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Weekly Kickoff: Pitt to be tested by Virginia Tech defense

After a week off, Pitt hits the ground running with a Thursday night game against Virginia Tech.

The Hokies have grabbed quite a bit of attention after all of the talk had mostly been around Clemson, Louisville, and Florida State. After pounding North Carolina 34-3, they did have a head-scratcher in losing on the road to Syracuse. But after crushing Miami this week, 37-16, it's safe to say that they're mostly for real.

Virginia Tech, of course, isn't elite. With that loss to Syracuse and an early-season 45-24 rout to Tennessee, it's clear that they're not a Top 10 team. But this is going to be a great test for Pitt, who is still trying to figure out exactly where they are in the ACC hierarchy, too.

The Hokies are solid on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they've scored about 36 points - only a hair less than Pitt. Like the Panthers, Virginia Tech doesn't make a lot of mistakes at quarterback. Jerod Evans has 19 touchdowns against only two interceptions and he leads the entire ACC in passing efficiency. Evans, in fact, is in the top ten in the nation in that category, so don't expect him to make a ton of mistakes. He will also get out and run a little. Evans is second on the team in rushing with 417 yards.

In other words, not a great thing to see.

Defensively, though, is where Virginia Tech really makes their mark. The Hokies are 11th in the nation, allowing only about 300 yards per game, and they are 16th in scoring defense giving up just 18 points per game. Pitt's offense has mostly done what they wanted this year, so that's going to be a great matchup to watch. What the Panthers want to do is run the ball, but that's where the Hokies excel, ranking 11th in the nation there, too, allowing just over 100 yards per game.

Throwing against Virginia Tech is no picnic, either. Linebacker Terrell Edmunds and defensive back Greg Stroman are tied for second in the ACC with three interceptions. Overall, the team ranks 32nd in the nation allowing just under 200 passing yards per game. Because of what they do on defense, it will be interesting see how Pitt's run/pass balance shakes out.

One specific area where the Hokies stand out is on third down and if you're looking for a key to the game, that might be it. Virginia Tech is fifth in the nation in third-down efficiency on defense with teams converting those for first downs less than 25% of the time.

All of that sounds pretty difficult, obviously. But don't count the Panthers out just yet. For whatever reason, the Panthers always hang with Virginia Tech for the most part. That's no reason to expect Pitt to play well in any given year, but it's just been one of those things. More importantly, Pitt gets the game at home and on a Thursday night, should have a pretty good atmosphere if the weather holds out.

One more thing, too. While they haven't faced a team as good as Virginia Tech defensively, I still expect them to score points. Georgia Tech is a Top 30 defensive team and the Panthers scored 37 points. Outside of that, Pitt hasn't really been tested by great defensive squads, but I still believe this is an offense that will score against just about anyone. As usual, the question will be how they can slow down a decent passing attack.

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.

Celebrities, athletes react as Cubs clinch first pennant since 1945

The Chicago Cubs on Saturday clinched their first National League pennant in 71 years, beating the Dodgers 5-0 in Game 6 of the NLCS. Next stop: The World Series, where the Cubs will face the Cleveland Indians.

>> Sheen offers to throw out first pitch at World Series

>> Cubs' comeback: Social media reacts to Chicago's dramatic NLDS win

After the historic win, celebrities and athletes took to Twitter to celebrate. 

>> Click here or scroll down to see what people were saying

>> Read more trending stories

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Pitt link dump and college football open thread

Had sort of a hectic week so Pitt's bye came at just the right time for me. The Panthers are off today but I wanted to throw up an open thread, anyway, since I imagine many of you will be watching other games.

Also today is the basketball team's open scrimmage up at The Pete. Like I mentioned earlier, it's a great idea to give fans something to do with the football team off.

The next game for Pitt is obviously a big one. And Virginia Tech has looked terribly impressive this year. Short of an unlikely two-touchdown loss to Syracuse and the loss to Tennessee earlier this year, they've dominated everybody else, including North Carolina and last week, Miami.

A few other quick hitters related to Pitt this week:

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.

Charlie Sheen won’t throw out first pitch at World Series

“Wild Thing” has been relegated to the bullpen for the World Series.

>> Read more trending stories

Actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the 1989 movie "Major League," offered to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before one of this year's World Series games. But Major League Baseball said the choices already have been made.

A spokesman told The Associated Press on Friday that MLB has worked with the Indians to identify "former franchise greats" to throw out the first pitch for the games in Cleveland. An announcement is expected early next week.

The Indians host Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, Cleveland will host Games 6 and 7 on Nov. 1-2.

Fans had suggested on social media that Sheen throw out a first pitch and be part of pregame ceremonies. Sheen responded on Twitter, posting a photo of himself as Vaughn in an Indians uniform. He wrote that he would be “honored” to participate.

"Major League" is a fictional account of the Indians finishing in first place with an unconventional group of players including Vaughn, who couldn’t find the strike zone and warmed up to "Wild Thing," a No. 1 hit song in 1966 by The Troggs.

National anthem singer takes knee before Miami Heat game

The Miami Heat were caught by surprise Friday when the national anthem singer took a knee at midcourt at AmericanAirlines Arena before their preseason NBA game with the Philadelphia 76ers.

>> Read more trending stories

The performer, listed by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence, also opened her blue blazer to reveal a shirt that read “Black Lives Matter,” before she knelt to sing the anthem.

The Heat issued a statement near the end of the Sixers’ 113-110 victory that read: “We were unaware of it ahead of time.”

Heat players and coaches stood on the court with arms links and most with their heads bowed, as they have done most of the preseason, while Lawrence sang. Coach Erik Spoelstra said he noticed Lawrence on one knee toward the end of anthem.

“I just noticed when she was finishing up,” Spoelstra said. “We felt as a basketball team we would do something united so that was our focus. Throughout all of this I think the most important thing that has come out is very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We’ve had dialogue within our walls here. And hopefully this will lead to action.”

Fans did not react one way or the other toward Lawrence.

“I saw her kneel and I understand where she’s coming from,” Heat forward Justise Winslow said. “I understand her opinion on it, but as a team we tried to show unity and respect for the flag. We also know there are social changes that need to happen in our community, but as a team we felt (we wanted) to pay respect to the flag while also showing unity and raising awareness for the issue at the same time.”

Said guard Wayne Ellington: “If she feels that the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her.”

Lawrence is the second anthem singer during the NBA preseason to kneel joining Leah Tysse, who got down on one knee as she finished singing at a Sacramento Kings game.

Several NBA teams have taken a stance during the playing of the national anthem by players and coaches locking arms.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the issue Friday following the league’s board of governors meeting.

“All I can say is what we’ve seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem,” Silver said. “It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do.”

The NBA and the union have had talks about the issue.

“We have had very constructive discussions about meaningful action that we can take collectively in our communities to help build trust between police officers and members of the community looking for constructive ways to address racial injustice, economic injustice,” Silver said. “I am very proud of the relationship we have built with the union, with the players on these issues. My expectation is that we’ll see into the regular season more of what we have seen in the preseason, which is a sense of, let’s deal directly with these important issues.”

The issue has become a hot button topic since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game as a protest against some of the country’s social and racial injustices. Other NFL players have followed by taking a knee or raising their fist.

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MMA fighter who died in hit-and-run had CTE

Jordan Parsons, the MMA fighter killed in a hit-and-run accident in Delray Beach in a hit-and-run accident last May in South Florida, has been posthumously diagnosed with CTE, according to the Boston Globe.

>> Read more trending stories

It is the first time the disease, which has been found in late former NFL players, has been diagnosed in a mixed martial artist, the Globe reported.

The Globe learned of the diagnosis from Dr. Bennet Omalu, who first discovered the disease in a former football player in 2002 and was the subject of the 2015 film “Concussion.”

Parsons, 25, died May 4 after he was struck by an SUV as he was crossing a major highway in Delray Beach during the early hours of May 1. Omalu said it was “impossible” for Parsons’ CTE to have been caused by the accident.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including concussions.

A Boca Raton man was arrested on May 7 and charged over the hit-and-run crash, in which he was alleged to have been driving his mother’s Range Rover Sport on a suspended license at speeds of 116 mph.

Police said friends of Dennis Michael Wright, 28, urged him not to drive that night after he had spent the day at Sunfest and then visited bars in Delray.

Parsons’ family has filed a wrongful death suit against Wright, who was denied reduced bond in August and is on home confinement.

Pitt Recruiting: Donovan Jeter de-commits from Notre Dame

A local standout reopens his recruitment

After praying and thinking about it I've decided to decommit from Norte dame but they are still my top school. I am opening my recruitment — Donovan Jeter (@__5god__) October 18, 2016

Earlier today, four-star Donovan Jeter announced he is no longer committed to Notre Dame. This is a pretty notable action for Pitt’s recruiting efforts. Donovan Jeter is a 6’5” 255 Defensive End/Tackle. He is rated as a four-star by all four major recruiting, and was considered to be one of Pitt’s highest priority recruits until he committed Notre Dame last month.

His commitment to Notre Dame was a bit shocking, truth be told. He was widely considered a Pitt lean by many for a variety of reasons. His brother is Sheldon Jeter, a senior on the basketball team. He is from nearby Beaver Falls High School in Beaver County, an area that has been considered a pipeline. Perhaps most importantly, he generally spoke highly of Pitt and Pat Narduzzi, especially in the months leading up to his Notre Dame decision.

Obviously Jeter reopening his recruitment should get Pitt fans on notice. I’m not sure it is a slam dunk to Pitt, though. His offer sheet is as impressive as it gets. He holds offers from schools like Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State. In fact, he announced via Twitter today that Oklahoma had offered him. So obviously, the competition for Jeter will be pretty fierce. He also said on Twitter that Notre Dame is still in the mix as well.

It’s hard to say what will happen in the recruitment of Donovan Jeter from here on out, but it’s one worth monitoring. Jeter is one of the best players in the state and country for that matter, and Pitt had prioritized before, and knowing he’s back on the market he will be highly prioritized once again.

Cardiac Hill welcomes a new contributor in photographer Matt Hawley

Hi everyone, my name is Matt Hawley. I am a senior at the University of Pittsburgh and I hope to be attending Katz Graduate School of Business here in the spring. Recently for Cardiac Hill, I covered the Georgia Tech/Homecoming game with this photo gallery. I'll be shooting other events for the site on occasion as opportunities present themselves.

I currently work as a staff photographer with The Pitt News and I have also freelanced with Panther Lair recently. I am a student manager with the women’s basketball team and I am also one of the current leaders of the Panther Pitt, so I am very actively involved with sports on campus.

I grew up in a small city outside of York, PA. I wasn’t really a fan of any specific collegiate team growing up, but I still enjoyed watching college basketball and football. Pitt was the only school I applied to in 2013, and from that point on I became a huge Pitt fan. Through my few years here I have come to love this University and city. While there have been some heartbreaking losses in basketball and football recently, I have gotten to enjoy some incredible experiences.

In my junior year I started working with The Pitt News as a staff photographer and my love of photography grew. Sports are one of my main passions in life and I chose to combine that with my love of photography. I began shooting Pitt sports such as baseball and soccer. Once I started making more connections, I have now shot some high profile events such as Pitt basketball/football, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, two Pirates games, Steelers training camp, and two Steelers games so far.

I’m not really sure if I want to try and do sports photography full time, but I definitely want to be involved in a collegiate or professional sports team in some fashion. In the meantime, I’ll occasionally be contributing photo galleries to this site while hopefully obtaining my MBA here at Pitt. Please feel free to check out my Twitter and Instagram, both @MattHawleyPhoto.

Jordan Whitehead, Quadree Henderson win weekly ACC awards

Following Pitt's win against Virginia on Saturday, two players won weekly awards from the ACC - Jordan Whitehead and Quadree Henderson.

Whitehead secured the Defensive Player of the Week award and Henderson was the Specialist of the Week.

Whitehead no doubt won the award after his big play that changed the complexion of the game. With things tied just before halftime, the Pitt safety grabbed an interception and returned it back for a touchdown to give the Panthers the lead. He also had four tackles on the day and even made some plays on offense, running for 28 yards.

Henderson had a huge kickoff return for a touchdown as well as a key punt return. That, of course, was in addition to his regular work on the offense as a wide receiver. For the first time this year, he didn't record a catch. He did have a run that went for six yards, but most of his damage was done on special teams.

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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