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VIDEO: Chris Blewitt, Nate Peterman, Shakir Soto, Tyler Boyd, Nicholas Grigsby

Written by Sam Werner on .

Kicker Chris Blewitt:

Quarterback Nate Peterman:

Defensive end Shakir Soto:

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd:

Linebacker Nicholas Grigsby:

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Final thoughts: Pitt 31, Georgia Tech 28

Written by Sam Werner on .

ATLANTA — Pitt beat Georgia Tech, 31-28, on a record-long field goal from Chris Blewitt with 1:11 left. Pitt's defense struggled to control the option, but they made a couple of stops when it mattered. Here's my game story, and here are three final thoughts for the night...

1. Pitt got a win, and that's what's important
No, it certainly wasn't pretty at times. Georgia Tech moved the ball virtually at will against Pitt's defense, and the Panthers never really had the game in hand, but when the final whistle sounded, they had more points. For the third consecutive game, the defense made a big stop at the end to seal the win, but this week, the offense played a role, too. The final drive only went 31 yards, but it took up 14 plays and over seven minutes of clock. This was a game where Pitt wasn't necessarily better over the entirety of the 60 minutes, but they made the important plays when it mattered. That includes the two fourth down conversions on the final offensive drive, and the one last stop on the last defensive series. The "difference" for Pitt this year isn't necessarily wholesale changes on either side of the ball (though the defense has shown major strides), but rather just getting better situationally in key moments. That, ultimately, comes down to the mental side of things as much as anything else. Pitt isn't a significantly "better" team than last year, per se, but they are a lot better at winning football games.

2. I wouldn't take too much away defensively
Look, the defense wasn't great today. They gave up 376 rushing yards, and generally seemed pretty lost against the option. But you know what? Pitt's not going to play another option team for the rest of the season. I don't totally agree with Pat Narduzzi's comment that "stats are for losers" after the game (and, if you pushed him, I bet he doesn't either), but in this game, it's true. Pitt got a win, move on. There are some fundamental things (poor angles, tackling, etc.) that might be of concern, but from a scheme perspective, I think it's perfectly reasonable to think that Narduzzi's defense just doesn't match up very well against the offense. Or, at the very least, he and Josh Conklin will benefit from seeing it annually and have better game plans in the future. Keep in mind that Narduzzi hadn't faced a triple-option offense since 2003. As he gets a couple of games with Georgia Tech under his belt, I would expect the results to improve. For now, just be glad the game is over.

3. Pitt might be the favorite in the ACC Coastal
Pitt will spend this entire week alone in first place in the ACC Coastal Division (Duke is off this week). Nicholas Grigsby made a good point after the game that the games just get more important for Pitt as the season goes on, and he's right. Next week against Syracuse is more important than today, and the game against North Carolina is even more important than that. Really, Pitt should have no problems against the Orange next week. I know they've played inexplicably close games in the past, but Syracuse's offense is really struggling, and I'd expect Pitt's defense to get back on track. So, assuming they can win that game, that sets up a massive Thursday night showdown against North Carolina on Thursday night.

 

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Jersey hunt - Maple Leafs at Penguins - 10-17-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The best jerseys at tonight's Maple Leafs-Penguins game:

-Mike Rupp:

-This is the third consecutive game we've seen a Martin Straka jersey:

-Arron Asham:

-Matt Cooke:

-James Neal:

-David Perron No. 57:

-Normally, a Jamie Benn Stars jersey, which looks a bit knock-offish, would be a jersey foul. But Jamie Benn is awesome. He gets a jersey foul exemption:

-Wow. A legit Joe Sakic Nordiques jersey:

-As always, there are plenty of Toronto fans. Darcy Tucker and Joffrey Lupul:

-The Kyle Wellwood era - to say nothing of Tyler Bozak's - did not leave the imprint on Toronto that many had hoped:

-Darryl Sittler:

-Wendell Clark:

-Doug Gilmour:

-Yeesh. Milan Kraft Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:

-Jersey of the Night: Phil Kessel in Toronto form:

-And in Pittsburgh form:

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Pregame thoughts - Maple Leafs at Penguins - 10-17-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-They were waiting for him when he came off the ice. The much maligned media contingent from Toronto was gathered around Phil Kessel's locker stall in the Penguins' dressing room waiting to talk with him much the same way they had in his six seasons with the Maple Leafs.

Kessel offered a wry, "I missed you guys."

We can't exactly say what kind of relationship Kessel had with most of the reporters in Toronto. Our interactions with Kessel before this season have been limited to a handful of media scrums at morning skates or after games in Consol Energy Center. By all accounts, it wasn't a healthy relationship. Kessel is a pretty introverted guy who was a face - if not the face - of the Maple Leafs, Canada's de facto national team. Oh, and his time with the Maple Leafs just happened to coincide with one of the worst eras in the franchise's history. One playoff appearance in 10 seasons will turn up the scrutiny, especially on the franchise's best player. 

So far in his time with the Penguins, Kessel has been cordial if brief with the media in Pittsburgh. In his first media scrum with reporters following an informal workout at the team's workout facility in Cranberry, Kessel was asked about his oft speculated weight. He just kind of laughed it off and gave a strange, uncertain answer. Since then, Kessel has been accommodating in his media availability. His answers tend to be like his skating. Quick and to the point. While answering questions about the team's sputtering power play aren't his favorite thing to do, he's provided some insight on the subject. Earlier this week he said:

"We've had some good chances. If you look at the couple games, we've had some good looks, good opportunities to score. We've just got to bury the pucks. I think we've got to get the zone a little better. When we're in the zone, we're pretty dynamic."

Some days, it almost seems as if Kessel will talk with reporters and allow the likes of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to skip talking to reporters. 

The hockey media in Pittsburgh isn't nearly as ravenous as the hockey media in Toronto. Toronto's just a much bigger hockey city in just about every way. And frankly, a lot of Pittsburgh media doesn't bother covering the Penguins until Steelers' season is over. But to this point,  Kessel has been nothing like the monster some in Canada have portrayed him to be.

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The Penguins will make at least one lineup change tonight. Head coach Mike Johnston confirmed Rob Scuderi will be in the lineup in place of Adam Clendening. Clendening didn't have a great game Thursday against the Senators. He had two penalties and one ugly turnover. But that was miles better than what Scuderi has offered most of the season. We're scratching our heads over this one. Perhaps a healthy scratch will give Scuderi a boot in the backside to play a little sharper.

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-Nothing is set in stone but we would expect left winger Sergei Plotnikov to be back in the lineup as well in place of right winger Bobby Farnham. Plotnikov was off the ice from the morning skate fairly early while Farnham was one of the last ones off. That's usually a pretty good indicator of who will dress and who will sit.

Additionally, the Penguins were using a wide variety of line combinations at today's morning skate and Plotnikov was getting a more prominent role in those line rushes.

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-Former Penguins forward Daniel Winnik spoke with media prior to the game. Here's what he said:

On the Penguins' offense:

 

"Phil is very dynamic, especially down the wing. He has an incredible shot. And in my short time here, I learned anytime you give [Malkin] open space throughout the ice, he's going to make the plays. We've just got to play them tight and hit them when we can."

On the Penguins' defense:

"They play kind of a swarm defensive style. A little different than ours. They really shrink the zone. For us to beat them offensively, to beat that we've got to move pucks east to west and get them to the point and crash the net. To beat them, I think it's going to be a matter of us on quick transition and getting to the [defensive] zone fast. They're a team that plays pretty heavy in the [offensive] zone and if we clog it up and play the way we're supposed to be, we'll eliminate shots."

On playing the Penguins after leaving as a free agent:

"Anytime you're on a team, you always want to beat them. It doesn't matter if you're there for 20 games or three years, you always want to beat your old team."

Did he expect so much change with the Penguins this past offseason:

"No I didn't. I didn't anticipate any of the free agents not being signed back and obviously the trade for [Kessel] and a couple of players traded there. I didn't expect [Brandon] Sutter to be traded either."

On his fast start to the season with four points in four games:

"Just never change the way I play. I use my legs as much as I can. I know that's one of my biggest assets as a bigger guy. And use puck protection. I think just knowing my role night in and night out has helped me throughout my career."

On his line with former Penguins center Nick Spaling and right winger Joffrey Lupul:

"Nick and I play similar styles. We're both defensive minded and having a guy like [Lupul] who is a goal scorer really helps us. Our job is pretty much work and get pucks back and find Joffrey in the open areas. We've been doing a good job of that so far."

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Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said center Tyler Bozak will not play after suffering an undisclosed injury last night in Columbus. Another former Penguin, right winger Mark Arcobello, will replace him in the lineup.

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It's a strange time in Toronto with the Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. One Toronto reporter told us with the Blue Jays being the darlings of Toronto as well as most of Canada, he can't recall a time when there was so little interest in the Maple Leafs.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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About the Maple Leafs - 10-17-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Maple Leafs.

When and where: 7 p.m., EDT, Consol Energy Center.

TV: Root Sports, City.

Record: 1-2-1, 3 points. The Maple Leafs are in sixth place in the Atlantic Division.

Leading Scorer: Center Daniel Winnik (right), 4 points (1 goal, three assists).

Last Game: 6-3 road win against the Blue Jackets last night. Winnik recorded three assists.

Last Game against the Penguins: 4-3 overtime road loss Nov 26, 2014. Center Leo Komarov scored two goals for the Maple Leafs.

Maple Leafs Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Right winger Michael Grabner. He has goals in three consecutive games against the Penguins.

Ex-Penguins on the Maple Leafs: Centers Nick Spaling, Winnik, right winger Mark Arcobello, defenseman Scott Harrington.

Ex-Maple Leafs on the Penguins: Defenseman Tim Erixon, right winger Phil Kessel, general manager Jim Rutherford.

Useless Maple Leafs Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Kessel is the Maple Leafs' all-time leading scorer among United States-born players with 394 career points.

The last time the Penguins played the Maple Leafs, this happened: 

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (1-3-0, 2.03 GAA, .930 SV%) for the Penguins. Jonathan Bernier (0-2-0, 3.85 GAA, .865 SV%) for the Maple Leafs.

Injuries: For the Penguins, right wingers Beau Bennett (undisclosed), Pascal Dupuis ("lower body"), Tom Kuhnhackl (undisclosed) and center Eric Fehr (left elbow) are on injured reserve. For the Maple Leafs, center Tyler Bozak ("lower body") is questionable. Right winger Nathan Horton (back) and defenseman Stephane Robidas ("lower body") are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins did not have formal lines or defensive pairing at today's morning skate. Consider this a guess:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 81 Phil Kessel
57 David Perron 71 Evgeni Malkin - 72 Patric Hornqvist
61 Sergei Plotnikov - 13 Nick Bonino - 41 Daniel Sprong
11 Kevin Porter - 7 Matt Cullen - 17 Bryan Rust

58 Kris Letang - 28 Ian Cole
12 Ben Lovejoy - 3 Olli Maatta
8 Brian Dumoulin - 4 Rob Scuderi

-The Maple Leafs did not have a morning skate. These were their lines and defensive pairings last night:

21 James van Riemsdyk - 42 Tyler Bozak - 47 Leo Komarov
23 Shawn Matthias - 43 Nazem Kadri - 28 Brad Boyes
26 Daniel Winnik - 16 Nick Spaling - 15 Joffrey Lupul
15 P.A. Parenteau - 24 Peter Holland - 40 Michael Grabner

51 Jake Gardiner - 3 Dion Phaneuf
2 Matt Hunwick - 44 Morgan Rielly
36 Scott Harrington - 46 Roman Polak

Notes:

-Head coach Mike Johnston said defenseman Rob Scuderi will replace defenseman Adam Clendening in the lineup.

-Fleury has played in 599 career games. He is scheduled to become the ninth player - and first goaltender - to play in 600 games for the franchise.

-The referees are (No. 22) Ghislain Hebert and (No. 15) Jean Hebert. The linesmen are (No. 90) Andy McElman and (No. 77) Tim Nowak.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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