Quarterback Chad Voytik:
Cornerback Avonte Maddox:
Running back Qadree Ollison:
Quarterback Chad Voytik:
Cornerback Avonte Maddox:
Running back Qadree Ollison:
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Pitt moved to 3-1 this afternoon with a 17-13 win against Virginia Tech. It wasn't always pretty, but there really is no such thing as an ugly road win. Here's a link to my game story, and you can view Pat Narduzzi's press conference above. Here are a couple of thoughts to end the day...
1. Pitt's defense is starting to look really good
No one is going to confuse Virginia Tech's offense with Baylor's any time soon, but that was still one heck of a defensive performance by Pitt. They sacked Hokies quarterback Brenden Motley seven times and had three interceptions. That's what a good defense is supposed to do against an offense like Virginia Tech's. One of the aspects that Narduzzi praised afterwards was the defense's increased knowledge and understanding of the defensive schemes this week as compared to the Iowa game two weeks ago. For instance, one of the Panthers' sacks came on a four-man rush with a delayed blitz. The defenders have to know to wait, otherwise the blitz won't be effective. The Panthers brought pressure from so many different places today, that by the end of the game, Motley had no idea where it was coming from. Ejuan Price was the star with 3.5 TFLs and two sacks. If he can stay healthy, he'll be a major factor for the Pitt defense this season. He, and the rest of the Panthers, should get even better as the season goes along, which is a scary thought for opposing ACC offenses.
2. The offense is still a work in progress
That much is pretty clear. Pitt ran the ball effectively early in the game, mostly through quarterback runs with Chad Voytik. Later in the game, they had success going with a super heavy package that utilized three tight ends. Narudzzi admitted after the game that Pitt's offense is still trying to figure out what, exactly, they want to be.
"We're going to run the football," he said. "Little by little, I think we keep finding out what we can do and who can do what. I think weekly we'll find that out."
Narduzzi pointed to the loss of James Conner as a reason the Panthers are still trying to figure out their offensive identity. That's fair, but at a certain point it doesn't really matter any more. The Panthers lost a great player to injury. OK, but that has happened to a lot of teams this season. They need to move on and find some answers, because Conner's not coming back any time soon.
3. 1-0 in the ACC
That's the most important number coming out of today. As usual, the ACC Coastal looks absolutely wide open. Duke is 2-0, and UNC is 1-0, but Georgia Tech lost its second game today, which really puts the Yellow Jackets behind the eight-ball in the division. Right now, I don't think there's any team in the division that Pitt can't beat. Getting a road win in Blacksburg (even against an undermanned Virginia Tech team) puts a nice conference win in the bank for Pitt. There's a long way to go, but right now there's no reason Pitt can't compete for the Coastal divisional title, especially if the defense keeps up this level of play.
The Penguins inched closer to their opening night NHL roster today with six cuts.
Defenseman Derrick Pouliot (right), a first-round pick in 2012, was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League along with center Jean-Sebastien Dea and right winger Bryan Rust.
Additionally, defenseman Sergei Gonchar was released from a professional tryout contract while center Kevin Porter and defenseman David Warsofsky were placed on waivers. If Porter and Warsofsky clear waivers by noon Sunday, they will be assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
These moves leave the Penguins with 25 players on their NHL roster. Two players, center Eric Fehr (left elbow) and Tom Kuhnhackl (undisclosed) are dealing with injuries and could start the season on injured reserve.
-EN Says: Pouliot clearly is the most notable name out of this group.
His preseason was a huge disappointment to all parties involved. After appearing to be ready for the NHL level when he played in 34 games last season, Pouliot arrived to training camp poised to become one of the Penguins' top four defensemen and potentially the quarterback of the second power-play unit. But after looking completely overwhelmed in his defensive zone in the preseason and frank criticism from coach Mike Johnston, Pouliot is heading back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Pouliot's entry-level contract plays a role in this. He can still be sent to the AHL without having to go through waivers. In contrast, Tim Erixon, Adam Clendening and Brian Dumoulin must go through waivers.
Rob Scuderi and particularly Ben Lovejoy have hardly had outstanding preseasons but keeping them around to serve as the No. 6 or 7 defensemen - if the Penguins choose to do so - makes more sense than having Pouliot serve either of those roles. Having Pouliot play top pairing minutes at the AHL level will aid him much, much more than being an occasional healthy scratch in the NHL. Also, it just isn't easy to move Scuderi's and Lovejoy's large contracts off the roster.
Pouliot will likely be back in Pittsburgh this upcoming season. As he said recently, "They [coaches] definitely haven't seen close to my best hockey so far."
-Gonchar (right) is the second most notable name out of this group but only because of his career. He appears to be done as an NHL player. The Penguins brought him into camp more as a compliment to his previous service with the Penguins and his personal history with center Evgeni Malkin than they did as a realistic option to improve their roster.
This preseason, Gonchar looked like he was in total control anytime he had the puck in the offensive zone. He made calm, composed passes and he could still rifle a point shot, particularly on the power play. The only problem was the other two zones. Gonchar just looked overwhelmed in those areas. His skating, which was never blazing in his prime, has deteriorated. There's a reason he was a healthy scratch for the final two-plus months of last season with the Canadiens.
If this is indeed the last we've seen of Gonchar in the NHL, he's had a wonderful career. The Penguins, who have a habit of retaining former players, could even keep Gonchar around in a front-office position.
-Rust was seen as one of the favorites to land one of the extra forward positions in training camp. He had an okay preseason. He raced up and down the ice and played a tough game in high traffic areas, particularly around the opposing net. But the surprising emergence of Daniel Sprong and the coaching staff's appreciation of Bobby Farnham's rambunctious style of play has really snuffed out any competition for any extra forward positions.
-Dea was able to draw the occasional penalty this preseason but he was unnoticeable otherwise. Plus, he's a center on a team with a ton of depth at the position.
-At one point, Porter was a darkhorse candidate to land the fourth-line center role. General manager Jim Rutherford even mentioned him by name for that role. But that was before Eric Fehr, Nick Bonio and Matt Cullen joined the team. Porter could be one of the team's first recalls if a center on the NHL roster is injured. He's a veteran who knows how to handle himself at this level and will likely be one of the better forwards for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this upcoming season. He's basically this season's version of Andrew Ebbett.
-Warsofsky had a few decent games early in the preseason but the odds were always long against him making the NHL roster.
-One thing to keep in mind is these moves don't necessarily mean the Penguins' roster is set entering the NHL roster. They could still mine the waiver wire or even pursue a trade.
(Photos: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images, Matt Kincaid/Getty Images and Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
-Right winger Pascal Dupuis scored the Penguins' lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes.
-Coach Mike Johnston speaks:
-The Penguins assigned center Jean-Sebastien Dea, defenseman Derrick Pouliot and right winger Bryan Rust to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Additionally, defenseman Sergei Gonchar was released from a professional tryout contract while center Kevin Porter and defenseman David Warsofsky were placed on waivers with the intention of assigning them to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
-“I’m getting used to playing with those guys. They’re helping me a lot on the ice. They’re telling me what to do and where to go, so, yeah, they’re a big help.” - Left winger Sergei Plotnikov on playing with center Evgeni Malkin and right winger Patric Hornqvist.
-"I'm kind of sick of moving around here. I'm looking to make this a home for a bit." - Penguins defenseman Tim Erixon on moving between four teams over the past 10 months.
-An overtime goal by forward Kael Mouillierat gave the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 2-1 preseason win against the Albany Devils.
-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed forward Tom Sestito to a professional tryout contract. He had been in the NHL Penguins' camp on a tryout basis.
-EN Says: "Break Glass in Case of Emergency." The Penguins are keeping Sestito around just in case something stupid happens.
-After the Jump: The Blackhawks waive Bryan Bickell.
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Greetings from a rainy Lane Stadium, where we're just under 90 minutes away from Pitt's kickoff against Virginia Tech. Current weather forecasts are calling for rain at least through kickoff, though it might let up a bit as the game progresses. Here are a few pre-game notes to get you started...
- Here's my game preview from today's Post-Gazette, on how Pitt is ready if the weather is ugly this afternoon.
- The Panthers got an unexpected wake-up call late last night when the fire alarm at the team hotel went off just before midnight.
- As far as injuries, RB Darrin Hall is the only player of consequence that isn't going to play today (other than the guys out for the season). S Reggie Mitchell and DE Ejuan Price (both listed as probable on the injury report) will dress for Pitt.