Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi’s plea to his players to focus on Oklahoma State and forget about most everything else apparently reached freshman wide receiver Aaron Mathews loud and clear.
Mathews is so single-minded in his approach to Saturday’s game in Stillwater, Okla., that he didn’t even know that his friend, neighbor and former Clairton teammate Tyler Boyd is coming to town. Mathews was surprised when reporters gave him the news this week.
Boyd, a rookie wide receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals, returns to Heinz Field on Sunday for a game against the Steelers, a day after Pitt visits Oklahoma State.
“I didn’t even know (the teams) played this week,” Mathews said.
Mathews, one of only three Pitt freshmen to participate in a game this season, said Boyd’s story motivates him.
“It just tells me it’s possible,” Mathews said. “He lives literally down the street from me and he’s at the ultimate goal – the NFL. It lets me know it can be done.”
Mathews, who will be preparing for Pitt’s game next week at North Carolina and won’t get to see much of Steelers/Bengals on Sunday, said he’s rooting for the Steelers with one condition.
“l want the Steelers to win, but I want (Boyd) to have a good game,” Mathews said. “He can catch two touchdown passes, but overall the Steelers have to have more points.”
Mathews wasn’t overwhelmed by his first collegiate action last Saturday against Penn State. He played some snaps, but was not targeted in the passing game. The only other freshmen to play so far for Pitt are defensive tackle Amir Watts and running back Chawntez Moss.
“I just ran in the game and did what I had to do,” he said. “There were no thoughts about it. I just couldn’t stand there and be happy about it.
“It wasn’t too tough. I’m an athletic guy. I think I only lined up wrong once.”
Mathews, who committed to Penn State before flipping to Pitt, said the victory “felt good.”
“But it felt even better because it was against Penn State, especially because I was at one point committed there in high school. But overall a win is a win.”
Mathews could see his playing time increase due to the loss of senior wide receiver Dontez Ford with a broken collarbone. Ford is the third regular to suffer a season-ending injury, joining linebacker Elijah Zeise (high ankle sprain) and defensive end Dewayne Hendrix (foot).
Is there enough depth to handle those losses?
At the star outside linebacker position, coaches will use Seun Idowu as a probable starter, backed up by senior Bam Bradley.
At end, Rori Blair, who had a big sack against Penn State, is starting in place of Hendrix, with the athletically gifted junior college transfer Allen Edwards in reserve.
Prediction: This isn’t the same Oklahoma State team that was 10-0 and scored 70 points against Texas Tech last season before losing its final three games. But the quarterback is the same.
Mason Rudolph was sixth among Power 5 quarterbacks last year with 59 completions of 20+ yards. That’s an average of 4.5 per game. Not bad.
Is Pitt’s secondary up to the challenge?
Eventually, Oklahoma State’s speed will be too much for Pitt whose players must contend with a home crowd that sits only a couple of arms’ length from the visitor’s bench.
Oklahoma State 39, Pitt 31. In another words, give the six points.