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September 12, 2008

Silly Stats Time

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Numbers,Wannstedt — Chas @ 11:22 am

This strikes me as desperately looking for some different angle to take on the team in an early bye week.

The result is skewed statistics in the run-pass balance in the offense.

Pitt has been passing more than almost any other team in NCAA Division I-A. Only three quarterbacks among 117 others in Division I-A have attempted more passes than Pitt junior Billy Stull.

Case Keenum of Houston, Graham Harrell of Texas Tech and Ryan Lindey of San Diego State have attempted 104 passes each. Stull is next with 84 attempts.

By contrast, Pitt has 66 rushing attempts and sophomore LeSean McCoy, who led all freshmen with 1,328 yards last season, has not gained more than 100 yards in either game against Buffalo or Bowling Green.

Of the Division I-A teams that have played two games, only 32 have attempted to run less than the Panthers.

I’m sorry, after two games there’s just nothing to judge here. That’s interesting that Stull actually ranks 3d nationally in passing attempts, the actual % of passing to running is only 56 to 44. It’s higher than the 50-50 you know Wannstedt and Cavanaugh state as the goal, but not by too much to be worried.

“I would do that, too, if I were a defensive coordinator, put 9-10 guys in the box against a first-year starting quarterback and an inexperienced offensive line,” Stull said. “We do whatever a defense allows us to do. They came up to try to stop Shady (McCoy), so we saw that and we had to throw the ball to loosen them up.”

So +5 to the coaches for realizing that you have to throw a bit more to try and open things up. That said, minus -200 for sticking with screens and 5-yard tosses that far from making the opposing defense pay, gives them time to recover and stop much of a gain. That isn’t going to loosen them up.

Of course, Wannstedt thinks they are close.

Wannstedt said the Panthers are close to breaking some big plays in both phases of the offense. When that happens, opposing teams will begin to change their game plans.

“We’ve been close a couple of times,” Wannstedt said. “Maybe it’s been the read of a back or someone slipping off a block. It hasn’t been three or four guys who have cost us from being successful. It’s usually been one guy. We’ll get those [big plays]. We’re getting closer.”

Roughly translated, “I see no reason to change a damn thing.” Sigh.

No surprise that Wannstedt wouldn’t be freaked by finding out he’s 0-5 off of bye weeks at Pitt.

“I wasn’t aware of that,” Wannstedt said. “I don’t know who we played after byes, but I think every year is different, every team is different, every situation is different. It’s helping us. I walked off the field (Tuesday) and said, ‘You know what? We got a little better as a team.’

“That’s all that’s important.”

Yes, but the coach and his philosophy is unchanged.

I realize Coach Wannstedt has always been a players coach. The good cop, who doesn’t want to hurt the feelings of the players. The problem comes when a move has to be made because of a player being better than a starter or veteran. So, I guess it’s comical the way Elijah Fields has made it past Dom DeCicco on the depth chart at strong safety.

Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said Thursday that redshirt sophomore Elijah Fields has been promoted to starter at strong safety.

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt softened Bennett’s statement somewhat, calling Fields and Dom DeCicco virtual co-starters for the Panthers’ next game, a week from Saturday against Iowa.

“It’s not fair to say who’s going to start,” Wannstedt said. “We’ve still got a week-and-a-half. We’re practicing and working hard. We’ll make that decision come game time. They’re both going to play.”

Now, is that softening, backtracking or undermining? The DC says Fields is starting then Wannstedt says, well, maybe not, we’ll see.

You have to believe Greg Cross, the JUCO QB, has to be wondering how he let himself be talked into committing to Pitt. I’ve read this bit several times and I still don’t think I’m following it.

Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh indicated yesterday that Cross will have a role in the offense.

“At some point, we will [use him],” Cavanaugh said. “To be honest with you, now that the first two games are done, we didn’t think we’d need him. In hindsight, we probably could have used him as a changeup. He’s been getting some reps. We do have a little package we’ll introduce.”

Cavanaugh said it’s a matter of finding the right time and situation to implement the Cross package.

“Are you putting him in there just to get him on the field or do you really need him?” Cavanaugh said. “Either one could be correct. If we’re struggling and we need a change of pace, maybe he’s the guy we go to. If things are going well and you still want a change of pace, he’s still the guy you go to.

“We weren’t so comfortable with what we were doing [the first two weeks] that we could throw him in as a changeup. Looking back at the first game, maybe he would have been a good changeup. We’ll try to get him on the field.”

So, eventually he’ll get a snap. They didn’t think they’d need to play him in the first couple of games, but looking back, it may not have been a bad idea? But they still don’t know when the right time to use him will be?

No wonder the offense is a mess. If that’s how Cavanaugh communicates the playbook, it makes a lot more sense why it takes a couple years before any player sees the field on offense.

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