To prepare for Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh received training from the best scout team it could ever hope for: Navy.
Last Saturday, the Panthers played Navy, which runs an offense highly similar to Tech’s. Coach Paul Johnson came to Tech from Navy and was succeeded by Ken Niumatalolo, who was Johnson’s assistant head coach.
While the Jackets now know with some confidence how Pittsburgh will defend their spread-option offense, Johnson said on his radio show Monday night that the scheduling quirk gave Pitt an advantage because the Panthers will have seen the offense at game speed.
Coaches preparing to face Tech often comment that their scout teams cannot replicate the speed at which the Jackets run their offense.
It is similar to Tech facing Georgia last year a week after the Bulldogs played Georgia Southern, which also runs an offense similar to Tech’s. Bulldogs players said playing the Eagles was very helpful in preparing for Tech.
Said offensive line coach Mike Sewak: “It’s one of the first teams we’ve ever gotten to see run our offense against them, so it gives us a chance (to see that). But also, I think it gives them a chance, too, to see what worked for them, what did not work for them, what they need to tweak and where Navy attacked and what would be the adjustments that we would try to make to (exploit that).”
While Navy beat Pitt 24-21 on a game-ending field goal, the Panthers held Navy to 220 rushing yards, 84 under its season average. In the first half, Pitt limited Navy to six first downs and 7:42 time of possession.
“I think they don’t have a lot of experience defending it, but they did a nice job against Navy,” quarterbacks and B-backs coach Bryan Cook said. “They knew what they were doing.”
While Pitt scheduled the game with Navy, the ACC scheduled the Tech-Pitt game for this week as it assembled the league-wide schedule. When the schedule was released in February, the game was one of a number of gripes that Johnson had with Tech’s conference schedule.
“Just randomly by computer, I imagine,” he said with sarcasm.
Tech honors: Tech safety Jemea Thomas was named the ACC co-defensive back of the week for his 15 total tackles and 12 solo tackles, both career highs, in the 35-25 win over Virginia. The 12 solo tackles were the most by a Tech player since 2003. It was the second ACC player of the week honor of Thomas’ career and Tech’s fifth of the season.
Thomas was also the team’s co-defensive player of the week along with defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu (two sacks, one forced fumble, multiple quarterback pressures) as selected by the coaching staff. A-back Robert Godhigh (111 rushing yards on five carries, one touchdown, 38 receiving yards on one reception) and linebacker Tyler Marcordes were named the offense and special teams player of the week.
Godhigh has earned the honor three times this year, while Thomas, Attaochu and Marcordes have each won it twice. Marcordes threw a key block on Lynn Griffin’s 59-yard kickoff return.
“I think he takes pride in (special-teams play) and does a really good job,” Johnson said of Marcordes.
Injury report: Injury-wise, Johnson said, “I think we came out of (the Virginia game) pretty good.” He said that nose tackle Shawn Green (leg) is questionable to play against Pittsburgh and that offensive tackle Ray Beno (foot) is “probably a reach.” Beno has missed the past three games, Green the past two.
Roberts impressing: Right tackle Chase Roberts, a redshirt freshman who made his second career start Saturday, earned praise from Sewak and Johnson. Roberts has been splitting the position with Bryan Chamberlain in recent games.
“He’s doing good,” Johnson said. “He’s a tough kid, he hangs in there.”
Said Sewak, “Chase did a good job Saturday. There were a couple adjustments he didn’t make in the second half, but he’ll continue to get better at it.”