Heupel, UT coaching staff have history with Pitt Panthers

Orange and White Nation

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel talks with an official during the first half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Bowling Green on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — While the Tennessee Volunteers and Pittsburgh Panthers haven’t met on the field since 1983, Vols coach Josh Heupel is familiar with this week’s opponent.

Heupel owns a 1-1 record against Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers, falling 35-34 in 2019 while upending Pitt 45-14 in Heupel’s first year as coach at Central Florida in 2018.

“In 2019, we started extremely slow and there were some things we could have controlled on offense and some things that they did too,” Heupel said. “We made some adjustments over the course of the game and started to make some plays.”

Despite the success Heupel’s offenses had against the Panthers, he knows this is a defense that can really get after the quarterback. Last week Pitt sacked UMass quarterback Tyler Lytle five times.

“It’s a good football team in all three phases, but on the defensive side of it, veteran, physical front seven,” Heupel said. “Their safeties do a great job in run support. You’ve got to be able to create some seams and make some big plays. It’s going to be man-press on the outside. You’ve got to be able to make some one-on-one plays.”

Heupel isn’t the only UT coach with experience against the Panthers. Defensive coordinator Tim Banks coached against Narduzzi and Pitt four times in the last five years while on the Penn State staff.

“First off, Narduzzi and those guys, that whole Pitt program has done a great job since those guys have been there,” Banks said. “It starts with the quarterback. (Kenny Pickett) is obviously an experienced guy. He’s played a lot of ball.

“He’s athletic and seems to be able to make all the plays. He hasn’t changed since we obviously saw him at the other place. They’ve got good skill around him and a good offensive line. They look like all the teams we have seen in the past.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s game between Pitt and Tennessee is set for noon.

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