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February 6, 2004

Last month, Pitt came from behind and then held on to beat Notre Dame. Tomorrow, 7 pm on ESPN2, they play in South Bend.

Pitt is still hot, while Notre Dame has lost 3 out of 4. They are desperate for a win. They are at home, which is one of the few places Pitt hasn’t won in recent years.

Notre Dame has played well against good teams, but has fallen short. Most recently was last week’s loss to Kentucky.

Pitt’s game notes are here (big PDF file).

If you want to look for something disturbing, check the box on page 4, “WHERE PITTSBURGH RANKS NATIONALLY
IN THE 2003-04 NCAA STATISTICS.” Pitt is ranked 297 out of 321 at 62.4% in free throws. The team can keep spinning the lines about how they make ’em when they have to (as Dixon said after the last ND game), but this will cost them; and as the season gets later the time it when it costs could be huge.

If you want to have a weird sort of fun listening to the game tomorrow, listen for these game themes as promoted by the Pitt athletic department.

At 7-1, Pittsburgh is off to best all-time start in Big East play.

Pittsburgh enters the contest with a nation-leading 21 wins. The program reached the 20 win plateau for a school record third consecutive season.

Pittsburgh’s seniors Jaron Brown, Toree Morris and Julius Page are 0-3 all-time at Notre Dame. Notre Dame has claimed each of the last five games against Pittsburgh in the Joyce Center.

Pittsburgh’s defense leads the way as it has held 15 of 22 opponents under 60 points and 19 of 22 under 70 points.

National Coach of the Year candidate Jamie Dixon is the first rookie head coach since Bill Hodges (1978-79) to begin a season with 18 consecutive wins. The national record is 33 consecutive wins by Hodges’ Larry Bird-led ISU team.

One of the things that has been a bit troublesome for Pitt, though it too, hasn’t cost them a game yet, has been the struggling Julius Page. It seems as if he hasn’t been in rythm all year. As if that ankle has never fully healed and has deprived him of a lot of his explosiveness.

Julius Page played only 22 minutes against St. John’s because of foul trouble and because he “tweaked” his troublesome left ankle, which he injured in the preseason.

Though, no one has used it as an excuse. His continual struggles have been noticed. I recommend the article, if for no other reason, it was something I was actually getting ready to write on considering Page’s 4-point, 1-6 shooting against St. Johns.

Finally, I don’t have much to say on the incident with St. John’s players and an over-the-hill stripper (I’d put 38, at way past the prime in terms of stripping) who was at Club Erotica in McKees Rocks outside of Pittsburgh (partial disclosure, I’ve been there for a bachelor party). The only reason I mention it is that on “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN this evening, they were brought it up with Digger Phelps. Phelps said that St. John’s needed to hire Pitt assistant coach Barry Rohrssen. This is the sort of thing I’ve been worrying about. Give him a big raise now.

Programming Note

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 7:45 pm

Pitt vs. Georgia in the 1982 Sugar Bowl is on ESPN Classic tonight at 9. It will be shown a couple more times in the wee hours. Not so surprisingly, this depresses me.

In today’s edition, the Centre Daily Times — which is State College’s newspaper, for those of you who don’t know Central PA — finally weighed in on Anthony Morelli’s dumping Pitt for Penn State. In a surprisingly balanced piece given the euphoria gripping Happy Valley over Morelli, CDT sports columnist Heather Dinich splashes a little cold water on Lion Fan.

But first, Dinich sets the scene in State College this week.

At 77, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno can still sell snow to an Eskimo. Even more impressive, he can still sell a 3-9 program to a nationally-ranked quarterback.

Still a teenager, Penn Hills senior Anthony Morelli is already being hailed by some as the player to turn around a team that recently finished its worst season in the program’s 116-year history.

“See everyone? No need to worry!” read one post on the Blue White Illustrated Internet message board Wednesday, when players signed binding contracts to their respective schools.

“Now I can get to sleep!” read another.

“Welcome Anthony the Great!” yet another.

Less than two months ago, the cry of “Joe must go” rang out through the valley. Now Paterno is the “closer,” the man who’s “still got it.” A top-notch class of 25 recruits, none of whom have decommitted, proves he never lost it.

But then Heather points out that recruiting has hardly been the problem at Penn State since that pivotal loss to Minnesota in 1999.

It’s how that talent develops on the field that has become questionable… Keep in mind the class of 2000 was ranked third in the nation. Junior Zack Mills, part of that signing class, has had the misfortune of hearing the expectations turn to boos as quickly as the next hero arrives. He knows how tough it is to be a Penn State quarterback in a town where fans turn quicker than a Porsche.

Exactly. Penn State’s stellar showing in last year’s NFL draft was proof enough for me that talent isn’t the problem up the road. It’s player development. And Jay Paterno, Penn State’s Quarterbacks Coach, is held by myself and many others to be the weakest link in PSU’s player development system. Seriously, when was the last time that a quarterback left Penn State any better than he was when he showed up there? Exactly. Just before Daddy hired Jay.

Dinich then makes the same mistake that Blue White Illustrated made yesterday.

The headline in Thursday’s Harrisburg Patriot-News deemed Morelli a “face saver.” All of a sudden, with his commitment, Penn State has one of the top 10 recruiting classes in the nation, according to some.

According to who, exactly? In the teens doesn’t quite equal top ten, dear. But that small quibble aside, Dinich finishes up with a good question for the next loudmouthed Nittany Lion fan that you meet.

Who is Morelli going to throw to? [And] over his four-year high school career, Morelli’s completion percentage was just 45 percent. [brackets mine]

The few half-assed, ball-dropping receivers that Penn State did have last season have either graduated (e.g., the drunk driving Tony Johnson) or been tossed off the team for whichever crime is popular this week in a small town with nothing else to do (e.g., the thug Maurice Humphries). And they didn’t get squat for receivers in their “top ten” recruiting class. So either the old guy who can sell snow to an Eskimo has got to quickly convince some hot prospects that Penn State is suddenly “Wide Receiver U” or Morelli’s completion percentage ain’t going nowhere but down.

And just wait until this allegedly slow kid gets his first look at some of the defenses that he’ll face in the Big Ten — some of the most complex in college football. Ohio State (even without Mark Dantonio), Michigan, and Iowa, in particular, are gonna score more picks on this poor schmoe than a banjo player on crack.

…unless, that is, JoePa and Little JayPa can pull off a trick that they haven’t pulled off in years. Legitimate quarterback development.

Hail to my wife not finding any more of my Nittany Lion bashing on this site. Jeez, did I get a nasty look last night…

(Come to think of it, I don’t learn very well, do I?)

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