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June 2013 Archives

Pitt Football vs. Old Dominion Preview

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old dominion
OCTOBER 19, 2013 - TBA
Buy Season Tickets - 2013 Pitt Football

Founded 1930
Location Norfolk, VA
Nickname Monarchs
Mascot Big Blue

By RJ Sepich

Series History
The Panthers and Monarchs will meet for the first time in 2013.

2012-13 Old Dominion Season Review
Head Coach: Bobby Wilder (4th season)
2012-13 Record: 11-2 (7-1 Colonial Athletic Conference)
Pitt Bullet Recorded most wins in a season during the program's four-year history
Pitt Bullet Won CAA regular season title and advanced to FCS quarterfinals
Pitt Bullet Finished with No. 6 ranking in the final FCS Coaches and AP Polls

Notable Team Stats:
Pitt Bullet Led FCS in total offense (548.2 yards/game) and scoring offense (45.2 points/game)
Pitt Bullet Also led FCS in passing offense (393.9 yards/game)
Pitt Bullet Finished in FCS top five of passing efficiency, first downs and third-down conversions
Pitt Bullet Defense allowed 30.5 points per game, but created 23 turnovers

The Wilder File
Bobby Wilder hasn't just taken Old Dominion from a school without a football program to a perennial Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national championship contender in a few short years. He's made it look easy. After leaving his alma mater Maine, where he played as a quarterback and served as an assistant coach for 17 years, to become the first Old Dominion football coach since 1941, Wilder had two years to recruit players and prepare the revived program for life at the Division I level. Six years later, offensive guru Wilder is the man behind the most successful start-up FCS program in history, compiling an astounding 38-10 coaching record while leading the Monarchs to back-to-back FCS playoff berths and top 10 finishes in the polls. With Wilder under contract through the 2021 season, Old Dominion selling out its renovated 20,000-plus seat stadium for almost every home game and the Monarchs set to begin Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) play in Conference USA in 2014, the program should continue its remarkably rapid growth over the next several years.

Taking a look at the Monarchs
As the program prepares to transition to the FBS in 2014, Old Dominion will view the Oct. 19 matchup with Pitt as a huge opportunity to prove it can compete at the highest level of college football. Let's look at what Coach Wilder and the Monarchs have coming back from their FCS quarterfinalist team of 2012:

1. Pass, pass and pass some more - Coming off a season in which he broke numerous FCS passing records and won the Walter Payton Award as the Best Player in the FCS, star junior quarterback Taylor Heinicke is undoubtedly the leader on the field for Old Dominion. Heinicke and the Monarchs love to put the ball in the air, proven by the quarterback's ridiculous 5,076 total passing yards and 45 passing attempts per game last season. Three of Heinicke's top four targets return, so ODU should be primed for another explosive year in the offensive passing game.

2. Running game also packs a punch - Leading rusher Tyree Lee (864 yards) returns for his junior season as the Monarchs' starting tailback. While Old Dominion's offense revolves around the passing game, it certainly isn't a one-dimensional attack. Monarch ball carriers posted 2,007 yards and 34 touchdowns on the ground last season, with the shifty Heinicke also a threat to scramble for yardage when passing plays break down.

1. Opportunistic defense concedes points - For as impressive as the ODU offense was last season, its defense struggled just as much at times, which ended up costing the team a chance at an FCS national championship. After conceding 420 yards per game and 30.5 points per game, Coach Wilder knows his defensive unit has some room for improvement. However, the Monarchs did intercept 15 passes and recover eight fumbles in 2012, so the opportunistic group can cause problems for offenses that don't take care of the ball.

Keys to Victory
1. Don't underestimate the Monarchs - Having already faced teams like Florida State and Virginia Tech by this point in the season, Pitt can't allow itself to view Old Dominion as a lesser opponent. The Panthers need to remember what happened the last time they faced an FCS opponent, the disappointing defeat against Youngstown State in the 2012 season opener. The Monarchs will certainly be fired up and excited to face an FBS opponent at Heinz Field, and Pitt must match that enthusiasm and come ready to play from the opening kickoff.

2. Get to Heinicke - There's no denying that Old Dominion's quarterback had a sensational season in 2012. But Heinicke did throw 14 interceptions last season, which shows that he can be mistake-prone. If Aaron Donald and the rest of the Pitt defensive line can put pressure on Heinicke and get the passing lanes of the 6-foot-1 signal caller, the Monarch passing attack could be in for a rough day. However, if the Panthers can't get in the ODU backfield, the reigning FCS Player of the Year has the ability to likewise make it a long day for the Pitt secondary.

2. Control the ball on offense - Perhaps the best way to ensure that Old Dominion's star quarterback doesn't have a big day would be to keep him off the field as much as possible. The Monarch defense struggled to hold opponents off the scoreboard for much of last season, and Pitt must take advantage of that fact when it has the football. Establishing the running game, dominating the line of scrimmage, sustaining long drives on offense and winning the time-of-possession battle will all be crucial for Coach Paul Chryst's team.

Check back for a preview of Pitt's Week Seven Opponent, Navy.

Cathedral Victory Lights crop.jpg

By R.J. Sepich

On Tuesday, we asked you, Pitt fans, to finish this sentence: More than any other game this year, I want to see the Victory Lights beaming after Pitt plays....

Not surprisingly, the most common answer was the football team's season opener against Florida State on Sept. 2 at Heinz Field.

Jake Oswalt was one of the many fans wanting to see the Panthers defeat the Seminoles to begin ACC play. "Florida State. Defending ACC Champs, national TV on Labor Day," he said.

The second most popular pick for a team Pitt fans hope Coach Paul Chryst's Panthers beat this season was Notre Dame. After last year's heartbreaking triple overtime loss to the Fighting Irish, a Pitt victory over Notre Dame on Nov. 9 at Heinz Field would relieve frustration for fans like Jim Cahill.

"Notre Dame! Not just totally outplay them like last year, but win!" he answered.

Miami and Syracuse also received several mentions, while a few fans hope the Victory Lights turn on if the Pitt men's basketball team beats Duke at the Petersen Events Center this upcoming season.

Some fans, like Laura Riazzi and JD Schroeder, said they want to see the Cathedral of Learning beam with gold lights, signaling a Pitt victory, after every football game.

Meanwhile, Dave Sherer hopes to see the famous Victory Lights for a more specific occasion -- one that hasn't happened since 1976. "[After] the national championship game," he answered.

Name That Player

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I guess this week's photo was more difficult than we thought! The most common answer was Todd Thomas. 

The player in the picture is however...


Defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Donald (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills) helped Pitt hold then-undefeated Notre Dame to just six points through three quarters in last season's matchup with the Fighting Irish, although the Panthers eventually fell short in a triple overtime classic, 26-23.

The stout defensive tackle was one of the main reasons the Panthers' defensive unit continuously improved throughout the 2012 campaign. Leading last season's squad in tackles for loss (18.5), sacks (5.5) and quarterback hits (11), Donald could finish his career as one of the most productive pass rushers in Pitt history. And with numerous college football experts predicting him to be one of the best defensive linemen in the country, Donald hopes to live up to those expectations this year and become the latest Panther to earn All-America honors.


By R.J. Sepich

Any play can change the outcome of the game. But truly great plays and moments transcend the games they alter, lasting in the memories of fans, players and coaches for as long as those who witnessed the play are alive.

Here are some of the plays that you picked as your "Most Electrifying Play in Pitt Sports History":

Jerome Lane "Sends It In" at the Fitzgerald Field House - Jan. 25, 1988

It's pretty rare for an athletic achievement to delay a game for more than 30 minutes. That's what happened when Pitt forward Jerome Lane received a pass from point guard Sean Miller on a fast break in the first half of a Big East battle against the Providence Friars, jumped to dunk and put the ball through the hoop with so much force that it ripped the rim off and shattered the backboard glass.

"Jerome Lane breaking the backboard probably is the most electrifying Pitt sports moment ever," Jacob Timlin responded to our Facebook question.

But not only is the play one of the most memorable moments in Pitt history, it also holds a place in college basketball history. With the game broadcasting live to a national audience, ESPN's Bill Raftery produced a call to match Lane's awe-inspiring dunk: "Send it in, Jerome!" Raftery famously yelled over the roar of the frenzied Fitzgerald Field House crowd.

Although the game was overshadowed by the dunk, the final score ended up being almost as impressive as Lane's dunk, with Pitt trouncing Providence 90-56 for what was, at the time, the Panthers' largest ever Big East victory.

Watch the play

Darrelle Revis' Backyard Brawl Punt Return - Nov. 16, 2006

Like Lane's dunk, the 2006 Backyard Brawl football game is remembered by Pitt fans more for one sensational play than the final outcome.

With both teams trading points and the score tied at 17 in an already entertaining first half, West Virginia lined up to punt just before halftime. Pat McAfee's kick traveled over the head of Pitt punt returner Darrelle Revis, but the ball took a high bounce, allowing Revis to grab it at his own 27-yard line with his back facing the Mountaineers in pursuit of him.

Revis further retreated to the 20-yard line before turning around and doing what every punt returner is told not to do. He stopped. A quick first step to his right gave Revis a little more space and allowed Derek Kinder to help him out with a (legal) bone-crunching block that wiped two Mountaineers completely out of the play.

"The Darrelle Revis punt return right before halftime of the WVU game," fan Kotas Jackson said. "Derek Kinder threw one of the most devastating blocks I have ever seen!"

Kinder's block helped Revis get to the sideline, but he still had a lot of work to do. He juked a defender at the 26-yard line, tiptoed the sideline to reach midfield, broke another tackle at the West Virginia 25-yard line and spun around one more defender before trotting into the end zone.

The exhausting play, which was nominated for ESPN's "Play of the Year" at the 2007 ESPYs and won "College Play of the Year," lasted 24 crazy seconds, sending Heinz Field into pandemonium and giving Pitt a 24-17 advantage.

The No. 8 Mountaineers recovered to outscore Pitt 28-3 the rest of the game, holding off the Panthers' upset bid by a final score of 45-27.

Watch the play 


Marino-to-Brown Connection Wins Pitt the Sugar Bowl - Jan. 1, 1982

Down by three points with 42 seconds remaining in the 1982 Sugar Bowl, Pitt faced a 4th-and-5 at the Georgia 33-yard line. Coach Jackie Sherrill had a choice: attempt a 50-yard field goal for the tie, or go for the victory. He thought the former option made more sense, but star quarterback Dan Marino convinced him to pick the latter choice.

"I asked Danny what he thought," Sherrill said after the game, "and he wanted to go for the win.  Since he thought he could do it, I went along with him."

The gutsy decision paid off. Marino dropped back and rifled a pass down the middle of the field, splitting two Georgia defenders and finding receiver John Brown in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Lae Pitt was one of many fans to select this play: "Dan Marino to John Brown to win the Sugar Bowl! I was there, it was awesome!"

The 24-20 triumph gave Pitt its second Sugar Bowl trophy, with the other victory also coming against Georgia in the 1977 Sugar Bowl.

Watch the play

Levance Fields' 3-pointer in OT Beats Duke - Dec. 20, 2007

In a battle of top-10 teams at Madison Square Garden, Pitt got the better of Duke thanks to a memorable step-back 3-pointer in the final seconds of overtime by point guard Levance Fields.

After trailing by as many as 16 in the first half, the Panthers battled back in the second half and forced overtime with a last-second defensive stand in regulation.

Pitt had to fight against more adversity when redshirt senior and team leader Mike Cook suffered a devastating knee injury early in the extra period. Cook's best friend on the team, Fields, ensured that Cook's final game didn't end in defeat.

Down by two points in the final moments and with possession of the ball, Pitt inbounded the ball to Fields. Duke defended well, and Fields took the only remaining option available to him: hoist an off-balance, fade-away jumper behind the arc. The clutch shot swished through the net with six seconds left to give the Panthers a 65-64 lead, the Blue Devils missed two desperation shots at the other end and the Pitt bench broke out in jubilant celebration, with Fields almost accidentally kicking Coach Dixon in the face as a teammate raised the hero of the game in the air.

Allen Stern said that this was his favorite Pitt play: "Fields' winning shot against Duke! I was there!"

Fields and the Panthers ended up enjoying another incredible moment at MSG later that season when they won four games in four days in earn the Big East Tournament Championship.

Watch the play 

Other fan submissions included:

Chet Harhut: "The Billy Owens pick six against Penn State in 1987."

Vince Rodemer: "Ronald Ramon's 3 to beat WVU."

Elizabeth Churay Matherne: "1999 Pitt vs Notre Dame, Kevan Barlow scores the last TD in old Pitt Stadium right in front of the band section."

Christopher Bowling: "Any play that beats any Penn State team."

Brian Patrick Heffron: "Keith Gavin winning NCAA's [in wrestling]."

And once again, Pitt gymnastics head coach Debbie Yohman contributed: "Alyse Zeffiro's 10.0 Vault against WVU. Even WVU coaching staff thought it was perfect!"

Student Crowd overview.jpg is highlighting each week's ultimate ACC road trip throughout the football season. It's no surprise that Pitt's Sept. 2 matchup with Florida State at Heinz Field is mentioned as a "can't miss" contest. 

"You can't miss the Labor Day opener at Heinz Field, when Pittsburgh will take on one of the best programs in the ACC in what will be the Panthers' first game as a member of the conference. It will be a nationally-televised game that will mean something to the conference race, and it will be the first chance of the season to see both programs under the direction of their new quarterbacks."

Do you have your tickets for this can't miss matchup? Fans can call the Panthers Ticket Office at 800-643-PITT (7488) or can reach us on the web for tickets.

Ultimate ACC road trip: Week 2 (


Pitt Football vs. Virginia Tech Preview

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Virginia Tech Hokies
October 12, 2013 - TBA
Lane Stadium/Worsham Field - Blacksburg, VA
Buy Season Tickets - 2013 Pitt Football

Founded 1872
Location Blacksburg, VA
Nickname Hokies
Mascot The Hokie Bird
Traditions Enter Sandman
National Championships 0
Consensus All-Americans 8
College Football Hall of Famers 6
Pro Football Hall of Famers 1
First Round Draft Picks 8

By Pat Bostick

Series History
The Hokies lead the all-time series with 7 wins to the Panthers' 4, but Pitt has won the previous four contests.

The Last Time
Pitt and Virginia Tech last met on September 15, 2012 in a 35-17 Panthers' win at Heinz Field. Senior running back Ray Graham rushed for 94 yards in the contest, scoring two touchdowns on the ground and hauling in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri. Pitt's defense was stellar against the Hokies, forcing four Virginia Tech turnovers. The win was the Panthers' signature victory in 2012, as they snapped the 13th-ranked Hokies' 13 game road winning streak.

Check out Pitt Live Wire's video recap of the Panthers' huge victory.

2012-13 Virginia Tech Season Review
Head Coach: Frank Beamer (26th season)
2012-13 2012-13 Record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC, 4th in Coastal Division), Russell Athletic Bowl Champions
Marquee wins:
Pitt Bullet Beat Sun Bowl Champion Georgia Tech 20-17 (OT) to open the season.
Pitt Bullet Beat Rutgers 13-10 (OT) to win the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Beamer Ball

Entering his 27th season at the helm of the Virginia Tech Football Program, Frank Beamer has come to define the measure of success in college football - winning. Under his leadership, the Hokies have appeared in 20 consecutive bowl games, won four ACC titles, five ACC Coastal Division crowns, three Big East championships, made six BCS appearances and earned a trip to the national title game. A Virginia Tech grad, Beamer is the winningest active coach in the FBS with 258 career victories. The only thing missing from his resume, you ask? A win at Heinz Field - his teams are 0-3 on the Panthers' home turf since its opening in 2001.

Loeffler charged with revamping VT Offense, QB Thomas in 2013

After being named Second-Team All-ACC in 2011, Virginia Tech senior quarterback Logan Thomas saw his performance drop off in 2012. His completion percentage plummeted, dropping from 60% in 2011 to 51% last season. He also threw six more interceptions. As Thomas' productivity decreased, so did the effectiveness of the Hokie Offense. Virginia Tech finished 9th in the ACC in Total Offense in 2012 as compared to 3rd in 2011.

Enter Scot Loeffler; Frank Beamer's newly appointed offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Loeffler, a Michigan graduate, has worked with the likes of Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Brian Griese, Chad Henne, Drew Henson and John Navarre during his 15 year coaching career. His career stops include a six-year stint at his alma mater and two years at Florida. Most recently, he served as offensive coordinator at Temple (2011) and Auburn (2012). Loeffler's ability to adapt his scheme to different quarterbacking styles (i.e. John Navarre vs. Tim Tebow) bodes well for Thomas and the Hokie offense in 2013.

Looking at the Hokies
Offense: 5 starters lost, 6 return
1. Look for an improved Logan Thomas in 2013 - Never mind the fact that Thomas loses his top three receivers from last season, I look for him to be much improved in 2013. From the sound of things, his coaches do as well - he was named the Hokies' most valuable player of spring practice as well as a permanent captain for the upcoming season.

2. Returner at running back - Though he didn't enter the 2012 season as Tech's starter, sophomore J.C. Coleman returns as the Hokies' feature back for 2013. He showed tremendous improvement over the course of his first active season. Playing in all 13 games and starting six, Coleman rushed for 492 yards on 109 carries in 2012, scoring 2 touchdowns. He also added 21 receptions for 132 yards and a score. Alongside Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech's leading rusher in 2012 (174 att., 524 yards, 9 TD), I would expect Coleman to be a big part of the Hokies' offense in 2013.


Defense: 2 starters lost, 9 returning
1. The strength - The second ranked defense in the ACC last year doesn't lose much coming into the 2013 season. The strength of this unit will be its front four. The Hokies finished first in the conference in sacks, registering 35 in 2012 (2.69/game). Top returners include first-team All-ACC linebacker Jack Tyler (119 tackles in 2012) and second-team All-ACC selections CB Antone Exum (5 INT) and DE James Gayle (11 TFL, 5 sacks).


Keys to Victory
1. Win the turnover battle - This key to victory will never change. Need a case in point? The Panthers won the turnover battle against the Hokies last season by a wide margin (VT-4, Pitt-1).

2. Watch last year's tape - If there is a blueprint to flustering QB Logan Thomas, it can be found on last year's game tape. Get after him, contain him and force him to make tight throws. I do think he will be better this season, but I believe Pitt's defense will be also.

Check back next for a preview of Pitt's week 6 Opponent, Old Dominion.


So, our first "Caption That Photo" was a fun one. We couldn't manufacture this photo again if we wanted to - although I'm sure Todd Thomas would like to try!


Your comments on Facebook and Twitter to @PittAthletics were priceless and we've selected a few of our favorites below. Thanks, as always, for your participation!


Facebook posts:

Yunuen M. Valenzuela: "Look ma! No hands!"

Anthony Moretti: "Superman told me this was easy."

Wayne Hulse: "I believe I can fly!"

Scottie Klinger: "Uhhh...How do I get down?"

Elizabeth Cromwell Austin: "Does someone need a hug?"

Matt Bithell: "It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's a Panther!"

Jeremy Helinski: "That escalated quickly."

Dave Roman Jr.: "Pitt Football...Soaring into the ACC!"

Michael Stahl: "Pitt Airlines Flight 8, you're cleared for landing on Runway 12..."

Daniel Marlowe: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, Pitt is the greatest, we're going to the ACC."

Nate Wrigley: "Where you going, bro? I just want a hug."

Ross Kowalsky: "The weather for today will be partly cloudy with a chance of Todd Thomas by mid-afternoon..."

Timothy Arbes: "How to squeeze an Orange, Panther style..."


Twitter posts:

@tanman_82: it's a bird, it's a plane, its Todd Thomas

@TooWavy59: "YMCA"

@PittScot: "ACC, this is Pitt Football flight control: we're cleared for landing."




Video credit: Paths of Glory: 100 Years of PItt Football

By R.J. Sepich

As the Pitt football team prepares for its first season in the ACC, many Panther fans would select a legendary quarterback wearing No. 13 to receive an extra year of eligibility and be under center next fall if they had their wish.

We asked fans this week if they could select any former Pitt student-athlete to earn another year of eligibility to suit up for the Panthers, who would it be? Dan Marino was a popular pick for Pitt fans.

Aaron Donald chase VT.jpg

On Monday, we asked you who would be our biggest football rival in the ACC. Virginia Tech was the clear winner with strong support for Syracuse and Miami. Pitt Live Wire has compiled some information on those past rivalries below. Check back with the Pitt Facebook page and on Twitter for more fan poll questions throughout the week.

By R.J. Sepich

Virginia Tech

Although the Panthers and Hokies have only ever met each other 12 times in football, the two schools developed a fierce athletic rivalry as Big East foes in the 1990s and early 2000s. That rivalry will be renewed when Pitt joins Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year.

Virginia Tech holds a 7-5 edge in the all-time football series against the Panthers, but Pitt has won four consecutive games against the Hokies from Blacksburg, Va.

Pitt will travel to Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium on Oct. 12 for an ACC Coastal Division football battle.

Most Recent Football Matchup: Pitt 35, Virginia Tech 17 - Sept. 15, 2012


Another former Big East rival that the Panthers will resume annual clashes against is the University of Miami. Like Virginia Tech, Miami left the Big East for the ACC in 2004, temporarily discontinuing yearly matchups with Pitt.

The history books show that the Hurricanes have enjoyed success on the football field against their new Coastal Division foes, boasting a 22-9-1 all-time record against Pitt and winning their last seven encounters with the Panthers.

Pitt football will hope to end its losing streak against Miami when the Hurricanes come to Heinz Field for a much-anticipated regular-season finale on Nov. 29.

Most Recent Football Matchup: Miami 31, Pitt 3 - Sept. 23, 2010


Whether on the football field or the basketball court, there's no lack of familiarity between Pitt and Syracuse. And fortunately for fans and student-athletes alike, the good-spirited athletic rivalry between the two schools will continue as the Panthers and Orange both join the ACC this year.

Although Syracuse enters the Atlantic Division while Pitt joins the Coastal Division, the two schools will continue a football rivalry that has been played every season since 1955 as annual crossover opponents. Coach Paul Chryst's Panthers will hope to improve on their 34-31-3 all-time record against the Orange when they travel to the Carrier Dome on Nov. 23.

Most Recent Football Matchup: Syracuse 14, Pitt 13 - Oct. 5, 2012





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