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.
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.
Ruben Flowers III 6’3” 205 Freshman OR Aaron Mathews 6’4” 205 Sophomore // Maurice Ffrench 5’11” 190 Sophomore
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Avonte Maddox 5’9” 180 Senior // Dane Jackson 6’0” 180 Sophomore OR Damarri Mathis 5’11” 185 Freshman
Jason Pinnock 6’0” 190 Freshman
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.
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.