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The Turning Point: Peterman’s Miss

There were many twists and turns in this game, but not many would have been necessary had Peterman not missed a big fourth down conversion.

Under nine minutes separated Pitt from a huge road win against North Carolina yesterday. They were up 13 points with about 8:45 remaining in the game. To that point, the defense had turned things around and were frustrating the Tar Heels. Now, we can debate whether North Carolina’s own play calling got in their own way or not, but some big sacks gave Pitt a chance to cement the game.

For the third straight possession, North Carolina came away with zero points and Pitt’s offense was tough to stop. Add to that the fact that the Heel’s defense had to be exhausted and it seemed like Pitt needed to just keep doing what they were doing, which was methodically drive down the field.

Matt Canada did what he had done all game to start the drive. He called Moss’ number for a gain of two and then used a jet sweep to Henderson for two more yards. Not ideal results, but those were the same calls they used before. Now, it was time for fifth-year senior, Nate Peterman to step up and make a play from his own 24-yard line. Peterman dropped back and had Tre Tipton open for the first and overshot him. Tipton was open, he had the first down, and Peterman just missed the throw.

We can debate Pitt’s play-calling on the next drive and then the fourth down plays on UNC’s last drive, but this one could have prevented a lot of that, considering the Heels won with two ticks left on the clock. Believe me, I vented a lot about the 4th and nine play that North Carolina converted, where a blitzing Avonte Maddox was yanked down by his facemask without any call, but if Peterman connects there, Pitt stands a great chance at being 3-1.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Panthers-Vikings game declared 'extraordinary event,' allowing for extra security

Sunday's NFL matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings has been declared an "extraordinary event," which gives police more manpower, officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, said Saturday.

>> Read the press release here

According to a news release, Charlotte's interim city manager, Ron Kimble, made the declaration "to enhance public safety."

"An Extraordinary Event is defined as a large-scale​ event or an event of national or international significance which might attract a significant number of people to a certain geographic area of the city," the release said, adding that the designation "allows the city to modify its permitting process for activities such as parades and specifies particular items that are prohibited from being brought into certain boundaries of the event."

The game comes just one day after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released dashcam and body camera videos of the encounter in which an officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott. Scott's death Tuesday sparked protests throughout the week. 

>> Dashcam and body camera footage released in shooting of Keith Scott

Before the start of the 2016 season, the Panthers announced increased security changes.

There are now metal detectors and walk-through scanners, and surveillance has been doubled.

The team said earlier this week that they’ve been in contact with government officials and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to prepare for Sunday’s game.

>> Police provide explanation of video footage in shooting of Keith Scott

This week, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said that he's confident the department has the resources to keep the city safe.

Fans should also expect to see highly trained bomb-sniffing dogs around Bank of America stadium Sunday afternoon when the Panthers take on the Minnesota Vikings.

Panther’s fans said they aren’t overly concerned about game security.

>> Read more trending stories

“[I’m] a little nervous, but not too worried," one fan said. "I know they got a handle on things pretty well down here. There’s a lot of police and stuff uptown. You see the guys in uniform. I think it'll go pretty smoothly tomorrow."

A spokesman said the National Guard is still expected to be in Charlotte on Sunday, but could not say whether guardsmen would be on hand at Bank of America Stadium for the game.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Pitt blows fourth quarter lead against North Carolina, loses 37-36

The Panthers defense gave up late points. Again.

Sort of becoming a theme, right?

Pitt’s defense again had a chance to close the door on an opponent for the second consecutive week and came up short again. This time, it was North Carolina defeating the Panthers, 37-36 on a last-second touchdown pass in a jumbled mess where the Tar Heels barely got the play off in time.

This one isn’t all on the defense, of course. Sure, they gave up an unreal three fourth down conversions on the final drive. Sure, they allowed more than 35 points for the second straight week. And, well, sure, they gave up two touchdowns in the final five and a half minutes. They deserve a lot of the blame. But they had help in this one as, after a brilliant game offensively, the Panthers again struggled on that side of the ball late.

Pitt’s offense had a chance to seal the game. A few of them, actually. But they could only muster a measly three points on their final four drives.

Not scoring was only one of the team’s sins. When you look back at how little time they ate off the clock, it was borderline criminal. The first of those was a three-and-out that took only 1:22 off the clock. Next, they scored a field goal, but at only 2:42. The last two were three-and-outs that both lasted less than 1:50. None of that will cut it, folks.

What I didn’t understand as well was the uber-conservative playcalling on that last drive, too. On that final drive, Pitt basically ran two straight forward runs with Conner before tossing a screen his way. It made little sense in reality given all of the success they had with the innovative plays earlier in the game.

Henderson, for the record, was running ragged over the Tar Heels. He had a whopping 107 yards on only nine carries. Conner did a nice two-way act again with 66 rushing yards and 64 passing yards. But if you’re pinning this all on Canada for not going to Henderson on that last drive, I’d encourage you to think again.

Now, I think Canada should have done more, but let’s look at those drives. This wasn’t merely a case of abandoning Henderson. They involved him on two plays on the first drive but couldn’t move the chains. They tried to get the ball to Henderson and Chawntez Moss on the next one resulting in a punt and they were shut down. The fact is that they used Henderson on those other two drives and they couldn’t pick up a first down. Going to Conner was fine by me, but I think the plays should have been a little less standard.

A big goat on those drives was quarterback Nathan Peterman. Peterman to that point had played a fine game but he badly missed on two big short third down passes. It’s frustrating because Pitt doesn’t need the world from him - just to convert on the short throws, avoid mistakes, and make one or two plays. He mostly did that all day except on those drives.

Fact is, there’s plenty of blame to go around offensively.

Defensively, I’m at a loss where Pitt goes from here. The book is clearly out that they can’t cover and I thought it was sort of ironic that, on the game’s final play from scrimmage, Ryan Lewis blatantly held the North Carolina receiver before giving up a touchdown, anyway. It’s sort of like the old adage in basketball - if you’re going to foul, at least stop the opponent from scoring.

The defense did its part earlier that half by limiting the Tar Heels to only seven points until the final six minutes but folded when you really needed them.

There were all sorts of problems in pass coverage. In particular, I called out several times on Twitter when Oluwaseun Idowu was exposed at linebacker. He couldn’t keep up with North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer and while you don’t necessarily expect him to be able to, he really didn’t do a good job on him. He wasn’t only beaten, but on at least one occasion, he completely missed the assignment and on another play with a clean shot at the quarterback, whiffed on a wide open sack.

Losing Elijah Zeise for the season looks like an even more significant loss at this point. Idowu has had some nice moments at other times in the season, so I don’t want to be too harsh on him. And it’s easy to forget that he was just a walk-on before earning a scholarship this year. But he had a really, really tough day today.

Also in my doghouse was Terrish Webb, who struggled mightily. Several times Webb was beaten and a few more, he looked completely lost out there in which way to go, opting to leave a few guys uncovered. If there’s a reason to not give Reggie Mitchell a shot, I’m missing what that is. The Webb-Mitchell battle went right down to the last second at training camp and Webb has really had a tough time this year.

One guy that should be devoid of criticism is Ejuan Price. That guy was superhuman today, recording a safety, adding a sack or two, and he was constantly in the backfield despite being held. I know we’ve propped up Aaron Donald quite a bit since his senior year at Pitt, as we should have. But while Price might not quite be on that level, he’s really close, folks. I also thought he was held a few times today and he’s a very, very good player.

I wrote this during the game, but at some point, this becomes less about the talent you have and more about needing to have guys knowing what they need to do. And if they know what they need to do and are not capable of doing it, maybe you need to change how you’re doing them.

Anthony Dorsett, Jr., former Pitt player and obviously the son of Tony Dorsett, had a lot of pointed comments on Twitter today. You can go check out his account, but one thing he said is something we’ve heard before that was pretty significant:

RT @Hail_Pitt: Narduzzi' defense challenges you to pass on them. A great scheme when you have talent throughout the secondary #Pitt— ANTHONY DORSETT, JR. (@DORSETTJR) September 24, 2016

Pitt seems to be forcing their corners to try to stretch themselves and cover one on one. It’s clear they are unable to do that on a regular basis. That’s not a knock on those guys but we’re seeing time and again the struggles they’re having. Pitt’s system, as even Pat Narduzzi said earlier this week in his press conference, requires that those guys play one on one at times. Based on the number of times you’re seeing them out there on their own, it’s clear that either one of two things is happening.

Perhaps the safeties are missing assignments entirely. In that case, it’s something that needs to be coached better to know where they need to be. The other option is that Pitt’s coaching staff insists on playing that much one-on-one coverage and their corners simply aren’t talented enough to keep up. In that case, it’s a bit of stubbornness to not change the defense to give them more help.

It’s clear that in watching the past two games that they are going to struggle against any capable quarterback. Perhaps the way they’ve been playing will be enough to beat the weaker teams on the schedule. And sure, the counter argument could be that Pitt nearly won both games, anyway. But the fact is that they are giving up big chunks of yardage on a routine basis. And even against North Carolina, part of the reason they were able to slow the Tar Heels’ offense down earlier was because they were still trying to run the ball. If I’m any defense with any kind of a quarterback, I don’t know why you wouldn’t look at game film of the past two games and throw the ball 50 times.

I always hate trying to oversimplify things, but that’s where we’re at. Pitt’s offense has shown they can score points and Pitt’s defense has shown that they can’t stop teams from scoring. Sure, there are variances - the offense will struggle sometimes and the defense will shine. But overall, that’s where we are.

And if that’s where we are, we’re looking at another team very similar to the ones we’ve seen in the past.

Not great, not terrible, just sort of ... there.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

(Don't) Bet the Farm: Pitt-UNC Predictions

The Cardiac Hill staff makes their predictions for Pitt's 1st conference game of the year

While Pitt was not successful last week, the Cardiac Hill staff was mostly successful with only one writer getting the wrong pick.

This week, we're more optimistic. This is Pitt's first ACC game, and their second game in a row on the road. Pitt's lost every game to North Carolina since entering the ACC by about a touchdown. Most of the games have been very close, and the staff feels that this is the year the streak stops. James Conner has found success against UNC the first two years he played them, and Pitt is hoping it's enough to push them for a win this time.

Anson - Pitt (3-0)

Chris - Pitt (3-0)

Corey - North Carolina (3-0)

JD - Pitt (3-0)

Jim - Pitt (3-0)

Aron - Pitt (2-1)

Scott Barnes named as potential candidate for Oregon State job

The Pitt athletics director says he’s happy with the Panthers

Usually it’s coaches that Pitt has to be worried about other schools poaching.

Oregon State lost its athletics director, Todd Stansbury, who headed to Georgia Tech. One of the names mentioned to replace him? Pitt AD Scott Barnes.

Barnes is from the pacific northwest, but has no ties to Oregon State. He’s from nearby Washington and went to Fresno State in California. The closest anyone can come to a true link there is that Barnes hired current Oregon State football coach Gary Andersen when he was at Utah State. Seriously, that’s the link.

All of this stems from The Oregonian coming up with a list of potential ‘candidates’. But the articles I’ve read there seem to lay out more why Barnes would be a good fit - not that there’s been actual contact between the two side. They’ve had a few articles on the search and you can find them on their Oregon State page.

Barnes’ stance? As the Trib reported last night, he seems happy at Pitt:

“I was completely unaware of the article and speculation until it was just brought to my attention,” said Barnes, who is with the Pitt football team in Chapel Hill, N.C., where the Panthers meet North Carolina on Saturday. “Obviously, my full focus and energy has been directed at what we have going on at Pitt. “I don't think it is appropriate for me to talk about another institution's personnel search, but I can tell you my family and I feel very fortunate to be in Pittsburgh, and we are incredibly excited about our future here.”

That’s obviously the route that more people take when they are mentioned as a potential job candidate elsewhere - happy where I am without a hard denial in any interest. Frustrating for fans and former Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon did this for years.

Could it happen? Sure, I guess. But to me, the job down the road that Pitt fans should probably be more worried about regarding Barnes is Washington. He is from that state and was the Associate AD there. In addition, he was the AD at Eastern Washington immediately before that. For about ten years, he was at both schools before going to Utah State. Fortunately, Washington just hired an athletics director this year so hopefully won’t be looking for a while.

For Pitt, the loss of Barnes would be a setback. While many fans weren’t impressed with the Kevin Stallings hire for the basketball team, Barnes has made a lot of great moves. He’s already begun to improve the mess that has been the Olympic sports programs. Some have thrived in the past but some have been down for many years. He’s made a good commitment to improve those programs, has already brought in a few new hires, and has released the master plan where improving Pitt’s Director’s Cup standings was named as a priority.

He’s made football the clear priority and pumped a good bit of ACC money into things like facilities while giving coach Pat Narduzzi the resources to hire quality assistants. He understands that football is the moneymaker and needs to thrive for everything else to fall into place.

In addition to that, there was also the relaunch of the Pitt script brand across the board. Finally, known as a fundraising guru of sorts, Barnes has made a big push in increasing donations. As mentioned in the master plan, a big part of what he wants to do is re-engage alumni to help raise more money.

Pitt athletics seems like its on the right track and to suffer a loss of the AD at this point would be difficult.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Mariners suspend catcher Steve Clevenger for rest of season over BLM tweets

The controversial tweets of Mariners’ reserve catcher Steve Clevenger have led to his suspension.

Clevenger was suspended for the rest of the season without pay Friday for tweets made this week regarding a recent police shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Black Lives Matter movement which many found to be offensive.

>> Read more trending stories 

Clevenger’s Twitter account is currently private. Screen shots of the tweets showed Clevenger made disparaging comments about protesters, tweeting, “Keep kneeling for the Anthem” and “BLM is pathetic once again! Obama you are pathetic once again! Everyone involved should be locked behind bars like animals!”

Clevenger was informed of the suspension on Friday. He will lose 10 days' pay from his $516,500 salary in the major leagues, which comes to $28,224, according to The Associated Press.

The Major League Baseball Players Association could challenge the suspension, but has not yet commented on the case.

Mariners Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Dipoto released a statement Thursday afternoon:

“The Seattle Mariners are very disappointed at the tweets posted on Steve Clevenger’s account. While he is certainly free to express himself, his tweets do not in any way represent the opinions of the Seattle Mariners. We strongly disagree with the language and tone of his comments. We are currently examining all internal options that are available to us as we determine appropriate next steps. We will have no further comment at this time.”

On Thursday night, MLB on FOX reporter Ken Rosenthal shared a statement from Clevenger, who apologized for "the distraction my tweets on my personal Twitter page caused when they went public.”

"I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms," continued Clevenger's statement. "My tweets were reactionary to the events I saw on the news and were worded beyond poorly at best and I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel."

Statement from Steve Clevenger    "First and foremost I would like to apologize to the Seattle Mariners, my teammates,...Posted by Ken Rosenthal on Thursday, September 22, 2016

Clevenger appeared in 22 games for the Mariners this season. He has been on disabled list with a fractured hand since June 30. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Going Scouting: Marshall Thundering Herd

Get ready to tune in for Pitt’s next opponent, because Marshall isn’t someone we’ve seen a lot of lately.

For the second time in three weeks, Pitt will play an opponent for the first time in school history. Oklahoma State had not met the Panthers on the gridiron previously and now it’s Marshall’s turn. Despite being only a few hours down the road, Pitt and Marshall have never met in football. That will change one week from tonight, but before that happens, how can you get a look at the Thundering Herd?

Well, it just so happens, that if you get the CBS Sports Network (not CBS, but the CBS Sports Network), you can flip right to their game tonight, after Pitt is done tangling with North Carolina. Not only will you get a look, but it is an intriguing game, as well. Marshall will be at home, with an 8:00 p.m. kickoff, against the newest college football darling....Louisville!

Yup, you read that right: Louisville is traveling to Marshall. The Thundering Herd have a great history, but they did give up a lot of points in their lone loss to Akron, so Louisville could have some fun. At the same time, Louisville has Clemson one week from today and this is a big home game for Marshall, so could they catch the Cardinals in a trap game? Head coach Doc Holliday certainly hopes so and so does the home crowd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Marshall has the ability to strike fear against power 5 teams and Pitt doesn’t want to get caught looking ahead next week. They will hope to learn from the Louisville game just what they will be in store for when the Herd comes to Heinz Field. You can find out early. Just tune in.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Pitt vs. North Carolina: How to Watch, Schedule, Game Information

Here’s the key information for today’s contest

Pitt opens ACC play today against North Carolina as they’ll travel on the road for an afternoon kickoff. The Panthers are hoping to rebound after last week’s loss against Oklahoma State and you can bet that both teams will be fighting hard to start conference play with a 1-0 record.

The Panthers’ defense will need to step up and put last week behind them. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels sport a pretty good offense and are multifaceted with strong passing and running games. In other words, slowing them down will be no easy task and Pitt will need to make sure their offense doesn’t stall out, either. This could be another one of those shootout games that Pitt has found itself in for the past two weeks, so hopefully they’ll be able to keep up again.

Here are the game details for today's contest against the Tar Heels:

Date: September 24, 2016

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Location: Chapel Hill, NC (Kenan Stadium)

TV: ESPNU (national telecast)

Radio: 93.7 FM The Fan

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Dodgers pay tribute to longtime broadcaster Vin Scully

The Dodgers paid tribute to Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully on Friday, and a crowd of 52,320 roared its approval during an hourlong ceremony on his appreciation night before Los Angeles’ 5-2 victory against Colorado.

Scully, holding hands with his wife, Sandi, walked from the dugout to home plate for a ceremony honoring his 67 years in the Dodgers’ broadcast booth. The 88-year-old Scully is retiring next weekend after Los Angeles concludes its regular season in San Francisco.

>> Read more trending stories  

"Hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you," Scully said in his signature greeting. "I thought I'd get that out of the way right away."

Scully thanked Dodger fans for making him feel like a child again.

"When you roar, when you cheer, when you are thrilled for a brief moment I'm 8 years old again," he said. "You have allowed me to be young at heart. I owe you everything."

The first 50,000 fans in attendance received a typed letter signed by Scully containing recollections from his career, which began in Brooklyn with the Dodgers and continued when the team moved west to California for the 1958 season.

"You were simply always there for me," Scully wrote. "I have always felt that I needed you more than you needed me and that holds true to this very day. I have been privileged to share in your passion and love for this great game."

Actor Kevin Costner, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw were among the speakers paying tribute to Scully.

Scully joked that he is often asked about his future. He turns 89 in November.

"I'm going to try to live," he said. "I'm looking for a much smaller house and a much larger medicine cabinet."

Dodgers chairman Mark Walter, former owner Peter O'Malley and former managers Tom Lasorda and Joe Torre, now an MLB executive, were among those on hand. O'Malley's father, Walter, first owned the team and was instrumental in bringing the Bronx-born Scully west when the Dodgers relocated to the vast Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Walter said the team would add Scully’s name to the stadium “ring of honor,” next to the retired numbers. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gave Scully a key to the city. Manfred said the league would donate $50,000 to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in honor of Scully.

Costner starred in the 1999 baseball movie "For Love of the Game," in which Scully narrated the play-by-play of his character's perfect game.

"We're all taking deep breaths, Vin," Costner said. "We're all struggling with our own emotions as we admit we're down to our last three outs with you. You're our George Bailey and it has been a wonderful life. You can't blame us for trying to hold on to you for as long as we can. And shame on us if you ever have to pay for another meal in public."

At the end of the tributes, Scully returned to the microphone.

"It's time for Dodger baseball," he said.

Against the Odds: Pitt solid underdog to North Carolina

The Panthers head into another road matchup where they won’t be favored

For the second straight week, Pitt heads into a game where they won’t be favored.

The Panthers travel to North Carolina this weekend for their first ACC game and it’s expected to be a difficult one. Oddsmakers have Pitt as the clear underdog here so if they’re to win, it will look like an upset.

The line started out with the Panthers as seven-point underdogs and things haven’t budged, really. A couple of places have them at +6.5 but many still consider them +7.0.

I don’t think winning would be a colossal upset and I expect they’ll come to play. They have plenty of motivation after a disappointing ending to the Oklahoma State game and also since it’s a matchup between two teams that seemingly could win the Division. But on the road, Pitt clearly has their work cut out for them.

What do you think about the line? Too high/low or just right?

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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