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November 26, 2014

If you are a major conference program, you don’t accept/wrangle/beg for an invite to an early season tournament with the expectation of losing. You (and your fans) believe there is at the very least a chance. Things may not play out that way — isn’t that right UNC — but there is always that possibility.

Two years ago when Pitt to the Maui invite, that was exciting news. Then this year rolled around and things haven’t gone as hoped. Now it is salvage time for Pitt and Kansas State.

This could be interesting. Neither team is exactly a defensive juggernaut. K-State relies on scoring to win. They don’t rebound well. Like Pitt they are 3-2 with a road loss to a low mid-major. They played Arizona tough last night, but could not quite get there.

Given the way Pitt has played in Maui, I don’t exactly know what to expect without sounding negative.

7:30 on ESPN2.

Rough Night Doesn’t Cover How Bad It Was

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:40 am

Before my 7-year old son went to bed, he implored me to DVR the game so he could see it later. I’m not going to let him see it because he should not be exposed to that kind of sick violence at his age.

Hard to find the positives when a 17 point difference in the final score was more cosmetic as to how badly Pitt was beaten. San Diego State thoroughly dominated Pitt from the beginning to end of the game.

Pitt’s offense could not find any consistency. There were brief spurts of competency, but SDSU’s defense continually disrupted Pitt. That Pitt came away with so many empty possessions wore hard on the team. Especially in light of what was happening at the other end.

In something I had not seen from a Pitt team in years, the kids out there stopped playing as a team for a spell late in the game. I don’t want to call it selfishness as much as frustration bubbling over. You could see the individual players trying to do everything themselves. Especially on offense. No looking to pass or find a better shot. Just angrily trying to make something happen on their own. It didn’t go well.

As far as defense. Oh, where to begin.

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November 25, 2014

Pitt-San Diego State. The Aztecs are a very good defensive team that struggle with scoring. In past years, we might call them the mirror image of Pitt. Pitt is a team that has more offense than in past years, but will it be enough when the defense has been so porous? I don’t know.

Over the years with Pitt, the strong defense has usually prevailed — at least before getting to the NCAA Tournament. Especially when the team that relies on offense is not a clear juggernaut.

For Pitt to win this game, the three-point shooting will have to be there and the rebounding will have to at least match the effort shown last night.

10 pm on ESPN.

Struggling Through Silverswords

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 7:56 am

Pitt couldn’t lose this game, but they weren’t their most inspiring. It was a win, though, and Pitt plays tonight at 10 pm against San Diego State who made it through a late double-overtime battle with BYU. Mountain West payback on the Cougars.

The Panthers came out with much more energy than (I guess) they did against Hawai’i and definitely more than against Samford last week. They got the message about attacking the rim both for rebounding and trying to score.

Unfortunately they were struggling to score early. So even though they were killing Chaminade on the glass and getting a lot more shot attempts, they were not converting the opportunities with any consistency — other than when Mike Young had the ball.

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November 24, 2014

Open Thread: Pitt-Chaminade

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 8:32 pm

Okay, so that first game in the 5oth state didn’t go as planned. Not in the least. If you are looking for the silver lining — and admittedly you really have to look — losing that way probably made the point about needing to play defense better than any lecture, practice session or film session could have. Not that Coach Dixon didn’t emphasize the film session.

And it was lots and lots and lots of film watching. And then when there was a little more film to watch before the day was done. It apparently was an all day affair in the video room as he tried to, as he said “get them to see the things we need them to do that they aren’t doing defensively. Each team had a designated practice time at the gym but Dixon opted not to use it and again, instead had a very long and at times, unpleasant, film session.

Hopefully things can only go up from there. Tonight Pitt takes on the Chaminade Silverswords.Which is just awesome to type. The game is on ESPNU at 9pm.

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Monday Morning QB

(This is a weekly series of articles entitled “Monday Morning Quarterback”.   I will try to post them two days after the football games are played so as to have our wilder emotions under control by then.  It will be my take on the positives and the negatives we saw happen and a chance for commenters to agree or disagree and to add their own thoughts.)

POSITIVES

1.  Any RB not named James Conner, again. What a great supporting cast at RB we have. Conner gets a hip pointer and is pulled after tying the ACC TD record and chasing hard after Famous Tony Dorsett’s record and our running game doesn’t skip a beat.  We were up against a Syracuse defense that wasn’t too bad against the run (139 ypg & 30th nationally) and pretty much had our way with the.  True FR Chris James was the lead horse but the other two RBs certainly chipped in when needed.  The box score reads like this:

James: 19-122, 6.4ypc;  Bennett: 11-75, 6,8 ypc;  Ibrahim: 3-23, 7.7 ypc.  When you have three backs that average above  6.4 ypc over the course of 33 carries both the backs and the OL are clicking.

Bennett had a nice 9 yard ramble on a 2nd & 3 yards play that got us a 1st down and led directly to Voytik’s TD pass to Ford to make it 17-0 and an easier game to play. But all three of those guys had very nice running skills and are a mixture of some power, Bennett and James particularly and shiftiness (all three).

We all want Conner healthy and able to set some records of his own against Miami this week but it helps us fans to know that we have some pretty reliable backs behind him.  I thought earlier this season that if Conner had gone down with an injury it would be a loss but we would also have the OL and the RBs to still mount a successful rushing game.  Glad that it didn’t happen for many reason and on is that having Conner behind Voytik has allowed this staff to bring Voytik along slowly and that has paid dividends in the second half of this season.

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November 22, 2014

PITT 30 – Syracuse 7

Filed under: Coaches,Football — Reed @ 8:22 pm

Can we talk about this like adults?  ( I just heard that for the first time in 33 years of marriage and thought I’d share).

Hey, we played a football game today against a long time rival and won convincingly. Let’s devote at least some time to it.

Defense played well, offense was efficient and there were enough weird plays for us PITT fans to debate .

Personally I think 5-6 sounds a lot better than 4-7.  We actually have a shot at a post-season game based on Paul Chryst’s personality – you know that the bowl game sponsors are dying to get him for their event, he’ll put butts in the seats for sure!!

So what say you?

November 21, 2014

Open Thread: Pitt-Hawai’i

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 9:02 pm

No TV. Just radio or watching a gamecast refresh on your computer. The tip-off is midnight — which is Saturday — but they kept it confusing by saying Friday repeatedly. Turns out they were doing that by claiming the tip was at 11:59.

Either way, I’m not staying up to listen to a radio stream. TV or ESPN3.com and I might have given it a go. In this case, I’m just going to get some rest. I’ve gotten old and soft.

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November 20, 2014

Better to Be in Maui Than Buffalo

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:30 am

The Pitt basketball team is in Hawaii. They play the University of Hawaii at Midnight tonight/tomorrow morning.

If you watched the Samford game, then you saw Pitt go small for large portions of the game. The front court of Mike Young, Jamel Artis and Sheldon Jeter. It’s surprising only insofar as Coach Jamie Dixon has always played a true center. This year, however, the options at center are far less than optimal.

Both Joseph Uchebo and Derrick Randall are extremely limited in their skill sets. They can rebound. Play a bit of defense. But that is about it. When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, they are amazingly deficient.

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November 19, 2014

One of the great things about college football is having friends who also follow it and then debating with them the different points of view about our favorite football program.  We do that like crazy here on the Blather so as a switch from all the negative things we fans have been dealing with when it comes to the program lately let’s sit back and take a look at some past and present team and player comparisons.

A bright spot of the 2014 season is the production of some of our underclass starters on offense.  Boyd is replicating his great ’13 season, Conner has blown up after a pretty darn good true FR year and it looks like Voytik has settled in a bit and could be more productive in 2015.  Next season we should see even more increase in the offense play of these three as a whole.

The thing that jumps out to me first and foremost is how exceedingly productive James Conner has been at Defensive End Running Back. PITT has a great history of running backs especially going back to the 1970’s with Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. For timely comparison sake let’s go back 10 years and look at the best rushing yardage years of five of PITT’s most productive RBs of that decade with the best production in red.

RB GP Carries Yards YPC CPG YPG TDs
Dorsett 11 370 2150 5.8 33.6 195.5 22
Lewis 13 325 1799 5.5 25.0 138.4 17
Conner* 10/12 250/300 1562/1874 6.2 25.0 156.2 21/25
McCoy 13 308 1488 4.8 23.7 114.5 21
Graham 12 222 1042 4.7 18.5 86.8 11

* – Conner’s projection for the whole 2014 season is in bold italics, assuming no bowl game :(

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November 18, 2014

The System is Fine

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football — Chas @ 7:20 am

When you check the boxes for a head coach on Paul Chryst, there is one you can fill in completely. Then slap a coat of paint and epoxy to be sure it is never going to be unchecked. Bland, predictable, non-judgmental coachspeak.

The defense has been a decaying, desecating hot mess for the last three games. Does Coach Chryst think more time needs to be spent working with the defense. Helping the coaches and players? Probably. But you won’t get him to admit it.

Despite the lopsided nature of the box scores, Chryst said Monday that he doesn’t plan to spend more time focusing on the defense this week as the Panthers prepare for Syracuse in their home finale.

At his weekly news conference, Chryst initially declined to answer when asked if he would change how much time he spends in defensive meeting rooms this week, only noting how the Panthers need to improve defensively.

But when pressed, he said he still believes consistency is the best approach.

“You’re going to be watching film and, every week, you make comments,” Chryst said. “I’m going to make sure I’m doing that weekly. It’s no different than how you coach and interact with your players.

“You better coach them all the time and not just wait for the scoreboard to dictate when you’re going to coach or help or do something.”

Chryst added that it is a bit puzzling to see the defensive problems in the past three weeks, given that the unit played well early this season but has struggled to maintain that consistency he preaches.

“There have been some moments where I think we’ve been playing really well, and certainly some moments when we haven’t,” Chryst said.

The system is in place. There is no problem with the system. All will be well, as long as the team continues to follow the system.

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November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterbacking Vol 10

Filed under: Football — Reed @ 9:59 am

Monday Morning QB

(This is a weekly series of articles entitled “Monday Morning Quarterback”.   I will try to post them two days after the football games are played so as to have our wilder emotions under control by then.  It will be my take on the positives and the negatives we saw happen and a chance for commenters to agree or disagree and to add their own thoughts.)

When I started this I told myself that I’d never write something that I didn’t want to write so that is what in play here.  I didn’t watch the game.  I took a look at the box scores and watched the video highlights and that’s it – you guys can do the MMQB’ing this week if you feel like it.  I don’t have the energy or desire right now. 

I’ll travel to PGH to see the SYR game and do one after that.…

POSITIVES

NEGATIVES

Ying & Yang

This is a special weekly section dedicated to the quarterback play of Chad Voytik so that we can look specifically at how he’s doing, whether he is progressing or not, and what his impact on the team and games are week to week at this point in the season.

 

November 16, 2014

No Defense

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football — Chas @ 9:11 pm

The numbers are damning over the last 3 games.

— 1552 total yards surrendered.

— 140 points given up by the defense (We won’t count the 7 given up by special teams).

— 1 takeaway by the defense.

As the offense has improved and progressed over the course of the season, the defense has made no progress from the start of the season. It was masked by the competition, but there is no hiding from this mess.

But this has been coming a while. When Matt House was hired as the defensive coordinator, no one could actually defend the hiring from a football standpoint. He was unqualified. He had very limited experience even as a position coach. He was Chryst’s comfortable hire because it promoted staff continuity. The defense of House essentially came down to either trying to shift the blame on the AD or to say that we have to trust Head Coach Paul Chryst’s judgment on his own staff.

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Open Thread: Samford-Pitt

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 11:30 am

I was starting to work on a recap rant diatribe review of the football game yesterday, but decided I didn’t want to start drinking that early on a Sunday morning when it doesn’t involve a tailgate.

So, instead, let’s get ready for Samford.

The game is at 1pm and is part of the Maui Invitational package. No, really. The game was set up for Pitt by the Maui organizers.

In the Pittsburgh area, it is on ROOT, but since it is a syndicated ACC Network/ESPN game you can watch it on line at ESPN3 and plenty of other outlets including the ESPN FullCourt package, FoxSports West, FoxSports South, Sun Sports and Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.

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November 15, 2014

12:30 pm on the syndicated ACC Network.

Which ever team loses will have a fan base barely holding on to a shred of hope for a very minor bowl. Well, I’m sure UNC could turn to basketball as they usually do. Albeit with the academic/athletic scandal seemingly creeping closer and closer towards impacting their sacred cow ram.

In a way this game is a simple and cliched one. For Pitt to win this, they have to disrupt UNC’s offense. They cannot let them get into a rhythm on offense. The tempo of the UNC offense depends on them moving the ball. They don’t simply come out and try to run all the plays at a speed pace. They increase the tempo and pace as they get success and confidence. That is why their heavy volume of penalties this year has been such a problem. Self-inflicted disruptions and slowed pace.

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