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September 19, 2008

Geez, did these pile up this week. Damn offline world interference. Time for a link blitz.

PennDOT is trying to keep lanes open for the Pitt game.

In case you hadn’t heard, Kirk Ferentz grew up in Upper St. Clair. And, hey, he’s on the hot seat. Oh, and his offensive coordinator is also from Western Pennsylvania (Meadville). A legendary coach at Allegheny.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack has a history in Pittsburgh as well and will be in for the game.

“If you’re a beer drinker,” he said, “you’ve got to have an Iron City beer. It’s a great beer, and, oh, by the way, my great-grandfather founded that brewery.”

And, oh, by the way, Vilsack, a native of what is called the Steel City, will attend the game, along with nine of his buddies. He’ll even root for the 3-0 Hawkeyes, who are a 1½-point underdog.

“Wouldn’t miss it for anything,” Vilsack said. “I’ll be there, proudly wearing my black and gold.”

Iowa is expected to use it’s full allotment of 5,000 tickets.

Kirk Frerentz has a different definition of “excellent job” than most.

Q. How familiar are you with Coach Wannstedt?

COACH FERENTZ: I’ve known Dave a long time. We were both grad assistants at Pitt. Big difference is he played there. And Pitt didn’t want me. They were trying to win. But he played there, coached there. He left four or five years not even that. He left when Jimmy Johnson went to Okie State, late ’70s. Then, he’d come back and visit the year I was there. I got to know him then. We’ve crossed paths. Ironically when we were in Cleveland, we used to go to Platteville and train against the Bears.

We’ve kind of known each other through the years. I’ve known Tony Wise probably better. Tony is kind of a similar guy. Tony was a GA at Pitt with Dave, went to Oklahoma State with Jimmy Johnson. Being a line coach, we’ve gotten to know each other through the years. Good people. Dave is an excellent coach. He’s done a great job there. He’s back home. Grew up in Pittsburgh. He played at Pitt. He’s truly at home. I think he’s doing an excellent job there.

[Emphasis added.] A kindergarten teacher would grade harder than Ferentz on the job performance of Wannstedt. The AP preview definitely goes with this game being pivotal for Pitt’s season and Dave Wannstedt.

ESPN.com’s BE “blogger” Brian Bennett has a piece on Scott McKillop looking forward to the game. McKillop also still feels really bad about breaking Adam Gunn’s neck, and will play even harder. Honestly, McKillop’s effort and drive has never been a concern, but I guess it’s nice to say.

Linebacker Greg Williams will once more be starting in place of Gunn. Hopefully he’ll clog the gaps better.

Bennett, by the way, will be at the game and has been convinced that he has to go to Primanti Brothers. I suggested Tessaro’s, Church Brew Works and/or Penn Brewery. He puts Wannstedt as #2 in the Big East hot seat.

Cedric McGee got a puff piece this week.

Linebacker Shane Murray will at least suit up this week. That’s nice.

Seriously, Kevin Gorman needs to stop the whole notebook dump in one post and break it up a little. If he did a bit every day, it would be so much less unwieldly. Here’s the one that stands out from a post about this being a “statement game.”

Even Stull said he is looking forward to Cross playing.

“Greg Cross is a tremendous athlete,” Stull said. “I think we’ll see that this week. It’ll benefit me. The defense might not know what we’re trying to do. I think we’ll see a little mixture of that this week.”

If Ohio State could do it – with more success using Terrelle Pryor than starter Todd Boeckman – against top-ranked Southern Cal…

As for Baldwin, Cavanaugh also believes the bye week gave Baldwin time to learn what he is doing and an opportunity to expand his role. We’ve been hearing promises that Baldwin and right tackle Lucas Nix will play more. Until we see it, it’s kind of a moot point.

Wannstedt explained the difficulty in using them in a game.

“At certain positions, we have a real definite plan when you’re going to substitute,” Wannstedt said, likely referring to tailback, where he likes to play LaRod Stephens-Howling on the third offensive series. “Other positions, with some of the younger kids, you just say you’re going to get them in and play them and you hope that the game unfolds that way, to give them an opportunity. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.”

As for Cross?

“It’s more of a situational thing,” Wannstedt said. “He would fall into the category of Jonathan Baldwin and Lucas Nix and some of these guys we’d like to get them some playing time and the intent is to get them some playing time – more than what we have. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

The only one that doesn’t seem to want to use Greg Cross is Wannstedt. And it seems he’s still not that eager to use Nix or Baldwin. This has gone beyond ridiculous.

Then there were the various Q&As from Paul Zeise. A bit issue seems to be the issue of depth at linebacker.

Q: Shane Murray was hurt the second to last day of camp. The day prior, a wide receiver, of all things, was converted to LB, and instantly became the second-man on the depth chart and then was elevated to starter two days later. Wannstedt’s had FOUR recruiting classes, he’s a supposed to be a “defensive minded” coach, yet, here’s Wannstedt, who has ZERO experienced, capable DEPTH at OLB. At this point of Wannstedt’s illustrious tenure, should not he have built up much more experienced depth, particularly on defense?

ZEISE: I agree to a point.

The fact that Austin Ransom – a former walk-on receiver — is considered the best option when Murray went down is frightening. However, I’ll point this out – Ransom at least had played safety for part of his career and the idea was they wanted someone to fill in there who understood and was capable of covering passes against Bowling Green’s spread offense – so the move had as much to do with match-ups as anything.

The other thing is – and this seems to be a recurring theme – the fact that Ransom is a fifth-year senior who had played some in the past, made him more appealing because, well, you know the coach’s conservative nature. He obviously didn’t feel secure putting guys out there who hadn’t played before – and that has less to do with his recruiting and development and everything to do with his philosophy.

One other thing – Brandon Lindsay was hurt during camp, Tristan Roberts didn’t play very well during camp and Nate Nix is actually contemplating a move to defensive end because it is becoming evident he might not be quite good enough to play linebacker at this level. And those were three celebrated linebacker recruits. I definitely agree that this position is troublesome when you take a look at the depth, but in Wannstedt’s defense it is about the only position where the depth is so thin – and I’m not sure if it is as thin as we’re being told. Again, I think part of this has to be blamed on a philosophy of not wanting to put kids out there and let them learn by fire – some players just develop better that way. I think that might be the case with Elijah Fields (safety) and with Greg Williams – they are too talented not to play, they are the kinds of players who need reps and experience to really get better and the more they play, the better they’ll become. But both, because they missed some assignments or didn’t understand some coverages and whatnot, were held back until circumstances forced the coach’s hand and they had to be put out on the field. It will be interesting now to watch both of those guys develop. Maybe the “lack of depth” is more about a “lack of opportunity” for some of the younger guys to “prove it” when the lights are on …

Which he followed up on a little later.

Q: How do you develop depth if you aren’t playing your roster?

Zeise: That is a great point and one I made earlier this week when someone asked about where all the back-up linebackers are. I think there are plenty of guys on this team who, if they were given an opportunity to play and play with any amount of regularity, they’d be able to grow into their positions and become productive players. I think sometimes coaches put too much emphasis on class work and film study and probably hold the development of kids back some by not putting them on the field in situations that they will have a chance to succeed. It is ridiculous that no other linebacker other than a converted receiver (Austin Ransom), for instance, was ready to step in and play. There are guys with more talent who just need a shot. By the same token, there are a number of players on this team who either (a) aren’t good enough to play at this level or (b) have been badly over-rated and over-hyped and thus are being unfairly judged by their inability to get on the field.

Yeah, but when you follow this approach you also create your built-in excuse over the lack of experience. At this point, I think the only thing Wannstedt likes more than a hand-off straight ahead on offense are his excuses.

I wonder how soon until the Pitt athletic department follows suit?

Auburn University has a message for its students about Saturday’s game against LSU: Please don’t boo undefeated and No. 10 Auburn.

The dean of students, Johnny Green, sent a mass e-mail this week urging the student body to show good sportsmanship when No. 6 LSU visits Jordan-Hare Stadium. It read in part:

“First, please join me by agreeing to demonstrate your support for, and not criticism of, our football team. That means no booing! Remember, the team isn’t trying to lose the game — the players work hard all spring and during fall camp to be ready to compete in the S.E.C.”

It’s just a matter of time, isn’t it?

Do It for the Children

Filed under: Fans,Football — Chas @ 1:08 pm

“There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best.” Joe DiMaggio. Source: The Sporting News (April 4, 1951).

This game means a bit more to me than others. Last year I decided that I would bring my daughter to at least one game each season. Hopefully, so she would have a good time and to learn a little more about the school and team I love. This is the game I’m taking her to see this year.

This is important since we live in Ohio and get nothing but Ohio State propaganda (along with an uncle that is a bit rabid about tOSU). Add in the threat of a couple grandparents that are Penn State grads and there is danger all around that she could learn the wrong lesson with the young, impressionable mind of 6-year old.

One of my fellow ticketholders is bringing his 6-year old son back for a second go round. He first brought him to the opener with Bowling Green. They live down in Morgantown and he has spent nearly a year re-educating the boy and bringing him over to Pitt. No small feat right in the belly of the couch-burners.

The poor kid was forced to watch Pitt lose to Bowling Green — and he took it hard. Tears and everything. It was like he was the embodiment of our collective id in his reaction.

The kids are coming. Many, many others keep trying to raise their kids the right way. Please, Coach Wannstedt, give us all something to justify the effort.

Open Thread: Iowa – Pitt

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 10:53 am

The ante got upped. Not just my daughter, but my 17-month old son and even the wife are in for this trip.

At least the weather is supposed to be nice.

This is not, despite what the Pitt players got from the coaches, a statement game. Wannstedt has lost too much good will for just this game to make it up. It would, however, be a nice start.

Odds are you won’t be reading anything new from me until very late if not Sunday.

The mad bastards at Black Hearts Gold Pants and I did the blogger exchange. Adam Jacobi who also goes under the name “Oops Pow Surprise” is also a cohort at FanHouse and the creator of the awesome JoePa Chronicles. My responses to his questions can be found here.

So, what does Iowa have to offer other than corn, ethanol and every few years an infestation of pandering politicians?

Sir, our state is rich in many things. You neglect hogs, soybeans, and wine. Yes, wine. Sure, it’s totally unpotable, but you should pick up a bottle of the local Grigio anyway–I’ve never seen anything take the stain off a deck and kill the weeds underneath like that.

Is there any difference between Stanzi or Christensen at QB other than name length? Is there an Iowa fan preference?

Sure, there’s a difference. Christensen is more experienced, but a full year of getting beaten into submission–46 sacks in 2007–has turned him into a frightened rabbit under center. But all the same, he doesn’t throw picks. He doesn’t throw much of anything, really, not when there’s a defensive lineman in the same, uh, area code.

Chased by a bear

Chased by a bear

Or a bear.

Stanzi’s fresh, taller, and can put touch on a ball. He also throws severely ill-advised passes about 10-15% of the time and probably played his way right out of the starting lineup with a 5-14, 2-pick performance against ISU. Oh, and he left 11 points off the board on what should have been easy TD passes. You won’t really know who’s starting until Saturday morning; Stanzi started against FIU after Ferentz named Christensen his man earlier that week.

Any arrests or academic casualties in the last few days? Follow-up, has the strong start by Iowa alleviated some of the negativity towards Ferentz and the football team that seemed to be there prior to the start of the season?

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