No. 20 Panthers face Virginia with chance to win CCA Coastal Crown | Sports
PITTSBURGH – Quarterback Kenny Pickett and 11 other âsuper seniorsâ will play their final home game at Heinz Field when Pitt plays host to Virginia on Saturday afternoon.
They have a chance to come out on a high – if the No.20 Panthers (No.18 CFP) win, they will clinch their second CCA Coastal Division crown in four seasons.
âThis senior class has been special. It will become more special with each game. I mean, what they did can be historic, âPitt coach Pat Narduzzi said this week.
In addition to winning their division, a victory for the Panthers would secure Pitt’s first season with more than eight wins since 2009.
For this group of seniors – 23 in all, including the 11 super seniors – it’s been a long road. Senior snapper Cal Adomitis, who has played 60 games with the Panthers in the past five seasons, recounted linebacker John Petrishen’s speech at training camp. Petrishen is in his seventh season of college football and his third at Pitt after previously attending Penn State. He had previously obtained waivers of eligibility due to seasons lost due to injury.
âI think this is just the result of many years of hard work,â Adomitis said of the team’s success this season. âOne of the things I really liked that JP said in his keynote speech during the camp was talking about how a bamboo grows and how you water it for years and years – I thinks it actually takes four years to water it before it sees any above-ground growth – and in the fifth year, it climbs to 90 feet in a matter of weeks.
âIt was something I think we were all thinking of that could be an analogy for this group of guys,â Adomitis continued. “We knew we had the potential and the skills to win the ACC Championship, and we’re definitely on that path right now and we just need to keep going.”
Although the divisional championship is on the line this week, Adomitis and his teammates try to treat it like any other game.
âIt’s huge, but with that there is also the aspect of not wanting the game and the energy gets too much,â said Adomitis. âIt’s the same game. It’s the same game we’ve been playing now for what, 10 weeks, so we just have to prepare the same way.
Junior defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado echoed those sentiments.
âIt’s just a game,â Baldonado said. âIt’s a really important game. There are a lot of issues. There is a lot we could achieve with this game, but this is just one of the other games. It’s just as important, and everyone has to do their job to win.
The focus on winning another football game takes seniors’ day into the background, even for the seniors themselves.
âThat’s really the goal right now,â Pickett said. âIt’s a bit difficult to think about Seniors Day. I think this is something I will think about after more than before.
However, Pickett will always enjoy spending some time with his mom and dad before starting his 47th game for Pitt at 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
âBeing able to go see my parents and give them a hug and take a moment to enjoy it before the game starts is going to be special,â Pickett said.
This group of old people transmitted a lot of wisdom to the subclasses. Second-year wide receiver Jordan Addison discussed what he’s learned from the seniors this week.
âStay focused, keep your eyes on the prize, and keep working,â Addison said.
Addison says he’s learned a lot from one of the team’s most veteran players, wide receiver Tre Tipton. A graduate of Apollo-Ridge, Tipton is in his seventh season of college football. Like Petrishen, Tipton was granted eligibility waivers due to injury. Tipton is one of eight players across the country to have played a seventh season at the same school.
âHe teaches us things that most people wouldn’t know,â Addison said of Tipton. âHe’s a veteran. He has a lot of tools in his toolbox that really help the younger ones.
To beat Virginia and claim the Coastal crown, the Panthers will need to halt another prolific offensive nine days after an overtime victory over North Carolina. Led by quarterback Brennan Armstrong, the Cavaliers sit fifth in the nation in all-out offense, three spots behind the Panthers.
âHaving a high level attack (like) the one we have this year, everyone is generally talking about attack against attack. Usually when I get a chance to talk to the team, I tell them, “It’s not attack on attack, it’s us against them,” said linebacker SirVocea Dennis. “We have great defense and if we perform well and play fast we can stop anyone in the country.”
Pitt’s mantra this season has been âus, not meâ – the idea of ââputting the team ahead of individual players. Narduzzi says this senior class personified that motto.
âI think the biggest thing about this senior class is that they’re all selfless,â Narduzzi said.
For Pickett, whose first start was at Heinz Field in a Miami No.2 knockdown on November 24, 2017, the chance to end his final season winning the division in his final home game would put a point exclamation mark over a remarkable college career for Pitt’s all-time best passer.
âIt was a crazy, wild ride,â said Pickett. “Starting that way and having the opportunity to go out there and end up as coastal champions, we’ve got to go out there and go take it and win.”
AMANDA FILIPCIC-GODSEY is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. She covers Pitt’s football and basketball for CNHI Pa Newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaFGodsey.