Only one of Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi and Virginia counterpart Bronco Mendenhall could go home happy on Friday night when their two teams met in a surprising pivotal ACC clash but, if you knocked back a few adult beverages with the pair, they would probably confirm that the game was their kind of brand of football. Hard-nosed running, a few defensive plays, a salty effort at the line of scrimmage and plenty of mud and rain?
That’s all certainly up the two old school college football coaches’ alley.
Only Narduzzi left Scott Field with a smile however, as his Panthers knocked off the No. 25 Cavaliers in a low-scoring affair 23-13 that left the resurgent program somehow in control of their own fate when it comes to reaching the conference title game.
Leading the way all night long — in rather wet conditions following an early downpour — was running back Darrin Hall. The senior had the second best game in his career with the team and finished with 229 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries. While one of those scores came near the goal line to cap a 15 play drive that took over eight minutes off the clock, the other two were straight up home runs that came as a result of some huge holes opened up by his offensive line. He actually scored the first points in the game by scampering 41 yards in the rain and then followed that up later on with the game-sealing score in the fourth quarter on a 75 yard run that barely had a defender in his sight.
The effort took a lot of the pressure off quarterback Kenny Pickett to keep the offense rolling as the signal-caller could only muster 61 yards and seven completions on a night where it was simply hard to throw the football. Pitt went 4-of-11 overall on third down in the game but finished with three scoring dries in the second half to really pull away.
As for the Cavaliers, they can only rue the missed opportunities to really seize control of the division race heading into the final month thanks to plenty of mistakes (one turnover, 0-2 on fourth down) and penalties (10 total for 82 yards). Bryce Perkins threw for 205 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t show off much else with limited time behind his line after getting sacked five times. UVA only rushed for 44 yards total in the game itself and mustered under 250 yards of total offense.
It spoiled what had been a rather impressive run in recent weeks and came just three days after earning a spot in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s Top 25. Though there’s still a path to Charlotte for the ACC title game for Mendenhall’s crew, they will now need plenty of help and have zero margin for error with their final two games in league play to finish out the month.
The flip side is the result moves the Panthers to 4-1 in conference play and all but gives them control of the ACC Coastal with no worse than a tie for first place by the end of the weekend. The team has already scored wins over Duke and Georgia Tech this season and will control their own fate with upcoming games against Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech still to play. For a team moving above .500 for the first time since the initial week fo the season, that’s a pretty impressive turnaround engineered by Narduzzi in just the kind of game he will certainly be happy to win.
It has been quite a busy couple of days for Virginia Tech transfer news. Within hours of Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente releasing a statement about the program’s dedication to strengthening the culture of the Virginia Tech football program after a handful of players had decided to leave the program, running back Deshawn McClease added his name to the list of transferring Hokies.
“After discussing with my family, we believe that it is best for me to transfer to another university following graduation this spring,” McClease said in a statement shared on his Twitter account Wednesday evening. “I am very eager to continue my football journey and further my education.”
McClease did not say where he is heading next. His departure is another blow to Virginia Tech’s offensive outlook for the 2019 season on a day that also saw starting quarterback Josh Jackson decide to transfer out of Virginia Tech a day after a couple of other transfer headlines surfaced around the program. As McClease mentioned in his statement, he is scheduled to graduate from Virginia Tech this spring. That will mean he will be eligible to play right away next fall for whatever team he ends up joining. He has one year of eligibility remaining.
McClease was Virginia Tech’s second-leading rusher in 2018 and likely would have been the starting running back in Blacksburg for the 2019 season had he decided to stick around. McClease rushed for 433 yards and two touchdowns last fall behind senior starter Steven Peoples.
The quarterback competition at Oklahoma State this spring has been reduced by one. Keondre Wudtee is one his way out of Stillwater after entering his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, it was reported on Wednesday.
As noted by Pistols Firing, redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders appears to be the most likely candidate to land the starting job at quarterback for the Cowboys in 2019 following the graduation of Taylor Cornelius. Wudtee was the only other quarterback to record any passing stats for Oklahoma State in 2018 in his backup role, completing two of five attempts for 26 yards and a touchdown. A pair of wide receivers, Tylan Wallace and Dillon Stoner, were the only other players to attempt a pass for Oklahoma State in 2018.
Oklahoma State’s quarterback depth chart will still be padded even with the departure of Wudtee. Dru Brown, who transferred to Oklahoma State from Hawaii, is still around and the Cowboys added an early enrollee in three-star Class of 2019 quarterback Brendan Costello. Being enrolled early will allow Costello to get started with spring practices this semester in Stillwater and could potentially have him prepared to step in if needed in the fall.
As for Wudtee, we’ll see where he heads next. He will have to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules, of course.
Finally, a story NOT about the transfer portal.
Prior to the Sugar Bowl between Texas and Georgia, somebody decided it would be fun to do a photo with the live animal mascots of the Longhorns and Bulldogs. As Uga made his way over to see Texas mascot Bevo, the longhorn burst out of his caged area and made it known he was not about being a part of a fun photo opp. Fortunately, there were no injuries to report for any people or animals in the incident, but concerns about the handling of Bevo were certainly raised.
And despite pressure from PETA to stop including live animal mascots as part of the gameday experience and any others who may have voiced concerns about the worst-case scenarios involving a live steer, Texas president Gregory Fenves says Bevo will not be retired and forced to watch Longhorns football games from the ranch.
“We take the safety very seriously, but we’re going to continue to have Bevo as our mascot,” Fenves said in a recent interview with the American-Statesman. “He’s an incredible animal and a great symbol for the university. Seriously, we’re always looking at the protocols for Bevo at public events. I don’t think they need to be revised.”
So there you have it. Bevo stays. Sorry, not sorry, PETA. Unless Bevo does decide to enter the transfer portal…
I have never seen it myself, but the transfer portal must be the place to be. Wisconsin tight end Kyle Penniston is just one of the many players putting his name in the transfer portal, as reported Wednesday, as he begins to look for a new place to finish up his college football career.
First reported by 247 Sports, Penniston will have one year of eligibility left to use for the 2019 season. He will be eligible to play right away this fall as a graduate transfer. Penniston enrolled at Wisconsin in 2015 after accepting an offer from Wisconsin over offers from Oklahoma and a handful of other top programs in the Class of 2015.
Penniston appeared in 13 games for the Badgers in 2018 with three receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown. The instant rise of Jake Ferguson at the tight end position on his way to becoming the second-leading receiver for Wisconsin meant Penniston likely wasn’t going to play a pivotal role in the offensive gameplan in 2019. Wisconsin should still be in decent shape at the tight end position this fall, not that losing an upper classmen at the position is ever a good situation for a program. It’s worth noting Penniston was recruited under former head coach Gary Andersen, who adopted a different type of offensive scheme that would have potentially been a better fit for Penniston.
Where Penniston goes next remains to be seen.