Pittsburgh Q&A with The Loyal Sons

This week we are joined by Pittsburgh podcast The Loyal Sons. You can follow them on Twitter (@TheLoyalSons) and listen to their podcast here.

Tell us about yourself and your podcast. 

John “Squid” Cotton, 26

Dylan Mitchell, 26

David Haddad, 27

The Loyal Sons started as Dylan’s burner account under the name “Capel Faithful”, honoring the new savior of Pitt Basketball. While Jeff Capel’s tenure has not exactly been a success, the Twitter account was able to gather a surprising following. As a group of dudes in our mid-20s, modern social mores demanded that we then start a podcast. And so in September of 2021, The Loyal Sons Show was born.

While none of us could break down an All-22 to save our lives, we take pride in capturing the zeitgeist of Pitt Football fandom better than anyone: snake-bitten, yet relentlessly hopeful. Reactionary, but surprisingly patient. And above all, emotionally dependent on Kenny Pickett.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your thoughts on Pitt so far this season?

If we only had one word to describe the theme of Pitt’s first four games, it would be “injuries”. To date, 14 players on Pitt’s 2-deep have missed time, many of whom are crucial pieces with huge expectations. Plugging so many holes has forced Coach Narduzzi to play conservatively against overmatched opponents, This has resulted in unnecessarily close games, including this past weekend’s absolute meltdown against GT – the worst loss of the Narduzzi era. The game plan has been simple: run the ball, do the bare minimum to win, get back on the bus with as many guys as stepped off of it, and get healthy for the meat of conference play. But now we’re 0-1 in the ACC and getting completely (and fairly) written off, so a lot of good that did us.

Pitt fans will tell you we know very little about this team. It felt like all the pieces were there for an ACC Championship contender (or better) until Saturday’s loss. This defense has the potential to be one of the better units in the country once it gets both starting DEs and its Top CB back and in a rhythm. The offense should be capable of more than its paltry output thus far. This team could still be dangerous down the stretch. Or they might totally suck. We just don’t know yet.

How have Pitt fans responded to winning the ACC last season? 

Pitt fans couldn’t have dreamt of a season like 2021. Older fans thought they would die without ever having seen something like it again. Truly a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

Then came 2022 and the dream became an expectation. We went from praying for a 10-win season to getting greedy about rankings and playoff buzz. We came into the season feeling disrespected about the narratives that have surrounded this team. All we heard was “No Kenny, no Addison, no Whipple.” We became an afterthought despite returning everyone in the building but those three. It gave everyone – players, coaches, and fans – a bit of a chip on their shoulders. But the disrespect may have been for good reason.

This season is viewed as a make-or-break for the program. It’s massively important for Pitt to build on last season’s success if it ever wants to return to the glory of the 70’s and 80’s. Kenny Pickett opened a window, and Pat Narduzzi needs capitalize on it. Because we can’t go back to the fucking Sun Bowl.

What are your thoughts on having Virginia Tech added as a permanent rival after this season? 

We’re pretty pumped about it. Pitt hasn’t really developed many “true” rivalries since it came to the ACC, so this could be a huge opportunity. VT and Miami feel like the closest thing Pitt has, given their shared histories in the Big East. The increased familiarity could be big for this rivalry, considering we’ve barely played 20 times.

Also, pretty pumped to get to come to Blacksburg more. Cool town, good food, Enter Sandman, etc.

Do you view Virginia Tech as a rival program? 

We dislike Virginia Tech. It seems like Virginia Tech dislikes Pitt (or at least Pat Narduzzi). We play yinz every year and it always feels like a meaningful game. But The Loyal Sons don’t loathe Virginia Tech. We loathe Penn State. We loathe West Virginia. For VT, it just isn’t there yet.

But it could be! It would be good for both programs for this matchup to grow in importance. The new scheduling wrinkle is going to go a very long way in making that happen. But we also all bear some individual responsibility in pouring a little more gasoline on the fire. So screw you, Treadmill Horse. What kind of name even is that?

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry? 

Not just our favorite Pitt-VT memory, but one of our favorite football memories, period…

Lousaka Polite’s go-ahead touchdown to put #25 Pitt over the top against #5 VT in 2003. All three of us consider it our earliest memory of watching Pitt Football.

The matchup between Pitt and VT at Heinz Field in 2018 is a fan favorite too. Pitt controlled their own destiny to win the ACC Coastal, and for that reason, Pitt fans were expecting the worst. Plot-twist, Pitt wins by 30 and nearly ran for 500 yards. We still talk about Qadree Ollison stiff-arming Caleb Farley on his 97-yard TD run to this day.

But if you want a least favorite memory, we have one that’s a bit more favorable to your side. In 2019, we rolled about 20 people deep to Blacksburg to watch the Hokies go up 28-0 before halftime in an absolute downpour. We didn’t stay much past that point. Our last memory leaving the stadium was hearing the PA man announce Paris Ford’s targeting ejection. Salt in the wound. 

What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC? 

The ACC is in a pretty stable place despite how un-sexy it’s been for like 10 years. The Grant of Rights ties all 14 teams to the conference until 2036 save a majority of schools vote to nullify it and leave. But that would almost require all of the other power conferences in CFB to coordinate together to divy up the 8+ most attractive programs in the ACC, recruit them, whip the votes, and then negotiate their exit – all behind closed doors. 

So that doesn’t seem likely. But that doesn’t do jack for the value or respectability of the ACC in the meantime. The ACC needs to be proactive about the changing winds of college football. And that starts with picking off some desirable brands from the PAC12, Big 12, and maybe even some G5 powers. Realignment is going to continue, and a P5 conference is likely to crash and burn and be picked apart by the vultures circling overhead. It would be easy for the ACC to fall behind if it doesn’t make moves ASAP. Do it for pride, do it for the TV money. Whatever. Just do it.

On top of that, the big brands of the ACC need to stop being pathetic. What the hell happened to Florida State and Miami? Hell, even GT and VT aren’t what they were 20 years ago (rich coming from Pitt fans, we know). We can’t lean on the GoR to survive. At some point, we have to do football good.

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

Brent Pry is in a true Year 0. Justin Fuente left the cabinet pretty bare, and in theory there’s a not-insignificant talent deficit between these two teams. Pry has all the resources to build something special in the Commonwealth, but that doesn’t do you much good this season.

We said the same about Georgia Tech though, and we all saw how that ended up. So maybe coaching and preparation might have something to do with wins and losses as well. It doesn’t matter how much deeper we think Pitt is if they keep coming out in a tight 2-WR set on 3rd & long and either running a draw or eating a bad coverage sack. 

VT has the defensive power to keep this game slow and sluggish to start, but at the end of the day, I think Pitt pulls it out because there’s a few starters and coordinators whose jobs might depend on it.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Before the GT game we said Pitt wins 34-10. But now we’re sad and angry so we predict 17-10. Neither team’s offense is going anywhere right now.

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