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Boston College Football Opponent Preview: Pitt Panthers

Are they really as bad as their record says?

Florida State v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

What was thought to be a juicy matchup between the prodigal son and his former team this offseason has not come to fruition, but the show must go on. Neither team is coming off of its finest performance. Pittsburgh has lost five straight, including a dismal loss to Syracuse last weekend, and sit at just two wins on the seasons. This will be Pitt’s final home game of the season however, and emotions will certainly be high for the seniors.

Ran Out of Town

Let’s start defensively this time. The clear headline here is that the Panthers have been pitiful (Pitt-iful?) against the run. Despite some injury woes at the position now, the Boston College rushing attack is exceptional, averaging over 200 yards per game. Against the Panthers last week, Syracuse didn’t even pretend to throw the ball. They attempted just eight passes and rushed for 382 yards (side note: this game made no sense as Syracuse’s passing and rushing leader was their tight end, while their quarterback led in receiving. There is no typo in that last statement).

A usually strong defensive front has not replicated the success of recent years and they have had some challenges replacing the top end talent. Middle linebacker Shayne Simon leads the team with four sacks on the season. The team as a whole has 25 sacks across the board making for a still effective pass rush. Fellow linebackers Brandon George and Solomon DeShields have been leaders of the defense, with DeShields leading the way in tackles for loss.

On the backend, the Panthers pass defense isn’t allowing much by volume, but efficiency numbers are not shining brightly. Teams choosing to run all over Pitt’s front seven certainly plays a role here. Corner MJ Devonshire and safety Phillip O’Brien have two interceptions apiece. They’ve forced two interceptions against Notre Dame, Wake, and in a win over Louisville, but the way teams can exploit them in the run game has largely been too much to overcome.

Phil-less offense

After starting the season in charge, Phil Jurkovec has since seen any chance at redemption plummet. He now sits as pretty much the third string quarterback. Penn State transfer Christian Veilleux took over last month, but even he was benched last weekend for another sophomore in Nate Yarnell. It’s not the best of times in the Steel City. Veilleux has completed half of his passes and has more turnovers (8 INTs, 3 fumbles) than touchdowns (7) and Coach Pat Narduzzi has been non-committal for this game. Perhaps he thinks playing against BC will be enough motivation for Jurkovec. And of course it is still Frank Cignetti Jr. calling plays here...

It’s those turnovers that have been the biggest issue. 20 total is among the worst in the country and is never going to cut it.

They’ve dealt with a number of offensive line injuries meaning two freshmen are solidly in the mix on the right side. That said, they’ve allowed under two sacks a game. In the run game, the upperclassmen Rodney Hammond Jr and C’Bo Flemister have over 300 yards on the ground and averaging over 4.0 a clip. They haven’t had the most success, but the Eagles defense has been very susceptible, so they may find some success if they lean on it.

6’2” senior receiver Bub Means is the top target on the offense with 558 yards and four touchdown catches, while his compatriot Konata Mumpfield has seen a very similar workload. And the big 6’5” junior tight end Gavin Bartholomew has played a strong role in the offense as well.

Boston College is a short favorite on this road trip and their offense is well suited to attack this Pittsburgh defense. But after Pitt was decimated on the ground, will they be more prepared despite the quick turnaround?