Blue and Gold Illustrated

October 28, 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 43 of 63

44 OCT. 28, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: PITTSBURGH BY TYLER HORKA PITT RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE When Pitt elects to try to gain yards on the ground, it is one of the worst teams in the FBS at doing so. Key word: try. It doesn't always work out the way the Panthers want it to. Seldom, in fact. Per Sports Info Solutions, Pittsburgh ranked No. 120 in the FBS in points earned per rushing play against fellow FBS opponents through Week 6. Every time Pitt ran the ball, the Panthers lost .029 of a point. For reference, Air Force was the best team in that statistic at the same point in the sea- son. The Falcons gained 0.913 of a point on every rushing play. According to SIS, only 29.4 percent of Pitt's rush- ing plays against FBS foes resulted in a positive expected points above zero total through Week 6. That was the third-worst percentage in the country at the time. Only Iowa (28.7) and Navy (24.5) had worse marks. We all saw what Notre Dame did to Navy in the season opener, holding the Midship- men to 2.63 yards per carry on 48 attempts. Notre Dame should be able to put a similar foot down on Pitt, especially at home. Notre Dame's defense earned the No. 21 ranking in the country in SIS's points saved per play versus FBS opponents metric through Week 6. So while Duke and Louisville were able to rack up more than 180 rushing yards apiece on the Irish in back- to-back weeks, it took both teams 40 carries to get there. Give Pitt 40 carries, and the result probably won't be the same. Notre Dame has a big edge in this area. Advantage: Notre Dame PITT PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE It's never a good thing to have to bench your starting quarterback five games into a season, but that's what head coach Pat Narduzzi did with for- mer Notre Dame and Boston College signal-caller Phil Jurkovec this year. Jurkovec ranked No. 116 in the nation per SIS in points earned per play among FBS quarterbacks through Week 6. His expected points added of minus-26.92 was even worse at No. 178 nationally. Essentially, Narduzzi came to the same conclusion as the advanced analytics; Jurkovec was a hin- drance to Pitt every time he was on the field. The Panthers were literally losing points having him operate the offense. Penn State transfer Christian Veilleux, Jurkovec's replacement, got into two games in Pitt's first five. He completed only 44.4 percent of his pass attempts for 145 passing yards. He had 1 touch- down pass and 2 interceptions while carrying an incredibly low adjusted passing yards per attempt On PaPer Junior running back Rodney Hammond Jr. led Pitt with 46 carries for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns through Week 6. PHOTO COURTESY PITT ATHLETICS

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