Hokies Wary of Pitt QB Nate Peterman on Third Downs, Given Focus on Prolific Running Game

Though the Panthers don't pass much, Justin Fuente doesn't want to lose focus when it comes time to get off the field.

[Mark Umansky ]

As is so often the case against the Pitt Panthers, job one for Bud Foster's defense will be stopping the run, and Pat Narduzzi knows it.

The second-year Pitt coach has developed an imposing run game this year, using RB James Conner, WR Quadree Henderson and a dominant offensive line to put up just over 239 yards per game, good for 20th in the nation.

Accordingly, they've made running the ball the overwhelming focus of the offense — they're 16th in the nation with roughly 47 attempts per game, a stark difference from their average of 23 passes per contest, a mark that puts them at 118th overall.

So if Narduzzi wants to keep Pitt's tradition of frustrating the Hokies at Heinz Field alive, he's well aware that he'll have to baffle Foster's bunch once more.

"The thing that makes it so concerning is they're the best defense we've faced this year," Narduzzi said Wednesday on a call with reporters. "That's what makes us tick is our run game, and if we don't get our run game going against this great defense, then we'll have problems."

Indeed, the Panthers are hardly imposing in the pass game, averaging just over 178 yards per game, but the Hokies are wary of taking anything for granted. Even the most dangerous rushing attacks aren't very effective without a credible play action or third down threat, and Justin Fuente isn't in any hurry to dismiss QB Nate Peterman just because he doesn't throw the ball very often.

"Some people label quarterbacks as game managers, and I don't believe in that," Fuente said Wednesday. "I think the young man we're about to play is a playmaker for them. Obviously it centers around running the football, but they've made big plays in the passing game."

The Panthers may not have many long passing plays overall (they rank toward the bottom of the country in pass completions over 10 and 20 yards, respectively) but Peterman does have his moments on third down. On third downs with seven to nine yards to go, he's 13 of 15 for 223 yards and two scores, with four completions of at least 15 years, two of at least 25, and a long of 74 yards.

Clearly, Peterman can make a play when it counts.

"Coming off play action they've got some really good schemes in obvious passing situations that can give you problems," Fuente said. "He's been judicious with the ball and kept the chains moving, which has allowed them to continue to run the football."

Narduzzi's noticed that improvement too, and credits Peterman's timely throws with helping keep defenses honest when it comes to defending the run.

"Really, the last couple weeks I've seen him grow a little bit more on third down," Narduzzi said.

"He's made some nice third down throws that we've needed him to make all year, and really the last couple weeks he's done that," Narduzzi said. "When you play a great team like Virginia Tech, one of the top defenses in the country, he's got to make some throws. He's got to put the ball right where it needs to be, and him being accurate with where he puts that ball, he's made good decisions, now he's got to make good decisions and really be accurate like he has the last couple weeks."

It helps that Pitt has been one of the best teams in the country in pass protection — the Panthers have only given up five sacks all year, tied for fifth in the country, making it no wonder that Foster called the line the best the Hokies have faced all year.

Tech's defense is coming off its most dominant performance of the season in that department after sacking Miami QB Brad Kaaya eight times last week (a feat Fuente credits to Foster's decision to "mix up our pressures, either only rushing four guys or bringing blitzes and trying to scheme rush the quarterback a little bit," among other things). Yet he doubts they'll be able to replicate those sorts of statistics against Pitt, unless they're able to dominate against the ground game.

"Moving forward throughout the year, if we can negate people's run game, then I think we will be able to get pressure," Fuente said. "It's a little bit easier when you know it's coming."

Narduzzi is still a bit worried about the Hokies' "great front seven" in that regard, but he does feel he'll have some room to maneuver on the outside. The Panthers have been increasingly working in sweeps and jet option plays with Henderson to great effect, and Narduzzi expects more of the same on Thursday.

"We're going to have to make some people miss," Narduzzi said. "We'll have some one-on-one opportunities on the edge, I think, with some of our stuff. But they're very athletic and they know what to do structurally in their defense, so it'll be a major challenge for sure."

Fuente isn't sure yet whether that fearsome front seven will be back to full strength — DEs Ken Ekanem and Vinny Mihota were listed as probable on this week's injury report, and DT Nigel Williams was once again questionable, but Fuente couldn't offer any clarity on their status Wednesday.

But no matter who's out there for the Hokies, Narduzzi is preparing for a very crowded box Thursday night.

"Count how close they are to the line of scrimmage," Narduzzi said. "They'll have 11 guys within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and that's what we've worked and practiced all week, and we're going to have to make some plays in some tight quarters."


Great stuff. Looking forward to what I suspect will be an all out brawl with the good guys getting the W.

Another white bronco? The first one didn't go too far.


I think the key to this game is a very quick start offensely to get a couple of scores up and then it should force them to change their game plan a little. If we fall behind, it could be another long game for the defense.

You have your finger on the pulse IMO. Get behind and we're gonna be struggling.

"I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising..." - KP

And keep it up for 4 qtrs.

In their two losses, they scored all their points in first 3 qtrs, and were tied or leading entering 4th. (scored 3pts and 0pts in that period)


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

The only good thing about getting behind is that they have a terrible pass defense. Of we are forced to throw, could make a comeback as long as the defense doesn't continue to hemmorage rushing yards.

Nice work, as always Alex. Where did you get the Narduzzi quotes? Is his press conference publicly available?

🦃 🦃 🦃

"Some people label quarterbacks as game managers, and I don't believe in that," Fuente said Wednesday. "I think the young man we're about to play is a playmaker for them. Obviously it centers around running the football, but they've made big plays in the passing game."

Yeah, that's scary as fuck to me.

This is going to be a very bloody battle.

Well, then we might as well be the team that wins it.

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

I already said it in another thread. Bud and Fu need to bring the excalibur to this game. I bet PITT could beat the vols.

That said, I'm feeling a little old school swagger this week....a little underdog mentality....a little pissed off. Fuck PITT. They do not have the all-around talent we have and what's on the line comes as no surprise to anyone.

Hokies take care of business and win by 14, because we've got the talent.

"How you doin', Randy?"

I like it, but just one problem. The score we win by is too low for me.

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Bud and Fu need to bring the excalibur to this game.

Watery tarts distributing swords is no basis for a system for deciding who wins a football game.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

I love you.

We will get their A++++++, which is my primary concern. They know the stakes and are likely to be INFINITELY more disciplined than that team we played last Thursday. We will need to own the fire and eliminate TOs and stupid penalties and we can do it.

"I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising..." - KP

Plus, they've had a bye week to rest and scheme.

Leonard. Duh.

Yeah, we're going to lose this game. I've got a bad feeling.

"...When we step on that field, they bleed like we bleed and we're gonna show the world."
-Corey Marshall

The reverse jinx worked last week. Keep it up

You were pretty down on the Hokies going into the Miami game as well. What is it going to take for you to have a little faith in this team!?

"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

I'm guessing it will take some George Michael

Image result for george michael faith gif

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

Still stuck in the 80's? Yeah, me too.

VTCC '86 Delta Company, Hokie in Peru, TKPC#490, One of us!

Watching how up and down this team has been in the past few years has given me zero faith that this team can consistently dominate teams from week to week, regardless of the opponent....this isn't 2007 where I know the defense will play lights out every game (with exception of LSU of course...and Boston College...fuck Matt Ryan)

I agree this team is a not as consistent as we were accustomed to before the slide, but I think this defense is still trustworthy. No team has thoroughly abused it, Tennessee capitalized on five fumbles and multiple short fields, and Syracuse only had 17 halfway through the 4th, which should have been more than enough time for our offense to claim a lead on that defense.

Break him.......

I've been dreading this game, so much so that you would think I was actually gonna suit and play. (obviously I'm not)

I've just hit a point now where it's like...f it, let's just see what happens. I can't allow myself to get upset tomorrow if things don't go well.

Let's punch these dudes in the mouth.


"with four completions of at least 15 years"

Now that's a gun for an arm. I think we are in big trouble in 2031....

(just having some fun with the typo. Great article as always)

I think Tom Savage just got sacked again.


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Talk about a slow developing play.

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

It ends tonight. I refuse to believe they are gonna do it to us again. The cycle of Pitt-happens misery stops tonight.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

What concerns me most is talk of how weak a certain part of their defense is or how many points they allow.

We historically make teams with that description look like they are Alabama or something. However new regime, new offense re-energized defense.

I like the Hokies in this one but I'm nervous about it and can see us struggling just as easily. But hey new smoker, so going to try some smoked wings for the game tonight.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

Case in point: BC's horrible O put up more points on Syracuse than ours did.

Counterpoint: our O has put up more points on BC than any team except Clemson for two years running.

Not sure what my point is, but our O can get it done.


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

We did beat them by a better margin though!

The LBs will be key in this game. More than any other game so far this year, their reads and tackling must be spot on. If you thought last week was Tre Edmunds' coming out party...... this week he will have everyone making the comparisons to X with his domination of Conner in the gaps and Henderson on the edge and Motu will quietly have nearly as good a game.

Lets GO!!!!

Who thinks Mook won't start tonight to combat their size?

Who would start as the third LB/Fifth DB?

If so, Shegog.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

I'm not sure. Mook has been very good against the run so far this year. I would think Foster would use his quicks/instincts to get into the backfield and cause some problems for that jet sweep series.

I don't know if I'm going to like this Peterman guy.

J. Crewe.