February 1, 2007

We Knew This Was Coming

Filed under: Conference,Football,Non-con,Schedule — Chas @ 8:28 pm

The Pitt schedule was released today. Specifically, the actual dates of the games were released.

Sept. 1 Eastern Mchigan TBA
Sept. 8 Grambling TBA
Sept. 15 at Michigan St. TBA
Sept. 22 Connecticut* TBA
Sept. 29 at Virgina TBA
Oct. 6 Open TBA
Oct. 13 Navy TBA
Oct. 20 Cincinnati* TBA
Oct. 27 at Louisville* TBA
Nov. 3 Syracuse* TBA
Nov. 10 Open TBA
Nov. 17 at Rutger* TBA
Nov. 24 South Florida* TBA
Dec. 1 at West Virginia* (ESPN/ESPN2) TBA

The opponents — home and away were known for some time. So, I’m not particularly taken aback at the fact that the home schedule is weak and will not be one that excites walk-up ticket sales unless Pitt gets out to 5-0 start — it might take an 8-0 run.

It is interesting and a sign of how Pitt has definitely fallen from the interest of the media as they are presently slated with all Saturday games. Given the Big East football’s place on ESPN — for Wednesday, Friday and even Sunday night games — this is mildly disappointing. Not unexpected, unfortunately. Pitt has done little to justify marquee status.

Pitt may win the offseason recruiting rankings in the conference, but their performance hardy matches. They’re turning into the Washington Redskins it seems.

It will be interesting to see how many of the Pitt games even make it to televised — gameplan status. It is likely the road games will all be that way, but not many of the homegames look like they could make it.

Some Things From the Football Side

Filed under: Football,NFL,Recruiting — Chas @ 11:07 am

Cameron Heyward, the son of the late Pitt great Craig “Ironhead” Heyward chose Ohio State over Georgia and LSU. It’s probably wrong of me to feel a twinge of bitterness about this. Pitt was crossed off his list a couple months ago. It’s just that, it seemed then, that the reasons were because of a desire to stay closer to his home after the passing of his father. Not, surely not because Pitt was deemed unworthy and the implosion in the second half of the year. Then to read this.

The choice of the Buckeyes was a big hit with his grandmother, who lives 2 1/2 hours away in Pittsburgh. Heyward’s mother, Charlotte Heyward-Blackwell, was raised in Pittsburgh and is a graduate of Pitt, where she first met Craig Heyward.

“It’s a little far away,” Heyward-Blackwell said, “but I think it’s the next chapter in his life and it’s a really good fit.”

It’s not personal rejection. It’s not personal rejection.

I’m also trying to figure out how he’s learned from his mistakes and not simply failed upward.

Ligashesky, who had an uneven run as Pitt’s tight ends coach and special teams coordinator from 2000-03, returned this week to that same practice complex after being hired as the Steelers’ special teams coach. He replaced Kevin Spencer, who took the same job with the Arizona Cardinals.

The 44-year-old Ligashesky is vocal, animated and expressive on the practice field, a man who often seems as wrapped up in the action as his very players. That apparently impressed new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, a hands-on motivator himself, even though Ligashesky was recently fired by the St. Louis Rams after two seasons.

“He’s a good coach with a bright future,” Cardinals coach Scott Linehan said of Ligashesky. “But we need to make some improvements on special teams. Sometimes change is good for both parties.”

The Rams special teams sucked this past year. There was no sorrow in letting him go and apparently the Rams were interviewing replacements before he was actually fired.

The swinging-gate crap with the extra point against Texas A&M was brought up again. Fascinating:

Pitt had two other assistant coaches who worked with special teams players at the time, Bryan Deal and defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, but Ligashesky was in charge of the units.

And yet, Deal is the only one coaching high school football these days.

In a bit of self-promotion, AOL wanted some posts explaining why certain schools could lay claim to having great impact/being vital to Superbowl memories. So, going with the underdog, I made the case for Pitt.

You know, it’s a good thing I slacked off on some articles the past week. Otherwise, I’d be really desperate for something to write.

Unbelievably bad scheduling by the Big East with this break. Way to ice the highest ranked team in the conference. I know Coach Dixon will publicly say all the positive things and how they planned for it. The players will say the good things. I’m not buying. To start conference play 8-1, and then have a week plus layoff before a road game against a big rival. That’s not a good thing. Mike DeCourcy doesn’t even convince me of this.

Visiting the Mountaineers always is a chore for Pitt, and later in the month there will be trips to Georgetown (Feb. 24) and Marquette (March 7). That’s why the next week is such an advantage. There is the danger the Panthers could get stale during that period, but this is a team that wins on execution and not unbridled emotion.

It’s hard to get by purely on momentum in the Big East, anyway. It sometimes seems nearly every team has its own defensive gimmick. There are conferences where everybody is playing man-to-man, and teams in those leagues can be at a disadvantage if they face some sort of zone upon reaching the NCAA Tournament. Surviving the Big East means getting through the 2-3 zones Syracuse and Providence have been using for years, along with WVU’s complex 1-3-1 scheme and now Villanova’s matchup. Louisville and Cincinnati play a lot of zone, as well.

So each game is its own unique challenge. A little bit of time to think about all that, to rest and to heal, will serve the Panthers well. It’s not a vacation, but it’s a break in more ways than one.

I’m not worried about the emotion. I’m worried about the rust. In conference road games at Syracuse, DePaul and Villanova; Pitt got off to slow, disjointed starts. This was without a week to not play real games. WVU is undefeated at home and it’s the one place where they look really impressive. Pitt has historically struggled at the concrete toadstool, so that is little comfort.

No sir, I just don’t like it.

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