The Technique spoke with Dan Sostek, Sports Editor of Pittsburgh’s student newspaper, The Pitt News, to preview this week’s football game between Tech and the Pitt Panthers.
Technique: These two teams played a very tight game in 2013, and besides a disastrous first quarter for Pitt, the 2014 game also seemed evenly-matched. What can the Panthers learn from these previous two matchups to leave Bobby Dodd Stadium with a win?
Pitt News: Well, from last year, Pitt can definitely learn to not fumble seven times. In all seriousness, the biggest thing Pitt is going to have to do is stop the option better than they have in years past. Pat Narduzzi hasn’t faced the option in a bit, but he has this Pitt defense playing as good as I’ve ever seen a Panther D. They really just need to identify who the ballcarrier is and keep the score low, because unlike the 2014 Pitt team, this is not one that can necessarily win a shootout.
Technique: How do the Panthers plan on stopping Tech’s option, which has looked fairly inept over the past few weeks?
Pitt News: Again, Narduzzi hasn’t faced an option offense in a bit; he was Michigan State’s defensive coordinator from 2007–2014. But defensive coordinator Josh Conklin at one point coached at The Citadel and Wofford, where those teams ran the option, so he’ll be able to provide some firsthand experience. Narduzzi’s a great defensive mind, so I’m sure he still has a plan. What will help is that this is Pitt’s most active defense in quite some time. They swarm to the ball, in particular freshman safety Jordan Whitehead, who has thrived this year in his first taste of action.
Technique: Has the loss of James Conner, who rushed for 120 yards against the Jackets last season, hurt the Panthers’ offense?
Pitt News: I thought that the Panthers would be okay without Conner due to their running back depth and strong offensive line. But it’s been pretty hit-and-miss and really makes you appreciate how good Conner is. Redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison has been solid, with a 100- and 200-yard game on his resume, but he’s had fumble issues. Sophomore Chris James and freshman Darrin Hall have been banged up. None of those guys turn nothing into something the way Conner did.
Technique: Who are some key Pitt players on offense and defense that Georgia Tech fans should know about going into Saturday’s matchup?
Pitt News: Well, on offense, the obvious answer is Tyler Boyd, the superstar receiver who could end up being the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards at the end of this season despite only being a junior. He’s pretty unstoppable in single coverage and is a dynamic returner as well. If you’re looking for a less renowned guy, I’d say J.P. Holtz. The senior tight end has been great in his final season, and he plays physically and blocks well. He’s a captain and a big leader on the team. Defensively, sophomore cornerback Avonte Maddox has come on really strong, surpassing senior Lafayette Pitts as the team’s shutdown cornerback. I think there’s a chance he ends up being Pitt’s best cornerback in years.
Technique: What is Pitt’s biggest key to a victory on Saturday?
Pitt News: I think the biggest key is containing the triple option. I think Jordan Whitehead needs to play pretty much every snap, and they’ll need his athleticism to stop runners at the second level. Pitt wasn’t able to stop it last year after turning the ball over. They can’t let the Jackets break off big play after big play like last year.
Technique: What’s your score prediction for this game?
Pitt News: Tech 27, Pitt 17.