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September 19, 2014

James Conner Has Some Focus

Filed under: Football,Players,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 7:42 am

It’s been quite a week for James Conner and media attention. But he is trying to ignore it.

After Conner rushed for 177 yards against Florida International, he broke another Tony Dorsett record, this time for most yards by a Pitt back in the first three games.

Conner trumpeted the achievement, placing a photo on Instagram. It didn’t take long for his phone to ring. It was Aaron Donald, Pitt’s highly decorated former defensive tackle, who knows a little bit about how to handle fame.

“He said to me, ‘Just stay focused and just play ball,’ ” Conner said. “ ‘Those individual awards will come. You can’t worry about that now.’

“I listen to every word he says. I’m not thinking about that stuff anymore.”

Conner took Donald’s advice one step further and decided to take a break from social media.

“People have negative things to say,” he said. “If I keep thinking about that, it will throw me off my game.

“I figure time spent on Twitter could be spent in the weight room or in the film room. I’m glad (Donald) reached out to me.”

Still, there has been a good deal of media attention this week. And the thing that I keep seeing in these stories is a very different kind of focus. One that seems to be on a big picture of his future and an unshakable confidence.

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September 18, 2014

Iowa – PITT Predictions

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s),Players — Reed @ 1:37 pm

(P/S: Please read Justin’s “Iowa Keys to the Game ” first then jump back over here and get your prediction down for us.)

Two day until game time and we’re playing at Heinz Field  again, this time against the Big Ten opponent the Iowa Hawkeyes.  I think other PITT fans are with me, at least the ones with tickets to the game, and have been really looking forward to see our Panthers in live action again.

The weather report for Saturday at noon is great with cooler temps in the low 70s and sunshine – perfect football weather.  We have three wins with no losses, an awesome running game, stout rushing defense and a chance to see just how well our QB and the passing game can work against a FBS opponent at home.

Reed:  PITT  27, Iowa  21.  Lower scoring and hard fought on Saturday. I’m not sold yet on our passing game seeing a breakthrough although I can see Voytik getting 100+ yards passing and throwing one TD pass with an INT or two. He’ll help again with his running ability.   I think our rushing game gets 175-200 yards and we win.

Justin: Pitt 24, Iowa 14. Voytik throws for 180 yards and 2 TDs, Conner goes for 90 yards, and Ray Vinopal has a huge day for the defense.

How about you guys?  Give us a  winner, final score and why you think it will turn out that way.

 

Iowa Keys to the Game

Filed under: Chryst,Football,Opponent(s),Players,Playoffs — Justin @ 9:45 am

With the Iowa Hawkeyes coming to town, Pitt has a chance to put another nail in the B1G coffin. So far this season the B1G is 1-10 against other Power 5 (PAC-12, SEC, ACC, and Big 12) conferences and there are four more opportunities this weekend to keep the downward trend moving. Headed into the season, Iowa was viewed as a dark horse B1G champ and playoff contender, but early season struggles have put a damper on that. However, this could be the type of game that helps Iowa gain confidence after an ugly loss to rival Iowa State last weekend. If the rest of the B1G continues to suck, Iowa could be the Mountaineer fan with the most teeth and still pull it off. (more…)

September 17, 2014

Onward With Iowa

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:13 am

The AIRBHG (Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God) has not yet struck this year, but last year he did so to a RB that some Iowans liken to James Conner.

“I’m not worried about how much he wants it as much as what we need and if he’s doing something with it,” Panthers coach Paul Chryst said last week. “I’ve worked with a lot of backs. We feel like we’ve got a pretty good gauge for workloads.”

Sound familiar, Iowa fans?

When the Hawkeyes visit Pittsburgh for Saturday’s 11 a.m. contest at Heinz Field, you might notice something familiar about the opposing offense.

A year ago, Mark Weisman ran the ball 85 times in Iowa’s first three games for a total of 425 yards (an average of 5.0 yards per carry).

He helped the Hawkeyes rebound from a 4-8 finish in 2012 to an 8-4 regular season in 2013, but the heavy workload took a toll. Injuries mounted and Weisman fell 25 yards short of the 1,000 plateau.

The 6-foot, 240-pound Weisman ran 60 times in Iowa’s final three games for a total of 198 yards (an average of 3.3 per carry).

Conner has run 80 times for 543 yards while helping Pittsburgh to its first 3-0 start in five years.

Is AIRBHG communicable? There is no known cure, but it is not been established that contact with Iowa infects others.

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September 16, 2014

You would think that at the one quarter point in the season we’d have a solid idea of how good the team is and how well the primary players are producing.  It seems not to be the case this season for PITT.  Granted we are 3-0 going into Saturday’s noon game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Heinz Field but really doesn’t feel like 3-0 given who the wins were over.

Delaware and FIU are both teams that PITT should beat handily even if the PITT team isn’t that great and in essence we did that, so for an optimist that is OK.  Beating Boston College up in Boston is on a different degree of difficulty level and the Boston College Catholics, err…I mean Golden Eagles, pretty much looked like a lost team out there for the majority of the game.  But they did have a couple of big plays early for scores and recovered an onside kick at the end of the game so at least there was some tension during that game.

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Media Run Through Post-FIU

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 5:07 am

Reed and Justin with their usual thorough postings have sucked all the oxygen from the room (primarily Reed, this week but every week brings something different from both of them). Oddly enough, I think I’m glad Reed hasn’t gotten a Twitter account or I wouldn’t have anything to say at anytime. Time to hit the links and final thoughts that I may have.

Maybe it is teams from Miami. I don’t know, but that first quarter gave me odd flashbacks to the Miami-Pitt game last year. Where Pitt looked completely unprepared and the Hurricanes jumped all over Pitt. The Panthers tried to recover in that game, but never was able to dig out of the hole in which they put themselves.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday. Obviously there was a significant talent difference, but I like to think that this team is a little different in attitude. With all the talk of how the team is taking on part of Head Coach Paul Chryst’s personality, the even keel probably came through as Pitt did not try to go for the homerun plays on offense or defense. They refocused, and did what they should have done from the very beginning.

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September 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Halves: Chad Voytik

Filed under: ACC,Chryst,Football,Players — Justin @ 2:03 pm

Last week, some hack wrote about Pitt’s success in the red zone and the result against FIU was two turnovers in the first two red zone possessions. As recommended by readers, this week something negative shall be written.

Trey Anderson came in for a series in the early fourth quarter in a situation that once against perturbed Pitt fans. If you listen to Paul Chryst’s press conference, it won’t take a mind reader to see why: Chryst was not happy with Voytik’s play and pulled him for a series to calm his nerves. A quick second look at the game and it’s obvious Voytik was not finding open receivers and he would not let plays progress properly as the game wore on. In fact, there was a fine line between good Chad and bad Chad: the touchdown pass to Boyd late in the second quarter. (more…)

(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.)

PITT travelled down to hot and humid Miami to play the Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers on Saturday and, after some worry-making moments, came out with a win by the score of 42-25. PITT fans, the media and maybe even the players themselves for a bit, went into the day feeling as if this was going to be a cakewalk but it wasn’t.  FIU played a pretty tough game given their lower stature in the FBS division.

POSITIVES

What first comes to mind is that our defense did a good job for the third straight game.  Don’t let the 25 points FIU had fool you, one TD was a long and freaky tipped ball reception that took FIU down to our three yard line and another two points were on a safety.  Other than that we kept FIU from scoring another TD for 40:40 minutes of game time when they scored with 5:49 left to play.  That is some solid defense.

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September 14, 2014

“The Glass is Half Full”

Well, yesterday we saw some things in a PITT football game that I’ve never seen in my lifetime, including one lightning delay of 50 minutes, two 1st quarter fumbles inside the opponents red zone by the same PITT star RB and three combined team safeties resulting in six points.

Two of those things help PITT to dig a hole against FIU that they had to scramble around to get out of. But they did and came out with a 42-19 win which, on the face of it, isn’t that impressive given the opponent’s perceived lack of talent.

But then if you look closer as the game unfolded you see that it was a game that, after that rocky start, PITT had a good handle on. I’ll also disagree that the kids weren’t up for the game or were ‘sleepwalking’ as some say.

Let’s look at what transpired in the 1st quarter.

On PITT’s second series of the game, after the teams swapped punts, we started our own 20 yard line and moved the ball via the air and the ground 74 yards in eight plays, which is 9.3 ypp. Each play gained positive yardage and it was only the Conner fumble at the FIU 6 yard line that stopped us from scoring.  Is that a crappy start to the game?  I don’t think so, the offense clicked very well.

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September 13, 2014

Open Thread: Pitt-FIU

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 9:45 am

A lot of running around this morning. Wife and daughter off on their own thing. Morning soccer for the boy falls to me. Hitting the grocery store (thank goodness Ohio allows growler service in them). Grabbing a quick lunch to take home and settle in for the expected massacre.

The game is on FoxSports1. If you have DirecTV it is channel 219. Not sure on the other services. This means no ESPN3.com coverage, so start digging around for this channel.

If you don’t flick away by the end, you will get to see former coach/player Dave Wannstedt on the FS1 college football show afterwards. Wonder if he’ll have anything to say? I caught a bit of him last week in anticipation of the Michigan State-Oregon game. Eh.

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PITT – FIU Predictions

Filed under: Conference,Football,Opponent(s) — Reed @ 6:00 am

It’s that time of week again.  Hours before game time and we fans are ready, willing and nervous to sit for three hours watching PITT football.  Maybe some time when dreams come true we’ll be able to wake up and feel no trepidation whatsoever that PITT will win the day in solid fashion.  But until then we look at these games from every angle possible and, because we are PITT fans, find a chink in the PITT armor that will somehow let a loss shine through.

That’s how we roll.

Even with all that I can’t see a way PITT loses this football game.  I see ways we can be embarrassed by a way too close score or a very sloppily played game that will really make us doubt the team and the program, but a loss – no.  It isn’t even that PITT is so damn strong that there is no way FIU can keep us from moving downfield and scoring points, we can all understand an off day even though things have been steamrolling in that area for us.

Nor is it we get burned for a few stupid blown coverage TDs or have miscommunications in the defense that will allow more points by FIU then they should ever in a million years put up against a FBS team. Hell, we can even handle overconfidence by the kids while they look toward Iowa next week that might make us kneel and pray this afternoon.

No, it is that somehow the tides of fortune will suddenly reverse themselves on a whim and we’ll botch things down in Miami.  You say that can’t happen?  Tell that to the six players that were stupid enough to get caught doing something against the team’s disciplinary policy and found themselves in street clothes against Youngstown State in 2012.  Oh, by the way, what does 48-14 remind you of?  I’m telling you – not only did those games happen but being the PITT fans we are we came to accept the hand of fate involved in those and many other strange losses.

Again, that’s how we roll.

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September 12, 2014

(Note: This is a follow up article to the topic of discussion we all have been having about James Conner playing on defense)

Scarf  In a separate post’s comment section  our long-time commenter Wbb and I have been bandying back and forth about the coaching staff’s experiment of planning to play SO James Conner at Defensive End at certain times this season.   This has been an interesting and contested topic of conversation since the 2014 Spring Practices when the move was semi-formalized and talked about publicly.  We PITT fans will remember that Conner played a few downs on defense during the Bowling Green bowl game where he got in but had no tackles.  Let’s look at where the staff stands on that now and what we might see in the future.

In a nutshell the staff’s intent of having Conner play DE was to insert him on defense during situation specific needs, mostly 3rd down passing plays, where he could use his size (6’2″ & 250 lbs), his speed (4.4) and his strength to rush the QB.  This isn’t that farfetched as Conner played DE very well while at McDowell High School in Erie, PA.  Supposedly he was recruited by PITT to play that DE position, although I don’t believe that.  Just because a recruiting site labels a player “DE” doesn’t mean that’s what he is.

The fact that Conner ran for 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns on 155 carries, an impressive 10.8 yards per carry, his senior year at McDowell was the factor in Chryst’s decision to place Connor at RB as soon as Conner set foot on campus and to keep him there in the backfield all of last season.   Personally, I think Conner was always targeted to be Chryst’s ‘Big Back’, like those he had at Wisconsin, all along.

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September 11, 2014

On Saturday, September 13th our PITT Panthers will take on the FIU Golden Panthers on their home turf in Miami, FL at FIU Stadium (20K seating).   FIU, a university with 37,475 students, is in Conference USA (CUSA) and has a 1-1 record at this point in the season.  They lost their opener to Bethune-Cookman 14-12 then went on to beat a NEC member school in Wagner University by a score of 34-3.  FIU is coached by an old NFL head coach Ron Turner who took over from Mario Cristobal a year ago.  In Turner’s first season with FIU they posted a 1-11 record and just missed getting into a bowl game.

The Golden Panthers are returning 10 starters on offense and seven on defense. They are coming off a poor 1-11 year in 2013 where their losses were by an average score of 37-10!  Phil Steel’s forecast for them is four wins and eight losses and you can see that they have a way to go to be competitive at this level of college ball.

So far this season FIU looks like a team with two identities, a poor offensive team with a solid defense to go along with it.  On defense they are ranked pretty well nationally with: 6th in Scoring defense (8.5 ppg); 9th in total defense; 17th in passing defense (134.5 ypg) and 26th in rushing defense (91 ypg).  That is some fine defensive play even considering the level of competition they had.

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Looking Ahead

Filed under: ACC,Chryst,Football,Opponent(s) — Justin @ 10:49 am

Pitt is headed south for a matchup with the Golden Panthers of Florida International and as Chas mentioned earlier, there’s not a lot of important information to discuss. FIU is a team in rough shape; they’re one of the worst teams in FBS and have a true freshman starting at QB. To be blunt, if Pitt isn’t comfortably ahead in the 4th quarter it is cause for concern. The goals for the game are 1) health 2) comfortable win and 3) get backups good in-game experience. Anything beyond that is a bonus. Another statistically great game from James Conner would be a boon to his Heisman whispers.

With that said, it feels a bit prudent to look ahead a little. Pitt’s next two BCS opponents, Iowa and Virginia, have key games this week. Iowa plays in-state rival Iowa State and Virginia faces off against the newest ACC member, Louisville (Louavuhl). Thus far, Iowa appears to be a team that is trending lower than expectations and Virginia is exceeding them. (more…)

The FIU Walk-Through

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 7:44 am

I am sure the players, coaches and announcers are completely focused on the upcoming opponent this Saturday.  But I can’t say I am. There is no way to really describe FIU as a legitimate threat. They are a complete mess from the top of their athletic department down.

You can see the utter lack of concern for this week in the stories. They are almost bye week stories. Talking about individual players. The mindset of the team. A complete dearth of discussion of the actual opponent. And, well, I’m fine with that.

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