Pitt Football: Akron Quick-Cap And Looking Forward To Iowa


In a sloppy performance, both via the rain and miscues, Pitt pulled out a good win, but how will it translate as they travel to Iowa this weekend?

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Last weekend, we saw Pitt pull out a relatively nice win, despite the rain and some general mistakes that in the end didn’t cost the team a victory. We will point out some of the bright spots we witnessed as well as some question marks that remain as the team gets ready to face the Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday.

The one firm constant we have seen through the first two weeks of the season is the play of the defensive line. Primarily the efforts of K.K. Mosley-Smith and Tyrique Jarrett who have been clogging the middle and making a push to the backfield on almost all downs. Jarrett had a total of five tackles, three of which occurred behind the line of scrimmage, simply dominant to begin the season.

Pitt has tallied 10 sacks through two weeks, which is 53% of the 19 sacks the team had total in 2014. This is a huge difference with the new heads of state in head coach Pat Narduzzi and defensive coordinator, Josh Conklin.

For the defense, Rori Blair was a nice addition to the line-up once again after serving his one game suspension. Blair contributed four tackles, half of which were in the backfield, brought down the quarterback once, and assisted on another convergence of the Akron signal-caller and former Pitt Panther, Tra’Von Chapman. Overall, you couldn’t have asked for a better performance for the sophomore given the extra week off and the extremely wet weather conditions.

On the offensive side of the ball: it was rough to watch at first, but Pitt settled in as the game continued. A lot of the momentum gained took place in the second half courtesy of the defense, who planted their feet in the flooded turf, and provided the offense with the blueprint to seal the victory. Gaining that victory required a ground-and-pound philosophy and being hard-nosed.

Chad Voytik was the starter for the game but took the backseat to Tennessee transfer, Nathan Peterman, by the end of the game. To this point, Chad has a dazed look upon him when he is under center. By no means does he look comfortably in control in the early portions of the 2015 season. After the first few series of downs, it was Peterman’s turn to prove his value, and he turned in a pretty good performance for the Panthers. He finished the game after another rotation and placed 12 completions, 148 yards, and a touchdown on the stat sheet.

Qadree Ollison was the starter in the backfield and was a workhorse for Pitt. Ollison finished the game with 21 carries for 81 yards, and a single score. He was quick to dole out the punishment to the defense, lowering his shoulder and bulldozing multiple players at a time. This seems very Conner-esque, but is the manner in which Ollison prides himself as a running back.

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  • Spelling the reps for Ollison was true freshman Darrin Hall who scampered to the end zone once on 12 carries and 52 yards. Hall showed patience and a significant amount of maturity while helping Pitt seal the game in the fourth quarter. Something that has been a huge focal-point, this past off-season, is finishing games stronger than they started.

    Both sides of the ball improved from where Pitt stood after a week one 45-37 victory against Youngstown State. The defense made strides and provided stability at all levels, especially the secondary, that really locked down against the Zips.

    The offense has the most question marks of any unit. Who is going to start? Will the offense hold a new identity? And, when will it all get sorted out? It’s still a point of contention internally, but Pitt offers a solid building block as they gear up for Iowa following the victory in Akron.

    This week of practice leading up to Saturday night could be the biggest week of practice the team has faced so far in this young season, and is the most crucial in the young head coaching career of Pat Narduzzi. It’s time to get the offense sorted out in the midst of all of its shifting. Every team suffers injuries and needs to make adjustments, but Pitt still seems to have indecision at the most important position on the field, the quarterback.

    Neither quarterback has really shown greater ability than the other, not through camp and not through the first two weeks of the season. Unfortunately, unless Narduzzi has seen something that we have missed, the platooning at the position between Voytik and Peterman will probably continue against Iowa. This is something that I think will damage the growth of the offense until the situation is settled.

    In this week’s press conference with coach Narduzzi, he referenced the battle he had at the safety position while he was the defensive coordinator at Michigan State. He noted that he would switch every series with two safeties, the entire game, for five games until someone stood out from the other. He never had a solid starter at the position until half of the season was over.

    While the safety position is crucial, it can’t be compared to the overall importance of a cemented starter at quarterback. What I like about Voytik is his ability to easily escape the pocket to pick up yards and, against the Iowa defensive front, that could be key to bringing home a victory from the Hawkeyes.

    On the other hand, what I like about Peterman is his overall composure in the pocket, and the ability to escape the pocket when he needs to, and I emphasize the word need. Peterman got settled in and became a game-manager, making crucial changes at the line as the game continued on against Akron. What I do not like about both quarterbacks is their inability to separate themselves. It’s frustrating.

    Peterman and Voytik both have a great rapport with All-American receiver, Tyler Boyd. But, I think if you threw me in at quarterback I would have a great rapport with Boyd, too. Boyd is irreplaceable for the offense and is someone on whom each quarterback relied, heavily, driving him to 11 receptions and 95 yards.

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  • After Tyler, both quarterbacks struggled to get into a rhythm with any other receiver. They either drove the ball into the ground or flat-out missed the designated receiver. Timing was a significant issue, even if it wasn’t overstated on the field. That timing should improve with consistent reps with the first-team offense. To this point in the week, Peterman has been given the majority of the snaps with that place on the depth chart.

    Through the spring and fall camps, did anyone really think that we would have a quarterback competition heading into the third week of the season? Not me!

    On top of the quarterback battle, one is slowly coming to a head in the backfield. Ollison is now a proven commodity after two pretty nice weeks on the ground, but the incumbent to James Conner, Chris James, is coming back from being nicked up against YSU. Will he get the starting nod against Iowa or will Ollison continue in the starter role? That is something I don’t envision getting panned out until Friday. Both are highly capable running backs and provide a contrasting approach on the field and both have led to the end zone, so it will be interesting to see.

    My prediction:

    Nathan Peterman will receive the early snaps in the game with a leash that extends to only three ineffective drives (should they occur) before giving Voytik a look to take the reins. Qadree Ollison will be taking the hand-offs to start the game and James will go to the third down role with the possibility of the roles switching after halftime to change the look and speed of the game.

    I like the Panthers to steal this game from the Hawkeyes, 41-28. I might be reaching a tad, but look for Peterman to throw in excess of 300 yards and Ollison and James to each eclipse 75 yards on the ground. I expect the defense to stiffen up in the fourth quarter and force two big turnovers that seal the game.

    • The game is at 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Check your listing as it may be on a secondary channel, with Penn State and Rutgers getting first priority on the main BTN channel.

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