For the better part of two months this season, the Pitt Panthers were on a roll. They won six out of seven outings before dropping their final two games. In order to go out on a winning note, they need to get by Eastern Michigan Thursday at Ford Field in the Quick Lane Bowl.
The Eagles, of course, are also looking to bounce back, although EMU (6-6) won two of its final three contests. The last outing was a 34-26 setback to bowl-bound Kent State in Ypsilanti.
Unlike Pitt (7-5), Eastern's season was very up and down, with the Eagles never winning nor losing more than two in a row. However, if they win the bowl game, it will mark the third time in the last four seasons that EMU has reached seven victories.
Quick Lane Bowl
Eastern Michigan Eagles vs Pitt Panthers
Thursday, Dec. 26 -- 8:05 p.m. ET
Ford Field --Detroit, MI
Series: This marks the third meeting between Pitt and Eastern Michigan in a
series that dates back to 1995...the Panthers lead the all-time series,
2-0...this is the first postseason encounter between the two schools...
each of the prior two contests were played in Pittsburgh...most recently,
the Panthers defeated the Eagles, 27-3, in the 2007 season opener for
both teams...the initial meeting took place at Pitt Stadium in 1995 and
was won by the Panthers, 66-30.
Here's more on the two teams:
PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (7-5)
>> Pitt is coached by Patt Narduzzi, who is 35-29 as a head coach -- all at Pitt. Among his previous stops as an assistant were stints at two Mid-American CponferenceSchools -- Miami and Northern Illinois. The majority of his coaching experience was on the defensive side of the ball.
>> The Panthers already have one win over a MAC team this year. They defeated Ohio 20-10 back on Sept. 7.
>> During its six-of-seven win streak, only one win was decided by more than seven points. That was a 20-10 victory over Georgia Tech. The only loss during that stretch was a 16-12 setback against Miami (Fla).
>> Pitt's only loss on the season by more than seven points was a 28-0 defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech.
>> The Panthers are coming off a 26-19 loss to Boston College. Pitt held a brief 16-13 lead early in the fourth period, but BC rolled off 13 straight points before giving up a field goal.
>> The vast majority of Pitt's offense against BC came via the passing game. Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett completed 39-of-40 passes for 323 yards with one interception. Pickett has completed 60.9 percent of his passes on the year. He has 10 passing TDs with nine interceptions and has been sacked 27 times.
>> The Panthers leading receivers are Taysir Mack (67 catches, 711 yards, 2 TDs) and Maurice Ffrench (84 receptions, 685 yards and three TDs)
>> EMU might want to be on the lookout for a "Pitt Special" type of play That name was given to a key play in Pitt's win over Central Florida. Facing a fourth down at the UCF three-yard line and Pitt trailing 34-28, running back A.J. Davis took a direct snap as quarterback Kenny Pickett was in motion. Davis flipped the ball to receiver Aaron Mathews, who rolled to his right and threw to Pickett in the end zone. Since 1969, a non-quarterback has thrown a touchdown pass on 16 occasions for the Panthers.
>> Junior A.J. Davis (6-0. 215) is averaging 4.2 ypc. He has eclipsed 100 yards just once this season (103 yards versus Syracuse).
>> A pair of defensive backs lead the Panthers defense in tackles: Paris Ford (86) and Damar Hamlin (71). Ford also leads the team with three interceptions and has forced three fumbles.
EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES (6-6)
>> EMU is playing in consecutive bowl games for the first time in its 128-year history. The Eagles fell to Georgia Southern 23-21 in last year's Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. It is also Eastern's third bowl game in the last four seasons.
>> The Eastern offense, led by senior quarterback Mike Glass III, was electric during the 2019 season,
amassing 4,833 total yards, 45 touchdowns, and 349 total points. Glass was electric with 3,203 yards
of total offense (345 rushing, 2,858 passing) and 29 touchdowns. He led the MAC and ranks 17th
nationally in total offense with 291.2 yards per contest. He finished the regular season ranked 14th
in the FBS in completion percentage (67.8%), 18th in completions per game (21.64), 18th in points
responsible for per game (16.0), and 24th in passing yards per game (259.8).
>> A common goal in Head Coach Chris Creighton’s program, Eastern has won or tied (21-3) the turnover battle in 23 of its last 26 victories under Creighton. The Eagles are +4 in turnovers for the season. Pitt is at -8.
>> While passing is a strength of EMU's offense (30th nationally), the Panthers are 12th nationally in pass defense efficiency.
>> The Eagles have four receivers with at least 34 catches: Arthur Jackson III (39 catches, 679 yards, 6 TDs), Quian Williams (50 catches, 595 yards, 5 TDs), Mathrew Sexton (34 catches, 508 yards, 4 TDs) and Dylan Drummond (51 catches, 484 yards, 3 TDs).
>> Shaq Vann tops EMU runners with 136 carries for 667 yards (4.9 ypc) and eight touchdowns. However, Glass is another major running threat, registering 96 rushes for 345 yards and seven scores.
>> Senior linebacker Kobie Beltram is fourth among MAC defenders with 115 tackles. DB Vince Calhoun has 97 hits.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.