The Oakland Zoo started getting ready for Pitt's Monday night matchup with Duke by arriving at the Petersen Events Center early on Sunday. This morning, head coach Jamie Dixon stopped by to thank them for the support and offer a little nourishment. Tonight's game will serve as a Gold Out and all fans in attendance will receive a "This Is Our House" gold t-shirt.
On Pitt Live Wire, we bring you recaps, highlights and behind-the-scenes coverage you can't see anywhere else. In addition, we'll now bring you those jaw-dropping plays that make you elbow the person next to you and say "Did you see that??."
This week's may not be flashy in the traditional sense, but could be one of the most spectacular defensive plays we've ever seen. Take a look at Aaron Donald vs. Duke.
We're just over 24 hours to kickoff in our first road ACC football game. The Panthers and Blue Devils kick off Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Wallace Wade Stadium. If you aren't traveling, you don't have to miss out on the action. The game will be carried live in Pittsburgh on WTAE-TV with coverage beginning at noon. The ACC Network contest can also be seen on nearly 90 other affiliates throughout the country. Check here to see if the game is shown in your area.
In honor of this renewed series, Pitt Live Wire brings you highlights from the last time these two teams met on the field -- 1976. Enjoy the highlights -- and of course the music!
The Panthers lead the all-time series with nine wins to Duke's eight.
The Last Time
Pitt and Duke last met on October 2, 1976, the year the Panthers were crowned National Champions. Pitt won that contest 44-31 in Durham, as quarterback Matt Cavanaugh threw for five touchdowns in the victory.
Interesting ACC Note
The Panthers and Blue Devils are the only two ACC schools with all 12 of their opponents having won at least four games in 2012.
2012-13 Duke Season Review Head Coach: David Cutcliffe (5th season)
2012-13 Record: 6-7 (3-5, 5th in Coastal Division)
Made first bowl game appearance since 1994
Three Blue Devils earned first team All-ACC honors
Cutcliffe was named ACC Coach of the Year
Beat rival North Carolina 33-30 in dramatic fashion, scoring the game winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils scored a school record 410 points last season.
For the second consecutive week, the Panthers will be facing an opponent coached by a well-respected college football veteran. David Cutcliffe, entering his sixth season at Duke, has built an impressive resume over the course of his 30-year career. Known for his offensive acumen and his ability to coach the quarterback position, his career stops have included programs like Tennessee, where he was instrumental in the development of NFL star signal-caller Peyton Manning, and Mississippi, where he served as head coach and tutored Peyton's talented younger brother, Eli. Though his primary focus has clearly been the rejuvenation of the Blue Devils' football program - as was evident with their improvements last season - Cutcliffe continues to work with the Manning Brothers to this day. Take a look at this video of Peyton and Eli working out on Duke's campus this April.
Looking at the Blue Devils Offense: 4 starters lost, 9 return (includes two players that started on defense in 2012)
1. Filling Voids - Duke's passing attack in 2012 was potent, averaging 284 yards per game and producing 27 touchdowns, but the Blue Devils will have to replace two key parts of that unit in 2013. Gone is Sean Renfree, a three-year starter at quarterback who threw for 3,113 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Renfree set or matched 30 school records during his career. Connor Vernon, Duke's leading pass catcher last season, has also graduated. A first team All-ACC selection who finished his career as the ACC's all-time leader in pass receptions and receiving yardage, Vernon hauled in 85 passes for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. The Blue Devils do have some experience returning on the offensive side of the ball, however. Probable starting quarterback Anthony Boone played in nearly every game last season, throwing for 531 yards and five touchdowns. The redshirt junior threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns in his only career start, a 42-17 win against Virginia last season. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder also returns after a spectacular 2012. Crowder tallied 76 catches, amassing 1,074 yards and scoring eight touchdowns
2. Run game needs work - Though their passing game helped make up for a lackluster run attack in 2012, Duke surely would like to see their ground game improve in 2013. The Blue Devils averaged a meager 125 yards per game on the ground last year. Duke should be able to improve that number this season, as they return four-of-five starting offensive lineman and their top three rushers from last year. Look for the Blue Devils to divide carries between Jela Duncan (109 att., 553 yards, 4 TD), Josh Snead (99 att., 496 yards, 2 TD) and Juwan Thompson (75 att., 352 yards, 1 TD). Also be wary of reserve quarterback Brandon Connette, a strong runner that scored eight touchdowns last season in situational duties.
Defense: 4 starters lost, 5 returning (2 starters moved from defense to offense)
1. Relying on defensive front - Duke finished second to last in the ACC in Total Defense last season, but the Blue Devils will hope to rely on the return of three starting defensive lineman for an improved 2013. Defensive ends Kenny Anunike, who led Duke with five sacks in 2012, and Justin Foxx will combine to provide what the Blue Devils hope will be an improved pass rush (Duke only registered 25 sacks last year). Improving their play against the run will also be vital, as the Blue Devils allowed over 200 yards rushing per game last season.
2. Fresh start for the secondary - After allowing 267 yards per game through the air last season, the Blue Devils are revamping their secondary in preparation for their 2013 campaign. Duke will only return one starter from that unit - first team All-ACC corner Ross Cockrell. In addition to having lost two starting safeties to graduation, Cutcliffe and his staff moved another starter, Brandon Braxton, to wide receiver this spring, leaving three secondary positions open for competition heading into the 2013 season.
Keys to Victory
1. Win the battle up front - The Panthers will need to run the football effectively in this contest. Doing so will keep Duke's offense off the field and wear down their defense down over time. Defensively, Aaron Donald and company need to get after quarterback Anthony Boone early and often. Disrupting the timing of Duke's passing game, with pass rush and coverage variation, will go a long way in stopping Cutcliffe's offensive arsenal.
2. Keep Crowder in check - Pitt's secondary will be strong in 2013, with corner's K'Waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts returning as well as safety Jason Hendricks. But they will have their hands full with Duke's Jamison Crowder. The 5'9", 175 pound speedster averaged 14 yards per catch last season. The Blue Devils may very well line him up in the slot, in an effort to gain matchup advantages. Pitt must be aware of his whereabouts and have a plan to contain him, as he has big play potential whenever he touches the rock.
Check back next week for a preview of Pitt's week 4 Opponent, Virginia.