"Pitt offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Joe Rudolph is entering his second season with the Panthers and he has six returning starters to work with. It's a young group that's facing a lot of questions, but Rudolph addressed some of those concerns and his quarterback competition in a spring interview." - Heather Dinich of ESPN.com
The Panthers and Lobos will meet for the first time in 2013.
2012-13 New Mexico Season Review
Head Coach: Bob Davie (1st season)
2012-13 Record: 4-9 (1-7 MWC) Improvement from 1-11 campaign in 2011 10 players earned All-Mountain West honors in 2012 (only 4 did in 2011) Notable Team Stats: Greatest improvement of all 120 FBS schools in scoring margin and rushing offense. Improved scoring margin by 25.21 points in 2012 Improved by 188.14 rushing yards per game last season Finished 5th nationally in rushing offense in 2012 (301.3 yards per game)
The Davie File
A household name in college football circles, Bob Davie took over at New Mexico last season after nine years in the booth as a college football analyst for ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. Prior to his television stint, Davie served as the head football coach at Notre Dame, where he took over for the legendary Lou Holtz in 1997. Davie served as Holtz's defensive coordinator for three years before taking over as the Irish's head man. Yet another example of working one's way up the coaching ladder, Davie has quite the football pedigree. A native Western Pennsylvanian, Davie played ball at Moon Area High School in Coraopolis and earned a full scholarship to Youngstown State University, where he was three-year starter at tight end. Upon graduating from YSU in 1976, Davie began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Pitt under Jackie Sherrill. He would return to Oakland in 1980, serving for two of the three famed 11-1 seasons (1979, 80 and 81). In charge of the linebackers, Davie worked with the likes of Chris Doleman, Hugh Green and Rickey Jackson during his time at Pitt. His last year with the Panthers was 1982. His other career stops included Tulane and Texas A&M. Davie served as Defensive Coordinator for the Aggies in the 1989 Sun Bowl, when his team fell 31-28 to Pitt.
Taking a look at the Lobos
With his connections to the Steel City and the University of Pittsburgh being many, I'm sure Coach Davie is looking forward to bringing his team here in September. Let's take a look at what he has coming back:
1. Trying to spark the passing game - Though New Mexico lost quarterback B.R. Holbrook to graduation, Davie and his staff are optimistic their passing game will improve in 2013. Largely ineffective through the air last season, the Lobos only attempted 154 passes to 688 rushing attempts in 2012. They are hoping to create some balance in their pistol offense, which relied heavily on the read-option to generate yards last season. Quarterback play, undoubtedly, will be a key part of that formula. The top candidates to replace Holbrook and spark New Mexico's passing game are sophomore Cole Gautsche and junior Quinton McCown. They will try to do so with an inexperienced receiving corps, having lost three receivers and two tight ends to graduation.
2. Run game will remain the strength - New Mexico ranked fifth in the nation last year in rushing offense, amassing 3,917 yards on 688 carries and averaging a whopping 301.3 yards per game. Despite their efforts to improve their passing game this spring and summer, all signs point to a continued emphasis on the ground attack for the Lobos in 2013. Probable starting quarterback Cole Gautsche was the team's second leading rusher last season, picking up 760 yards on 109 carries and scoring seven touchdowns as a reserve. New Mexico's leading rusher, running back Kasey Carrier, returns as well. Carrier gained 1,469 yards on 255 carries, scoring 15 touchdowns last season. In front of Gautsche and Carrier will be an offensive line that features four returning starters from last year.
1. A change in attitude - 2012 was not a good year for the Lobos defensively, as they gave up 30.2 points per game and 442.2 yards per game last season. Bob Davie and his staff certainly have their work cut out for them in 2013 having lost 12 lettermen from last year's group, but they seem to think a change in attitude may overcome having to break in new personnel. With Davie's experience as a defensive coordinator, does this indicate that a more aggressive style of play will be imparted on the 3-4 scheme the Lobos introduced in his first season at the helm? That's my guess, but we'll find out September 14.
Keys to Victory
1. Discipline to defend the read-option - The Panthers must slow down the Lobos run game in order to secure a victory. This means stopping the ever popular read-option attack. In order to get this done, Pitt will have to remain sound in their assignments and tackle well. Gautsche is a runner at the quarterback position, so containing him will also be a key.
2. Balance on offense - Throughout the course of these previews, one common theme will remain - Pitt must strive to maintain balance offensively. The run game will be the foundation and the Panthers' reshuffled offensive line looks much improved heading into 2013. Getting Isaac Bennett and company touches will open up the passing game for Pitt to hit some home runs down the field. With the Lobos having lost four lettermen on the defensive line and four at the linebacker spot, it would seem to me that Pitt has the upper hand heading into this battle. But you still have to play the game.
3. Same intensity - Sometimes bye weeks come at good times, others not. But, nevertheless, they are what you make of them. The Panthers will be coming off a launch pad week one with a huge game against Florida State (hopefully a win!), so utilizing the off week following that contest and coming into their second game of the season with the same intensity will be vital. The lesson here? Treat every opponent and each game the same.
Check back next week for a preview of Pitt's week 3 Opponent, Duke.
ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy is reporting from ACC meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., this week and had a chance to speak to Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson about the Pitt football series vs. Penn State.
Pitt fans have much to be excited about as the Panthers prepare for July 1 and their official entry to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The good news continued today as the ACC announced their 2013 Football Bowl Schedule. All told, the conference will have eight guaranteed bowl games and one conditional game that could involve an ACC team. Even better news for Pitt fans, every game will be played between December 27 and January 3, wrapping up with the Discover Orange Bowl at 8 p.m. There are a lot of great bowl games and great road trips on the list, so click the link to check out the official release.
The Panthers and Seminoles have sparred eight times in their history, each of which took place during the 1970s and early 1980s. Pitt has had the upper hand in the matchup, winning five of those eight contests.
The Last Time
The two schools last met in 1983 at Pitt Stadium. The Panthers won that matchup by the smallest of margins, edging the Seminoles 17-16. Pitt overcame a 13-0 second quarter deficit to win the game, scoring the eventual game winning touchdown on a pass from John Congemi to Chuck Scales early in the fourth quarter.
2012-13 FSU Season Review
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (3rd season), 31-10 Overall at FSU
2012-13 Record: 12-2 (7-1 ACC)
Orange Bowl Champions
Finished year ranked 10th in AP Poll/8th in USA Today
Notable Team Stats:
No. 2 in the nation in total defense, allowed only 254 yds./game
No. 1 in the nation in pass defense
Reload, Reload, Reload
Florida State was tops amongst all colleges represented in the 2013 NFL Draft with 11 players selected. All together, the Seminoles must replace 13 starters this season and they must do it with six new assistant coaches. Here's a look at some key departures:
1. E.J. Manuel, Quarterback - two-year starter, 25-6 career record, drafted 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills
2. Chris Thompson, Running Back - amassed 687 yards in eight starts last year before his season ended due to injury, drafted in the fifth round by the Washington Redskins
3. Menelik Watson, Offensive Tackle - Started 12 games at right tackle for the Seminoles, drafted in the second round by the Oakland Raiders
1. Bjoern Werner, Defensive End - Unanimous All-America last season, drafted 24th overall by the Indianapolis Colts
2. Cornellius Carradine, Defensive End - First Team All-ACC player who registered 11 sacks last season, drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers
3. Xavier Rhodes, Corner - First Team All-ACC player who had three interceptions last season, starting all 14 games. Drafted 25th overall by the Minnesota Vikings
The biggest hit was taken by the Seminoles' defense, as they must replace seven starters and reload a defense which finished second in the Nation overall.
1. Dustin Hopkins, Placekicker - Selected first team All-America by various publications and organizations, drafted in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills
OFFENSIVE OUTLOOK - More focus on the run game in 2013
Despite having a new starting quarterback, Florida State returns three running backs - each of whom played in at least 13 games last season - and four of their five starting offensive lineman from last season. Based on those facts, my guess is this will be a team that will rely more heavily on the run game, especially early in the year. The Seminoles will still have to throw the football if they plan on defending their ACC Crown, but the pressure will be thrust squarely on a brand new starting quarterback to distribute the rock to a stable of experienced wideouts and tight ends.
Players to Watch:
1. With junior Clint Trickett opting to transfer, it seems the quarterback position will be filled by redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. He will get competition from sophomore Jacob Coker.
2. The `Noles have two backs returning who each logged significant time after Chris Thompson went down with an injury last season. Look for James Wilder, Jr. (635 yards in 2012) and Devonta Freeman (660 yards in 2012) to split time, with competition form Mario Pender.
3. Junior Rashad Greene returns to lead FSU's receiving corps. He led the Seminoles in that category last season, reeling in 57 passes for 741 yards and 6 TDs. He also excels as a punt return man, ranking third nationally last season with a 15.4 yard average per return.
DEFENSIVE OUTLOOK - Experienced secondary will lead new look defense
The nation's second-ranked defense in 2012 will have a new look and plenty of new faces in 2013. Jeremy Pruitt, former defensive backs coach at Alabama, takes over as defensive coordinator in his first year in Tallahassee. He'll have to replace seven starters from a defense that led the ACC in nearly every statistical category last season. The biggest holes will be up front, where the `Noles will have four new starters. Gone are Bjoern Werner, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and a slew of other defensive playmakers. Pruitt is also charged with replacing two-thirds of his linebacking corps. Despite having to reload, he does have experience returning in the secondary. Three-fourths of his secondary is back, meaning a unit that ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass defense will remain the strength of FSU's defense in 2013.
Players to Watch:
1. Senior Lamarcus Joyner is the unquestioned leader of the Seminoles' secondary. Starting 27 consecutive games, he is expected to see more time at corner this year and is a dangerous kickoff returner.
2. Sophomore Defensive End Mario Edwards, Jr., a highly touted recruit in 2012, played in spot duty last season. The son of former FSU star Mario Edwards, he is expected to step into a starting role in 2013.
Looking ahead to Labor Day
There are really three keys that stand out as I look ahead to Labor Day, here they are.
1. Manage your emotions - Heinz Field is going to be on fire. It's going to be loud and exciting. It is vital to maintain focus and composure on the biggest of stages. There will be ups and downs, Pitt has to stay steady.
2. Run the ball and stop the run - It's pretty simple. Pitt has to get the run game going against a revamped Florida State front seven. If they do that, it will open up opportunities to take some shots through the air. On the defensive side, the Panthers must stop the run. The Seminoles will surely try to get their run game going in an effort to ease their new starting quarterback into the game, but Pitt needs to put them in situations where the young signal caller has to make some throws.
3. BIG PLAYS - Get 65,000 fans loud and on their feet. There is nothing like a home field advantage.
Check back in next week for a preview of the Panthers' week two opponent, New Mexico
Pitt football head coach Paul Chryst participated in his first ACC football teleconference on Thursday. That wasn't the only Pitt mention on the call, however. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher was asked about the Sept. 2 matchup with the Panthers in Pittsburgh. This is what he had to say:
"I think it's going to be crazy. I grew up in the state of
West Virginia. I know football and the passion people have. Being an opening
ACC game, I think it's going to be a great environment and a huge challenge for
our players. Pitt returned a ton of guys on defense, a top 30 defense in the
country and a lot of guys on offense. They have quarterbacks who have experience.
They have play makers that are coached extremely well.
"I think it's going to
be a terrific, terrific football game. I'm going to tell you, boys, that's a starter
right out of the gate. We better have a great camp and be ready to play. There
is no doubt."
The complete audio from Coach Chryst can be found here: Coach Chryst