Your Pittsburgh Panthers are back in action after a much deserved rest week for Israel Abanikanda. With Georgia Tech losing to Virginia on Thursday night, Pitt controls their own destiny if they can win out.
The first test will come against a feisty Louisville Cardinals team. I talked to John over at “Card Chronicle” to get some insight on this Cardinal team and who we should have eyes on when these two teams battle it out Saturday night on the ACC Network.
This Louisville Cardinal team has been hard to read. From beating UCF and keeping it close against Florida State to losing to Boston College and getting handled by Syracuse. What is your overall impression of the teams first six games now that everyone has had time to reflect from the off week.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s any other way to frame it right now than ‘disappointing’. Yes, Syracuse has improved, and yes Florida State looks much better than we thought they would as well, but the loss to Boston College is really going to sting for a few weeks especially when you look at the back end of the schedule. Coming into the year fans and coaches both knew that it was a very back loaded schedule and they needed to be 5-1 or maybe 4-2 at worst to have a legit shot at winning 7 or 8 games. I think those numbers are completely out of question at this point and the target is almost capped at postseason play and bowl eligibility.
Unfortunately a 6-6 season for Satterfield may not be enough to keep him or the entirety of the staff around for another year. Four years in he still has a losing record overall, even after winning eight games in the first year, which means not only are we not seeing progress in the win-loss columns but also lacking a lot of progression in terms of player development. This was a “show me” season for Satterfield, and he knew it, as he brought in an assistant to help on offense and another assistant to be Co-DC. Getting smoked by Syracuse in the opener and looking uninspired in doing so hurt, but I think most fans frustration stems from having a sixth year QB who may be one of the most dangerous dual threat guys in the country with some talent around him and still limping through a down ACC. If this what we get with Malik…. what’s in the Cards for future (pun alert).
Speaking of the off week this is a time where teams will tweak things around. What improvements are you looking to see out of the Cardinals during this second half of the season?
For me personally I’m really looking for some more misdirection and ability for the offense to utilize some of its speed. Satterfield loves the outside zone runs and trying to hit big plays down field but Malik’s inconsistency with the deep ball makes it challenging to really counter the two, and the offense often looks like it’s sputtering. When the Cards had superhero speed with Tutu Atwell and then Tyler Harrell the last few years they were able to do some of the jet sweep action and also release some guys deep knowing the throw didn’t need to be perfect in order to hit them.
The other thing which they seemed to hit on a bit more against Virginia a couple weeks ago was the utilization of their weapon at tight end in Marshawn Ford. He was arguably one of the top tight ends in the country in 2019 and I feel as if they sometimes forget about him in the offense as a weapon at receiver. He’s usually got great hands, can create separation against the linebacker, and is a challenge to get on the ground.
On defense, this is going to be such a stereotypical fan comment, but we really have to get more pressure up front. The Cards brought the heat a lot more against Virginia and made Armstrong very uncomfortable at times, yes they still gave up some big plays and I’m okay with that trade off, because the counter to it is dropping eight and rushing three and the Cards are getting carved up worse than a Thanksgiving turkey when they’ve done that the last 3 years. The secondary is simply not good enough to cover people for 4-5 seconds with the QB just posted up in the pocket. I’ll give credit where it’s due, as the D line has really improved this year and I believe Louisville is actually first in the ACC in sacks as of today. So while it has improved, the lack of pressure against FSU and Cuse lead to them getting torched down field.
With Malik Cunningham having his masters degree at this point most of us are pretty aware of his dynamic dual threat capabilities. Who are some other players that this Pitt defense should be worried about?
I guess first of all we need to make sure that Malik’s actually going to play. It sounds like he’s gone through all the proper concussion protocols throughout the week and from what I heard earlier he was at practice, so I think he’s going to be good to go, but do not be shocked at all to see some snaps from back up Brock Domann who actually went into Charlottesville and got the win last week. Good arm, and seemed to settle in after a rough start. As far as Malik as you alluded to earlier, while he has plenty of tape out there on him it doesn’t make it any easier to stop once he’s in space. Satterfield tried earlier this year to turn him into a more refined pocket passer which basically crippled him to some degree in some of the early games but it seems like in the last few weeks they’ve let the dog off the leash so to speak again and called some more designed run plays for him. His deep balls are still not great, his accuracy overall is still just okay, but every three to five plays he can turn into a Sportscenter highlight if you let him, either with his arm or on the ground. At running back if Tennessee transfer Tiyon Evans is healthy he is a threat to take one to the house and runs with good power.
Pitt will look to come into this game and establish the run game. How has Louisville been against the run and what players are you looking for to make an impact on the defensive end.
The Cards have actually done pretty well against the run but it’s been a designed effort to stop the ground game against many of their first few opponents. The challenge for the defense is that we often game plan to stop one aspect or the other but very rarely are we successful in being consistent at stopping both, so the ground game will go off for 250 or the QB puts up Kenny Pickett numbers. I have no doubt they will load up to stop Izzy, just hoping that doesn’t mean [insert weekly QB name] torches them as a result.
This is a pretty important matchup for both teams coming back from a week off looking to set the tone for the rest of the season. Who do you think comes away with the win and why.
Agree with you. While it seems like every week we talk about this being a “must win” game for Louisville, that’s kind of the position you put yourself in losing two of the first three games, knowing four or five of your final six opponents are going to be ranked. I do think the bye week came at a good time to not only get Malik back, but also Evans, and a couple guys dinged up on defense. It’s homecoming for the Cards and the night before is ‘Louisville Live’ the annual kickoff event for the basketball team. There will be some electricity around the athletic department, and I think that spills over onto the field early. Cards go up a couple scores quick, and then hold on late. Cards 26 - Panthers 21. No matter what happens, looking forward to battling it out for 13th place in the ACC on the hardwood this year.
If Pitt wants to still be able to salvage the season goals that the team set, it starts out Saturday night.