pat Narduzzi discusses his decision to cut off media access for Penn State week

On Sunday, Pitt sent out a press release indicating that players would again not be available to the media for this week in advance to the Penn State game. That, of course, was met with complaints by the media and as I said earlier, I get all of that. Ultimately, though, I don't think it impacts the everyday fan very much, as I outlined in depth here.

In Monday at his weekly press conference, Narduzzi addressed the issue.

"Understand this has nothing to do with you guys, either," the Pitt coach said. "I love you guys. It has nothing to do with keeping you out, it's just keeping our kids tight. It has nothing to do -- as a matter of fact, after the game we'll give you more guys, win or lose. That's what we'll do. So it's not a matter of anything you guys did. I respect you guys."

Narduzzi also indicated it wasn't based out of a fear of his players saying the wrong thing.

"EJ (Borghetti) does a good job just teaching them how to talk to the media, and I don't worry," he continued. "If there's a guy that I would worry about something they'd say, I wouldn't let you have them anyway, so we could control that and I could just give you all the guys that I wouldn't worry about, but no, it has nothing to do with that, either.

I believe that. Now, I do think that by shutting off access to players, you avoid that entirely, so I think it's an added benefit. And as I said before, even if you don't believe a player will say something foolish, there's always that chance. But I take Narduzzi at his word when he says it's not really about that aspect.

Overall, Narduzzi says he just wants to keep the guys focused and, whether or not cutting off media access does that, he's well within his right to take that approach.

Now, one thing Narduzzi added, which will draw some ire is that, this may not even be a one time deal. If Pitt finds itself up against a big ACC game, for example, Narduzzi says he may take the same approach.

"There might be a real good chance of that, yeah," said Narduzzi when asked if the media could be blocked out again. "You know, why not? I didn't say it was -- I didn't give you a rule that we could only do it once a year. It's not like one and done. But yeah."

Essentially, I'm fine with the approach. But what I wouldn't want to see is this happening with any sort of regularity. Narduzzi owes it to the media that cover the team relentlessly to have some access to players. If this is happening week after week, that's a problem. And even beyond that, you're cutting off players' ability to learn how to work with the media, which some of them will need if they play in the pros. But do I have an issue with this on an irregular basis for a big game or two a year? Not really.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt linebacker Quintin Wirginis out for season

Pitt didn't suffer any major injuries in the Youngstown State game but the Panthers still announced a significant loss of a player on Monday.

Head coach Pat Narduzzi announced that the team will be without linebacker Quintin Wirginis for the season due to a non-football injury. As usual, he didn't elaborate much, but the plan is to now redshirt him.

"Quintin Wirginis will be out for the year with a non-football related injury, so after a suspension, we have an injury, so he's a guy that really is lost for the year," Narduzzi said at his weekly press conference. "Disappointing, but something we deal with. That's what we do. And obviously happy with how Saleem (Brightwell) played and led the defense out there Saturday, so we'll continue to go in that manner."

The year got off to a bad start for him when he was suspended along with Jordan Whitehead for the first three games of the year. Now, instead of returning, he'll just sit out the entire season.

Wirginis is a senior and, while not a starter, has been a valuable contributor for the team. He hasn't posted a ton of big numbers, but is a solid reserve for the team. He got onto the field as a true freshman in 2014 playing mostly special teams, blocked a punt in 2015, and last year, had four sacks and a fumble recovery. Wirginis was expected to challenge for a starting spot this year as a senior with Brightwell.

The loss of Wirginis hurts, obviously. Even if he didn't overtake Brightwell as the starter, he was still one of the team's top reserves and, from a depth and experience standpoint, will be missed.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt vs. Penn State Preview: Panthers will have their hands full with Nittany Lions

Last week, Pitt barely escaped with a 28-21 win in their opener against Youngstown State. The team's next opponent, Penn State, had far less trouble with Akron in a 52-0 romp.

Of course, there were some reasons for the Panthers' struggles. The team was playing shorthanded missing starters Alex Bookser and Jordan Whitehead, as well as linebacker Quintin Wirginis, due to suspensions. Pitt also ran seemingly as basic an offense as possible in an effort to not show their hand to Penn State. That strategy worked to perfection last year as the Nittany Lions were routinely caught off guard by what Pitt was doing after the Panthers also enjoyed a relatively easy victory against Villanova. But this year, it nearly cost them as they were forced to overtime by the Penguins. Pitt players admitted after the game that there was some easing up after a 21-0 lead against Youngstown State and that contributed to a game that was closer than expected.

While playing with those handicaps in the opening contest was ultimately overcome, Pitt, of course, will have their hands full with a top ten Penn State team that is expected to challenge for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Last season, Pitt defeated Penn State in a largely entertaining game, 42-39. This year's Pitt team, however, is drastically different.

Gone is Nathan Peterman, who has played well in the preseason and could be the Buffalo Bills starter if Tyrod Taylor can't get over injury issues. Gone is James Conner, who will be playing at Heinz Field this year, but with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Also gone are other 2017 NFL Draft Picks Dorian Johnson, Ejuan Price, and Adam Bisnowaty. The Panthers' offense, too, has changed with the team losing coordinator Matt Canada in the offseason to LSU. Defensively, Pitt brings an almost entirely new defensive line to Happy Valley and also suffered some other personnel losses. And to make matters worse, in addition to losing other key contributors from last year, the Panthers are also still without Whitehead at safety, who has two more games to go on his suspension. You shouldn't need me to tell you that the Panthers team that defeated Penn State last year is markedly different from this one but there it is.

By contrast, the Nittany Lions team that Pitt faced early last year is different, too. The Panthers were fortunate to catch Penn State earlier in the season as the Nittany Lions improved as the year went along and wound up winning a Big Ten championship before losing in the Rose Bowl. Penn State's team is largely the same but a year older and a year better.

The Nittany Lions' offense is what should really concern Pitt fans. Running back Saquon Barkley is a legit a Heisman contender and he had 172 rushing yards in limited work against Akron. While he's the best player on the team, he may not even have the biggest day against the Panthers as the Pitt secondary proved they have much work to be done after giving up over 300 passing yards to Youngstown State. Quarterback Trace McSorely and his talented receivers could have an absolute field day against Pitt on Saturday. That's particularly true with the Whitehead loss as he's the best player in Pitt's shaky secondary.

The teams aren't only different as the environment will be as well. Pitt will take their show on the road and play in front of what should be a hostile environment after playing to a mostly pro-Pitt crowd last season. One good thing is that the Panthers did that last year when they traveled to Clemson and played extremely well, winning and becoming the only team to defeat the Tigers in their national championship season. But as stated above, the Panthers were just a different team last season.

When you add everything up, Penn State has no reason not to win this game. The Nittany Lions aren't only expected to win, but to win big. The game opened back in May with Pitt as nearly three-touchdown underdogs. Everything is aligned for them this year and my stance now is the same as it was earlier this year:

If you're Penn State, you better win that game

Don't get me wrong, I fully expect them to do just that. But all of the pressure is on them and a loss to Pitt, while not ruining their season (as Clemson proved last year), would be an embarrassing thing to try to explain away to recruits and fans. If you're the Nittany Lions, this is a game you should and must win without question. Heck, even a close win would be considered a disappointment on some level since they will enter the game as such heavy favorites.

If there's one thing Pitt has going for them, they should be able to play looser. The Panthers won last year's game and shouldn't be facing anywhere near the pressure that Penn State has this season. Pitt has absolutely no reason to not throw everything out there and just play to win. Penn State will be doing the same, obviously, but Pitt has no reason to be tight and restricted in any way. Worst case scenario, you lose a game that many expected you to drop and you move on to another non-conference game before the ACC season begins. Get on the field, play your guts out, and make every play count.

None of that is to suggest Pitt has no shot here as bigger upsets have happened. The Panthers knocked off Clemson on the road last season and, in a heated rivalry game, shocked West Virginia in 2007 as they appeared to be headed to a national championship game. But if the Panthers are going to win, they'll need an incredibly strong performance, some turnovers, and probably a good bit of luck to pull off an upset here. Penn State has the better team and an added bit of motivation after losing last season's contest. And getting the game at home, there's little doubt as to why they are the big favorites going into this one.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Fake spike caps UCLA’s rally from 34-point deficit

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a page out of Dan Marino’s playbook as the Bruins rallied from a 34-point deficit to stun Texas A&M 45-44 on Sunday.

>> Read more trending news

The Aggies, trailing 44-38, had converted a fourth-and-6 play and 43 seconds remained when Rosen came to the line and appeared to call for a spike to stop the clock. Instead, Rosen lofted a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Lasley in the left corner of the end zone to tie the game, and UCLA converted the extra point to seal its improbable victory.

The touchdown pass capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive that started with 1:56 to play. Rosen led the Bruins on five straight touchdown drives in the second half. He passed for 491 yards and four touchdowns to erase a 44-10, third-quarter deficit.

Marino pulled off a similar play for the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 27, 1994. Trailing 24-21 with 38 seconds left, Miami had the ball on the New York Jets’ 8-yard line. Marino ran to the line of scrimmage and yelled “clock,” motioning that he was going to stop the clock by a spike. Instead, Marino took the snap and lofted a touchdown pass to Mark Ingram to give the Dolphins a 28-24 victory.

Pitt players will again not be available to media in advance of Penn State game ... and we'll all live

Last year, head coach Pat Narduzzi raised quite a stir among local media when it was announced that Pitt's players would not be available to speak to the media before the Penn State game. The Panthers won the game 42-39 and Narduzzi is keeping the same policy this year.

In the weekly media briefing distributed by the athletics department, it was stated that coach Narduzzi would be the lone spokesperson for the program this week.

I can understand why this would cause a stir among the regular media that routinely cover the team on a daily basis. Having no player access limits what they can do from a storytelling standpoint to some degree. In addition, asking them to cover a team with no player access is, in a way, a bit unfair. But I'm not sure how much this really affects the fans. The media, of course, are developing these stories for fans and its readers so, in a roundabout sort of way, if the stories aren't as compelling, I suppose there's an argument that it hurts its readership. Aside from that, though, I just don't think this is much of a blow to the casual fan.

I can't speak for Narduzzi as to why he takes this approach but my guess is that it's about keeping his guys focused and to limit the possibility of one of them providing some bulletin board material. We can debate all day long if that really matters. And I suppose you can argue that, if the job of a college coach is to prepare his players (particularly ones with pro aspirations) to handle interviews in advance of big games, then Narduzzi is actually depriving them of that opportunity. But that's kind of a reach and at the end of the day, I just can't find it in myself to get too worked up over it.

Consider, too, that the chances of a player saying something so insightful that it needs to be out there for consumption is probably not worth the trouble of allowing for the possibility of somebody saying something that gives Penn State some ammunition. Can players provide decent insight? Sure. But, as a fan, I'm not sure that there's anything I need to hear from the players that's so valuable that it's worth risking someone saying something flippant and careless.

It's worth nothing that Pitt players have mostly avoided that pitfall and I can't think of too many instances where they said something that got them into trouble. Wide receiver Manasseh Garner made some ill-advised comments about the team not playing for the fans back in 2014 and even in that instance, it wasn't bulletin board material for another team. But just because stupid comments don't happen often doesn't mean that the team is immune to them. You get anyone talking enough and it's possible.

We'll all live without Qadree Ollison telling us how much energy there was for the game last year. Or Max Browne's Penn State parallels since his USC team faced them last year in the Rose Bowl. Or Dane Jackson admitting the secondary needs to step up. I just don't need any of that. Yes, it might be helpful to have to generate content, like when some players talked about taking their foot off the pedal after Youngstown State. But do I need that? Nah.

The driver here for future precedent will always be how Pitt performs in these games. If the Panthers go out and shock the world here, that will only make fans care less about how Narduzzi runs the team. If the approach works and he's winning with it, I'm not sure how you demand that he make the players available. Now, if Pitt goes out and loses the next two games with Penn State, maybe the pressure to make players accessible deepens.

Do I think it's an overreaction? Probably. But here's the thing - Narduzzi is in charge of the football program and that means operating it in what he views are its best interests. If that's how he feels about this, it's fine by me. It's not illegal and, while it might seem like paranoia to some, Narduzzi is the head coach. Let him run the freaking program. Lifespans of coaches are short. In addition to running a clean program and making sure his players get an education, his job is to win as many games as possible. If he genuinely thinks this gives him an advantage, I've got no beef with that - even if I might not necessarily agree.

My general theory is to let a coach run the program the way he/she thinks is best. As long as this doesn't turn into a dictatorship where he's restricting player access for a bunch of games, I'm generally okay with it. Frankly, what I really want more from Narduzzi on is transparency with injuries. This nonsense?

Meh.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Cardiac Hill Poll of the Week: Have you changed your expectations for the football team after Pitt's narrow Youngstown State win?

This weekend, Pitt narrowly won its season opener against Youngstown State. After jumping out to an early 21-0 lead, the Panthers were forced to head to overtime where they finally put away the Penguins, winning 28-21.

As bad as things were, Pitt is still 1-0, which is what was expected would be the team's record at this point. But did the team's poor second half play make you think twice about the team's ability to be competitive this year? Weigh in using the poll below.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll After the Youngstown State game, do you feel any worse about the team's prospects for having a successful year? Much worse Somewhat worse A little worse No   0 votes | Results

Cardiac Hill Panther of the Game: Qadree Ollison

While you could make a solid case for a few guys, including safety Bricen Garner, I ultimately selected running back Qadree Ollison as the Panther of the game.

Overall, Ollison didn't have a monster game, but I'm not sure that anyone did, to be honest. Ollison led the running backs with 91 yards on 22 carries, averaging just over four yards per attempt. He also tallied two of Pitt's four touchdowns but what pushed him over the top for me was his team-high five catches for 35 yards. To lead the team in both rushing and receiving was a little too much to ignore.

I strongly considered Garner. He had four tackles, a pass breakup, and, most importantly, the game-clinching interception at the end. But Ollison just did a little more and was the biggest reason Pitt got out to an early lead.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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