The Pitt Panthers (1-3) will host the Rice Owls (1-3) in what will be the Panthers’ final non-conference game of the year.
Stay here for live updates, scores and analysis:
Pitt-Rice live updates, score
Date: Saturday, Sept. 30
Time: 12 p.m. ET kickoff
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Weather: partly cloudy, high of 66 degrees
The line: Pitt -21.5
Network: ACC Network
Pitt-Rice preview, keys to the game
While the Panthers badly need to get back on track with a victory against Rice, a win won’t solve all the program’s problems. Rice has just one victory, and it came against UTEP.
But a loss for Pitt would be catastrophic. If the Panthers fell to the Owls, they would need to win five of their last seven games to be bowl eligible, and two of those contests will come against No. 12 Virginia Tech and No. 14 Miami. Pitt also faces Syracuse and Duke on the road along with N.C. State, Virginia and North Carolina at home.
The Panthers and coach Patt Narduzzi’s biggest problem right now is the quarterback position. Graduate transfer Max Browne has really struggled getting the ball downfield. He is completing 65.4 percent of his passes but only for an average of 5.3 yards per attempt. Browne also has 1 touchdown versus 2 interceptions.
That’s opened the door for sophomore Ben DiNucci. He is averaging 7.3 yards per pass and has 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. But Narduzzi stopped short of naming DiNucci the starter for this week’s game against Rice, so it’s likely both quarterbacks will see time behind center.
No matter who plays quarterback, the Panthers need to get the ball into the hands of running back Qadree Ollison and wide receiver Quadree Henderson. Narduzzi’s squad hasn’t managed to get the ground game going like last year, so Ollison is averaging only 4.0 yards per rush. But he does lead the team with 320 yards from scrimmage.
Henderson has made a minimal impact offensively over the last three weeks, but against Georgia Tech last Saturday, he returned a punt for a touchdown and averaged 24.4 yards per kick return. The performance helped him get named ACC Specialist of the Week for Week 4.
The junior receiver also had a 74-yard catch against Oklahoma State two weeks ago, but that was his only reception of that game. He had 2 catches for 4 yards last week. Henderson needs to touch the ball more often on offense.
Rice went 3-9 and finished fifth in Conference USA last season. In two of the Owls’ three losses this season, the games really got out of hand. Rice lost to Stanford, 62-7, and to Houston, 38-3. Last week, the Owls fell to Florida International, 13-7, in their conference opener.
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