Wednesday Football

Wednesday Football

What bettors need to know: Navy at Pittsburgh

Navy Midshipmen at Pittsburgh Panthers (Pitt -4)

Pressure on Pitt

After three straight losses the Pittsburgh football team is desperate for a win. The Panthers have been outscored 95-41 during their losing streak, prompting speculation about the future of coach Dave Wannstedt.

“We’ve got to get one,” Wannstedt told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Democrat this week. “So, yeah, it’s important. You come out here and work real hard and put this much time into it. The thing that’s frustrating is that you go out and you recruit good players, and they come here.”

“So, we’ve got guys who want to win and are preparing to win, but we’ve just got to find a way to make it happen on the field. There’s no other way to really put it than that.”

The Panthers made a decent start to the season, beating both Eastern Michigan and Grambling State to go 2-0. But they have fallen away sharply since then, losing to Michigan State, Connecticut and Virginia.

Wannstedt was also asked if he believed that the Pitt administration still had confidence in him and the football program.

“I won’t even respond to that,” he said.

Forced to start a freshman

The Panthers lost starting quarterback Bill Stull to a thumb injury in their season opener, forcing them to choose between two inexperienced QBs for the starting role. Redshirt freshman Kevan Smith took the helm for the next two games, but was quickly replaced by true freshman Pat Bostick.

Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled badly in the absence of Stull and ranks 105th in the nation in offensive yards (315.0) per game and 100th in points (20.4) per contest this season.   

"I was really hopeful that we could have brought Pat along a little bit slower, to be honest," Wannstedt told the Associated Press. “But Pat's done some positive things. Let's see if he can take the next step."

The 18-year-old Bostick has thrown for 411 yards, two TDs and five interceptions in two starts, and has a passer rating of 61.6 percent. He will make his third start against Navy this week.

Panthers prepare soccer style

Pittsburgh’s defensive linemen and linebackers sported shin guards at practice this week, but that’s not because they plan on using soccer tactics against Navy. Instead, the guards were worn to protect Pitt’s defensive players during drills against the scout team, which was simulating the “cut-blocking” technique used by Navy.

"They cut right across the line of scrimmage on every play, so we had our defensive linemen wear shin guards to try and be safe," Wannstedt told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

"But we had to because we had our (scout) offensive linemen cutting our players at full speed in practice. And, frankly, we had two more cases that were close to me standing here saying, 'We've got two more guys redshirting.' But there's no way of getting ready for this without doing it live.”

Wannstedt added that if the Midshipmen are permitted to get their offense rolling, they are capable of controlling the clock and limiting the amount of time Pitt’s already struggling offense will see.

Defensive juggling act

Navy ranks 105th in the nation in defensive yards (453.6) and 93rd in points (31.4) per game this season. With the Midshipmen struggling to stop opponents, the coaching staff has chopped and changed defensive personal from game to game looking for the right balance.

So far this season 26 different players have taken the field for the Navy defense and a total of 15 different players have earned starts at the 11 different positions on the field.

"We have the philosophy that if you're in that room and you're on the dress out squad, you need to be ready to play at any moment," Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green told the Annapolis Capital this week. "We feel confident the next guy up is ready to play. If the next guy goes in and plays better than the other guy, then he gets a chance to stay."

The changes paid dividends in Navy’s most recent game, a 31-21 win over rivals Air Force. A young Navy defense that included five sophomores and one freshman, blanked the Falcons in the fourth quarter and allowed its own offense to stay on the field longer.

"We cut down on mistakes today," said Matt Wimsatt, who was one of only two senior defensive starters. "This was our best game of the year on defense."

Navy’s ‘crazy’ coach

Navy coach Paul Johnson took some risks in his team’s recent win over Air Force, but they paid off. Twice in the same fourth quarter drive he decided not to kick what would have been a game-tying field goal and instead went for broke on fourth down.

"I'm crazy I guess,” Johnson told the Baltimore Sun after that the game. “I just felt like we could make it, and if we didn't, we'd have them backed up on their own 2-yard line."

The first fourth-down came at the Air Force 11-yard line and fullback Eric Kettani ran for the necessary two yards. Then on fourth-and-goal, quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada ran for another two yards and the touchdown.

"'Anytime two fourth downs are converted in one drive, it just kind of takes the wind out of the defense, and you can't let that happen,” said Air Force nose guard Jared Marvin. “Momentum just walks right across the field."

The Navy offense ranks 25th in the nation with 446.8 yards per game and the Middies are scoring 32.4 points per game through five contests this season.

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Wednesday's College Football TV Capsule
Associated Press

Opening Line: Pittsburgh by 3 1/2.

Series Record: Pittsburgh leads 20-12-3.

Last Meeting: 1989, Pittsburgh 31-14.

Last Meeting: 1989, Pittsburgh 31-14.

Navy leads the nation in rushing (348.4 yards per game). ... Paul Johnson is 2-6 against Big East schools as the coach of Navy. ... Navy's last win against Pittsburgh was in 1985, 21-7. ... Navy is 19-12 (.613) on the road over the last five years, 13th best in the nation. ... Pittsburgh has won three of the last four against Navy. ... Pittsburgh is ranked fifth in the nation in passing defense (157.4 yards per game), and ninth in total defense (268.4 yards per game). ... The Panthers are second to last in the Big East in rushing offense (127 yards per game), passing offense (188 yards per game), and total offense (315 yards per game).

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Re: Wednesday Football

Navy at Pittsburgh

Regardless of the matchup, these mid-week games are scheduled primarily for gamblers, and we love every minute of it, especially on a night when the MLB Playoffs are on the sidelines.

We have a Big East team playing host to an Independent tonight. Most sports books are listing Pittsburgh (2-3 straight up, 2-2 against the spread) as a four-point favorite with a total of 52. Bettors can back the Midshipmen to win outright for a plus 170 return (risk $100 to win $170).

Dave Wannstedt’s team won its first two games, but the Panthers have lost three in a row. They are coming off a pair of woodshed beatings vs. UConn (14-34) and at Virginia (14-44).

Prior to that, Pitt covered the number in a 17-13 loss at Michigan State as an 11 ½-point underdog. The Panthers beat up on two scrub squads leading into the trip to East Lansing, knocking off both Eastern Michigan (27-3) and Grambling State (34-10).

Navy (3-2 SU, 1-3-1 ATS) has won back-to-back games, including a 31-20 win over Air Force as a two-point ‘chalk.’ QB Kaipo-Noa-Kaheaku-Enhada ran for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 78-yard scamper to put the game on ice. He finished with 101 rushing yards and 78 passing yards to pace the Midshipmen.

The spread cover against the Falcons was the first of the year for Navy. Paul Johnson’s team won 30-19 at Temple in its season opener, but it failed to produce profit as a 22-point ‘chalk.’

Bettors backing the Midshipmen as a 17-point underdog in a 34-17 loss at Rutgers came up with pushes. Next, Navy lost outright to Ball St. 34-31 as a 7 ½-point home favorite. Then the Middies had to rally for a 46-43 victory over Duke as 14-point home favorites.

Back to Pitt, a team that has been hit hard by injuries from the outset of the season. For starters, the team’s best player, senior WR Derek Kinder, went down with a season-ending ACL tear. Kinder was off a 57-reception, 847-yard year as a junior.

Starting QB Bill Stull (thumb) remains out indefinitely. Also, DT Gus Mustakas and OT Justin Pinkston are gone for the season.

Wannstedt gave true freshman QB Pat Bostick the first start of his career in the loss at UVA. Bostick’s numbers were decent (17-30, 179 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but he and Kevan Smith have combined for nine interceptions in 126 pass attempts since Stull went out.

Bostick isn’t the only true freshman starting in the backfield. LeSean McCoy has taken the tailback job from LaRod Stephens-Howling. McCoy has rushed for 503 yards on 84 carries for six touchdowns, averaging 6.0 yards per carry.

During Paul Johnson’s six-year tenure, Navy has been a steady money maker in road underdog situations. The Midshipmen are 12-3-1 ATS in 16 games as a road ‘dog.

Pittsburgh owns a 7-4 spread record in 11 games as a home ‘chalk’ under Wannstedt.

The ‘over’ is 3-1 for Navy, 2-1 for Pitt.

This is the first meeting between Navy and Pitt since 1989, but this series started back in 1912. Pitt leads is 20-13-2 in the head-to-head rivalry.

ESPN will provide television coverage at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

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Navy - Pittsburgh Preview

Navy (3-2, 1-4 ATS) at Pittsburgh (2-3, 2-2 ATS)

Pitt looks to snap a three-game losing skid when it hosts Navy in the first matchup between these programs in 18 years.

The Panthers will take the field for the first time since Sept. 29, when they got crushed 44-14 at Virginia as a 6½-point underdog. Pitt, which produced just 288 yards and 14 first downs in the Virginia loss, has been outscored 78-28 in its last two contests, including a 34-14 home loss to UConn.

Navy has followed up consecutive losses with back-to-back wins at home over Duke (46-43) and Air Force (31-20). Against the Falcons, the Midshipmen – as usual – did all of their damage on the ground, rushing for 302 yards while completing just 4 of 7 passes for 79 yards. They covered as a 2½-point home chalk.

After scoring 27 and 34 points in their first two games – a pair of wins over Eastern Michigan and Grambling – Pitt has averaged just 13.7 points during its three-game slide. For the season, the Panthers are producing just 315 yards per contest, but the defense has held its ground, yielding just 268.4 ypg.

The Midshipmen offense is humming, putting up 32.4 points and 446.8 yards, including an NCAA-best 348.4 rushing yards per contest. On the downside, Navy is surrendering 31.4 points and 453.6 yards per outing, including 172 rushing ypg.

Navy is averaging an impressive 5.8 yards per rush, but tonight the Middies go up against a Panthers defense that’s yielding just 2.9 yards per carry.

The Midshipmen snapped an 0-4 ATS slide with their spread-cover against Air Force two weeks ago. Although they failed to cash in both of their road games this season, they’re still 46-18 ATS in their last 64 on the highway.

The Panthers are mired in a 2-6 ATS slump going back to last season. However, they’re 7-1 ATS in their last eight October affairs.

Pitt defeated Navy four straight times from 1986-89, going 2-2 ATS.

The over is 9-3 in Pitt’s last 12 home games and 7-4 in Navy’s last 11 contests, including 5-2 in road/neutral site games.

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Game Preview for Navy vs Pittsburgh

FACTS amp; STATS: Site: Heinz Field (65,050) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Navy 2-1, Pittsburgh 2-1. Away Record: Navy 1-1, Pittsburgh 0-2. Neutral Record: Navy 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-0. Conference Record: Navy 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-1. Series Record: Pittsburgh leads, 20-12-3.

GAME NOTES: A couple of programs meeting on the gridiron for the first time in 18 years collide at Heinz Field this Wednesday, as the Navy Midshipmen tangle with the host Pittsburgh Panthers. The Mids enter the contest on a high note, as they posted a 31-20 victory over Air Force on September 29th. The victory is the team's second in a row and its 10th straight versus a Service Academy. Now at 3-2 overall, Navy takes to the road, where it has gone an even 1-1 thus far. As for Pitt, it won its first two games of the season, but since then it has gone winless over its next three outings. Most recently, the team was pounded at Virginia, 44-14, on September 29th. On a positive note, the Panthers now return back home, where they own a 2-1 record on the season. Pitt also leads the all-time series with Navy, 20-12-3, and that includes wins in the past four encounters. The teams however, have not met since the Panthers posted a 31-14 victory over the Mids all the way back in 1989.

The Mids once again, are thriving behind their option attack, as they are averaging an impressive 348.4 rushing ypg on the season. The team has scored 16 touchdowns on the ground and that has played the biggest part in it averaging a solid 32.4 ppg for the year. In the squad's last game, Navy rolled up 381 total yards of offense, including 302 via the run, in a 31-20 victory over Air Force. Quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada led the way with 101 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 totes. For the year, Kaheaku-Enhada leads the Mids' ground attack with 414 yards and seven touchdowns. He is clearly more dangerous with his legs than his arms, as Kaheaku-Enhada has completed just 53.1 percent of his tosses for only 460 yards, with two touchdowns against four interceptions. Eric Kettani and Adam Ballard are two players that get a good amount of touches each game and they have combined for 586 rushing yards and six scores on the season. They are just two of five players on the roster that have rushed for over 200 yards this season.

Defensively, the Mids have struggled this season and they come into the contest surrendering 31.4 ppg and 453.6 total ypg. The unit has struggled against both the run (172.2 ypg) and pass (281.4 ypg), and it has also had no success getting to opposing quarterbacks, recording just three sacks thus far. Last game, Navy was abused by Air Force for 474 total yards, although it gave up just 20 points in the win. The Mids, who yielded 237 rushing yards in that game, did a good job in the red zone, allowing Air Force to convert on just 4- of-7 opportunities. Matt Wimsatt led the way for Navy with 14 tackles, giving him a team-high 36 stops for the year.

The Panthers have converted just 29.0 percent of their third down attempts and they have already committed 14 turnovers, and this helps explain why they are averaging a mediocre 20.4 ppg and only 315.0 total ypg. In the club's latest contest, Pitt was limited to just 288 total yards of offense in a 44-14 setback to Virginia. The team turned the ball over twice in the loss and converted only 5-of-16 third down chances. True freshman Pat Bostick got the call under center against Virginia, marking the third quarterback to start a game this season for Pitt. The promising gunslinger completed 18-of-31 tosses for 181 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the losing cause. Despite throwing five interceptions in 73 pass attempts this season, Bostick is expected to get the start for this game as well. Oderick Turner, who caught four balls for 70 yards and a score last game, has been one of the team's top targets this season with 13 catches, 229 receiving yards and three touchdowns. As for the ground game, it is paced by LeSean McCoy, who has rushed for 530 yards and six touchdowns thus far. Last game, McCoy had 19 carries for 86 yards and a touchdown.

On the defensive side of the ball is where Pitt was played well for the most part this season, as it is limiting teams to 21.6 ppg and only 268.4 total ypg. The defense has been effective against the run (111.0 ypg) as well as the pass (157.4 ypg), but it could use a few more big plays, forcing just six turnovers in five games. Last game, the Panthers were forced to defend a short field on many occasions and that helps explain why they allowed 44 points despite limiting Virginia to 342 total yards. Penalties also hurt the defense and the team, as Pitt committed 11 infractions for 101 yards. Scott McKillop registered 15 tackles in the loss and he now has 57 stops for the year, and that is 30 more than the next closest player on the roster.

The Mids seem to have all the momentum and confidence on their side, but winning on the road is never an easy thing. Still, Navy has yet to be stopped on the ground and behind its running game, it should prevail in a close one here.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 31, Pittsburgh 27

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Re: Wednesday Football

mvbski wrote:

Game Preview for Navy vs Pittsburgh

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Navy 31, Pittsburgh 27

I like Navy outright myself  8)

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Wannstedt challenges frosh QB to produce
October 9, 2007

PITTSBURGH (AP) -Twenty-eight points.

That's the target number Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt is giving freshman quarterback Pat Bostick for Wednesday night's game against Navy. To Wannstedt, anything short of 28 points probably won't be enough to outscore Navy's productive triple-option offense that loves to control the ball and frustrate opponents.

The challenge is a significant one for Bostick, who was playing Pennsylvania high school football at this time a year ago and has made only one college start, a 44-14 loss at Virginia on Sept. 29.

``We need to take a step forward,'' Wannstedt said. ``In order for us to win this game, we're going to have to score 28 points and we're not going to do that totally on the ground. Pat has had some very good practices. I believe he is into it and knows what we're doing.''

Bostick never figured to be in this position nearly halfway through a Pitt season that may be rapidly falling apart.

The freshman will be starting his first home game because junior starter Bill Stull injured a thumb in the season opener and isn't close to returning and redshirt freshman Kevan Smith played poorly in a 34-14 home-field loss to Connecticut.

Pitt badly needs a victory against Navy (3-2), if only to give some confidence to an offense that is relying on two freshmen, Bostick and running back LeSean McCoy (503 yards in five games) for most of its production.

The Panthers have yet to play the core of their Big East schedule - No. 15 Cincinnati, Rutgers, Louisville, No. 5 South Florida and No. 8 West Virginia. With so many difficult games ahead, they could be headed for their worst season since they were 2-9 under Walt Harris in 1998.

Wannstedt, 13-15 in three seasons, said last week he still has the support of the administration. But the man who hired him in late 2004, former athletic director Jeff Long, left this month for Arkansas after not receiving a counteroffer from Pitt.

No wonder Pitt needs a turnaround in a hurry. The problem is Navy, which is coming off a 31-20 victory over Air Force, figures to be a difficult assignment because of its disciplined offense.

``We need to get back on track and we need this game to get to .500, and we'll go from there,'' Wannstedt said.

Wannstedt may be looking for some outside help in this one. Tony Dorsett and Curtis Martin, two of the top 10 leading rushers in NFL history, will attend the game and Wannstedt intends to have them speak to his players if possible.

Of course, Navy could do the same if it chooses with former star quarterback Roger Staubach, who, with Dorsett, will serve as honorary captains of the first Navy-Pitt game since 1989. The game is being played at midweek so it can be televised.

Navy is giving up a lot of points - 157, or more than 30 per game. Rutgers, a 41-24 winner, and Duke, a 46-43 loser, both ran up more than 40 points against the Midshipmen.

That might provide some encouragement to the Panthers, but they've shown in their last two games they shouldn't be getting into high-scoring tilts while losing by 20 points to UConn and 30 to Virginia.

Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is the key to the triple offense, an older style offense similar to that once run by Oklahoma and by West Virginia when Jim Carlen was the Mountaineers' coach in the 1960s.

Kaheaku-Enhada has run for 418 yards and seven touchdowns on a team that is No. 2 nationally in rushing and averages 348 yards. He has attempted 49 passes, or fewer than 10 per game, and has only two TD passes. Eric Kettani, the fullback, averages 6 yards per carry and has gained 318 yards.

``If we can't run the ball, we are going to be in real trouble,'' coach Paul Johnson said. ``We aren't going to go in there and beat them by throwing the ball. Now, can we hit some big plays and supplement what we have to do? You hope so.''

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