Bugging out: Panthers, Yellow Jackets clash with ACC Coastal Division on the mind


On Pitt’s scout team, many underclassmen and walk-ons simulate the opponents’ offenses to give the defense a better understanding of what to prepare for in the weekend’s matchup.

This week, Pitt’s scout team might have more impact on the team’s game day execution than it did during any other week this season.

The scout team’s offense replicated Georgia Tech’s triple option, a style of play Panthers defenders will face when Pitt (4-3, 2-1 ACC) hosts Georgia Tech (5-2, 2-2 ACC) Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field.

According to sophomore linebacker Matt Galambos, freshman athlete Jaquan Davidson played quarterback for the scout team and took snaps from redshirt sophomore Anthony Rippole.

Davidson played the role of Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas, who leads the Yellow Jackets in passing (137 yards per game) and rushing (89.3 yards per game).

Pitt senior defensive end David Durham, who is tied for the team lead in sacks (3), said it will take a special effort to not become victimized by the triple option.

“I think discipline is a little bit heightened here,” Durham said. “There’s no secret to beating an option team. It’s just discipline and accountability.”

Nicholas Grigsby said he’ll move from defensive end, where he’s received the bulk of recent reps, to middle linebacker against Georgia Tech.

“Because I have speed,” the redshirt junior linebacker said.

He’ll share defensive possessions at middle linebacker with Galambos and redshirt sophomore Bam Bradley.

Galambos said that whoever is playing the middle linebacker position is responsible for communicating with teammates before snaps to be sure they meet assignments.

It took a masterful performance from Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald to even semi-contain the Yellow Jackets in their 21-10 win over the Panthers in Atlanta last season. Donald had 11 tackles, including a career-high six tackles for loss, one sack and two forced fumbles, but Georgia Tech still amassed 276 rushing yards.

This season, Georgia Tech is just one of four Division I teams to average more than 300 yards per game on the ground.

Todd Thomas starts as outside linebacker for the Panthers Saturday. His performance in last year’s loss went under the radar, as Thomas collected a game-high 12 combined tackles. Thomas will play outside the trio of middle linebackers on Saturday.

On the other side of the ball, Georgia Tech is renowned for a technique among its offensive linemen known as “cut blocking,” and Pitt defensive linemen have been working to combat the move since Monday’s practice.

A cut block occurs when an offensive lineman who generally lacks size thrusts his shoulder towards a defender’s opposite hip.

The plays can either trip up a pass rusher or simply impede the defender’s progress to the ball carrier.

Junior defensive tackle Darryl Render said Pitt’s defensive linemen have to “stay low, use [their] hands, get ready and move fast.”

“You’ve got to move quickly and bounce up off the ground, even if they get you, you’ve got to be able to bounce up and get moving,” he said.

The Panthers enter the game in a first-place tie with Duke and Virginia in the ACC Coastal Division.

The last two Homecoming games have had mixed results for the Panthers. The team beat Virginia 14-3 in last year’s game, and lost 45-35 to Louisville the year before.

This year’s edition kicks off at 3:30 p.m on Saturday.