The No. 21 University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (3-0, 2-0) have perhaps their tallest task of the season ahead of them this Saturday at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh (Pitt) Panthers (2-1, 0-0) will play host to the Wildcats in their lone FBS matchup of the season.
UNH head coach Sean McDonnell highlighted that Pitt has the biggest upper hand in terms of their speed on Saturday, noting how fast they are at every position.
Junior wide receiver Brian Espanet echoed the same point when talking about the strengths of the Panthers’ defense.
“They’re long, they’re a lot faster than I,” said Espanet. “They know we’re more talented than us, but the heart we have as a team, the culture we’ve got, that’s what we’re going to rely on.”
He continued, “they’re a much bigger ACC school; we’ve got nothing to lose. We’ll go out there, play hard, have fun and we’re going to come at them.”
McDonnell gave praise to what he’s seen from Pitt’s offense as well as the defense. Redshirt senior quarterback Kenny Pickett has thrown for 939 yards through three games, 10 touchdowns and rushed for 115 yards. The captain threw for 382 yards, six touchdowns and ran for 57 yards in last week’s shootout over Western Michigan.
Pitt lost by a 44-41 final over Western Michigan last week and Espanet admitted that the Wildcats were doing a bit of scoreboard watching at that game. New Hampshire was hoping they’d be able to sneak up on the Panthers following a win, but the team is now certain Pitt will be ready to go this week to try and avoid two straight losses.
“We were hoping [Pitt] won,” said Espanet. “When we saw they lost we knew the storm was going to come a little bit harder.”
Espanet explained that if the Wildcats want any chance to steal a win in Pittsburgh this weekend, they’ll have to be perfect and start finishing their drives with more consistency.
“If we can finish drives with sevens rather than threes that’s where we want to start, especially against a bigger opponent like Pitt. We’re not going to be able to get away with that this week,” explained Espanet. “We’ve been able to sneak around it the last couple weeks, but this is no question a game where we can’t leave any points on the board. We’ve got to be perfect in all three phases of the game.”
The two sides will kick off from Heinz Field this Saturday at noon. The game will be aired on ESPN+.
Photo courtesy of Cameron Beall