Matchup of the Week: UM Run Defense vs. Pitt Rushing Attack

Cory Grimes
4 min read
Miami Run Defense vs. Pitt Rushing Attack

Tomorrow at 3:30 will mark the last time the Canes will take the field at Hard Rock in 2018, and for the seniors it will be their last time ever donning the U. The ACC Coastal champion, Pittsburgh Panthers, ruined Miami’s perfect record in 2017. Miami doesn’t have much to play for on paper this time around. However, they do have to protect their pride after Pat Narduzzi showed he wanted all the smoke as he guaranteed victory in last year’s halftime interview. Narduzzi is a confident and somewhat brash individual, and let’s be honest, his team punched the Canes in the mouth last year. I am certain the players and coaches remembered what went down on Black Friday last year. Pittsburgh is no juggernaut, but they do bring in a vaunted rushing attack that many teams have struggled to stop. Inside, outside, left, right. It doesn’t matter. Pittsburgh wants to run the football, and if Miami can stymie their attack, then it will be tough sledding for the Panthers to move the ball. Welcome to the Matchup of the Week: Miami Run Defense vs. Pittsburgh Rushing Attack

LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, James Conner. Pitt has had no shortage of big time backs in recent years, and 2018 is no different. Pittsburgh has had several games of over 300 yards rushing including 2 games at 484 and 492 yards on the ground. They come in ranked at 15th in the nation at rushing. They also sport 2 of the top 5 rushers in the ACC with Quadree Ollison (1106 yds) and Darrin Hall (888 yards). Ollison is the more physically imposing runner, and Hall is the more explosive back. Ollison went down earlier in the year and Hall stepped and didn’t skip a beat. These two guys really are starter caliber, and Pittsburgh likes to rotate these guys in and out frequently to keep them fresh.

My x-factors in this matchup are not running backs however. Pittsburgh has guys on the outside in, V’Lique Carter and Maurice Ffrench, who they like to incorporate into their running games. They have added about 300 yards and 4 TD’s on the ground between the two of them this year. They are the type who can score from anywhere on the field. Pittsburgh likes to use jet sweeps, reverses and screens to get them in space. Carter is especially shifty and hard to corral in the open field. The second the defense tries to hone in on Ollison and Hall is when Pitt tries to get chunk plays with these two. Manny Diaz would be smart to key on Carter and Ffrench because they are Pitt’s game breakers in the running game.

The Miami run defense will be the stiffest test for Pittsburgh and their rushing attack. The Canes rank 33rd against the run and are tops in the nation in tackles for loss. I am not sure anyone has had success running at Gerald Willis all year. Mike backer Shaq Quarterman has played solid all year, and took his game to another level last week with a couple game changing plays. Willis and Quarterman will have to anchor this defense to stop this run attack. I predict that Pittsburgh will likely have a tough time running at Willis and the interior of the Miami defense. Not to mention, this will be Willis’ last time in Hard Rock, and he won’t be holding anything back. The Panthers will have to look to get the ball on the edge throughout the game. Jaquan Johnson, who plays extremely aggressive against the run, will likely have a busy night making tackles on the edge of the Miami defense. It’s not just the guys in the middle. All 11 guys need to be involved in stopping the run game this week.

The Miami defense has the guys to really shut down this Pittsburgh attack, but they just have to be disciplined. They have to be sure tacklers. They cannot fall asleep on the aforementioned guys, Carter and Ffrench, and allow them to get loose. The gameplan is likely to force QB Kenny Pickett to beat them. He’s not really a guy who they want to drop back and throw the ball 20 plus times. I know Pickett did make some plays against this defense last year, but at the end of the day, who would you rather see with the ball, Ollison/Hall or Kenny Pickett? Manny Diaz will likely have the secondary playing extremely aggressive and dare Pickett to beat them. The recipe for success lies within stopping the Pitt’s ground game, and the Miami offense capitalizing on their opportunities. CMR owes Narduzzi one.

Miami 31 Pitt 20

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