I know. I know. Weak. Cliched. Trite. And all of that. It’s just that since this isn’t an NFL, NHL or MAC blog, how often will there be road trips to Buffalo for the team?
It’s not much of a series or history. The two teams met for the first time last year.
Despite the low wattage of this kind of game, it actually will be available in more places (Full list in PDF) than I would have thought — including Cleveland, Chicago, Philly, Tampa and Milwaukee. It will also be on ESPN360 if your broadband provider has signed on with it.
Naturally Buffalo is talking about the challenge of playing Pitt’s defense.
UB’s rebuilt-on-the-fly offense will face perhaps its stoutest opposition of the season in Saturday’s home opener against Pittsburgh.
Coach Dave Wannstedt’s defense has seven starters back from a unit that ranked among the nation’s top 30 in six statistical categories last season. Over the final five games of 2008, the Panthers gave up an average of 12.6 points. In Saturday’s 38-3 win over Division I-AA Youngstown State, they allowed just 159 yards.
“Their front seven is probably the best we’re going to face,” UB coach Turner Gill said Tuesday. “Size and strength … those are the first two things that stand out. They’re able to rush the passer and play the run very well.”
Pitt didn’t blitz at all in its opener, Wannstedt said, but is prepared to put pressure on Zach Maynard, the sophomore quarterback who will make his second start for UB. The Bulls made blitz preparation a priority for Maynard in training camp, due to his inexperience as well as the pressuring scheme used by their first opponent, Texas-El Paso.
They expect their stadium to approach a sellout. It holds about 25, 500.
The front line of the defense isn’t an issue. There is, though, questions of whether the secondary can be consistent.
Q: The defense seemed to play well against Youngstown State for the most part, but the secondary seemed to struggle with coverage at times. Do you think this is something that will work itself out over the next few games or will this be an ongoing problem all season?
ZEISE: I think this is a great question. You are correct, the secondary didn’t cover like it needs to once the varsity games begin. YSU had guys open. They also had a few chances to make some places but couldn’t connect. I think if you look around the Big East and at Notre Dame and even N.C. State (despite their awful performance the other night) you’ll find that Pitt will face some really good wide receivers and far better quarterbacks than Brandon Summers. For that matter, Buffalo has a kid, Naaman Roosevelt, who is going to be in the NFL some day and will be one of the better receivers the Panthers face. It will be very interesting to see how the secondary responds this week, especially since Buffalo, unlike YSU, will be able to get Pitt’s defensive front blocked, at least occassionally. This is an area of the team to keep an eye on because it clearly needs to improve from the way it played Saturday.
Recent history has been terrifying with road games and the MAC.
If recent history is an indicator, the Panthers be in for a tough game because the past two times the Panthers visited a Mid-American Conference team, they lost. In both cases, the game was treated as if it were the game of the century by the home crowd, creating an extremely hostile environment.
The first of those two games was in 2003 when the Panthers, ranked No. 9 in the country, visited the Glass Bowl in Toledo and were stunned by the Rockets, 35-31. In 2005, the second game of The Wannstedt Era, the Panthers visited Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio, and lost a 16-10 overtime decision to the Ohio Bobcats.
In both cases, the crowd rushed the field and tore down the goal posts, and that is the kind of reaction the Panthers should expect Saturday if they lose.
One thing that should help Pitt’s cause is that, unlike those two games which were played at night, this one has a noon kickoff. That should take some of the edge off the festive atmosphere.
Yeah, that’ll be the difference maker.
On the bright side, they are breaking in a new QB.
Zach Maynard has replaced record-breaking quarterback Drew Willy at Buffalo, which is coming off its first-ever bowl appearance at any level.
The Pitt Panthers (1-0) will get their first look at Maynard when they visit the University of Buffalo (1-0) at noon on Saturday at UB Stadium.
Last week, in his first collegiate start, Maynard completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 159 yards and one touchdown in a turnover-free 23-17 victory at UTEP on Saturday.
“The great thing is that he got some playing time and he didn’t turn the ball over,” said Gill, the fourth-year coach and former Nebraska star quarterback. “That is obviously what you stride for, but you don’t think it’s going to happen with a guy playing his first ballgame against a busy type of defense that UTEP has.”
The Buffalo coaching staff is helping Maynard’s transition by using an offensive scheme with some built-in protections. Maynard, a Greensboro, N.C., native, is doing more sprint outs and throwing more quick, confidence-building screen passes, including one that all-conference wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt turned into a 42-yard touchdown in the victory over UTEP in the Sun Bowl.
What? A sophomore with no starts being effective and trusted to run the offense? Preposterous. Give us a guy that can handle a warehouse.
On Bill Stull:
“He managed the game well. He got guys in and out of the huddle. There weren’t any delays, or miscues on snap count. The turnover he had was both a quarterback and receiver miscommunication. I was pleased with Bill’s performance. He didn’t make any major mistakes. It was a good start for him. He’s worked extremely hard in the summer and through camp. He’s doing the best he can do and that’s all you can ask for from my point of view. He’s doing all he can in order to prepare and he’s got to go out there and perform.”
Dave Wannstedt channeling his inner-Woody Hayes.
And once more this is why it doesn’t seem fair to say the fan ire should really be directed at Stull. It is really hard to imagine that Wannstedt would want anything different from the position.
It is that kind of statement that really brings me down with regards to just how far Pitt can go. Wannstedt is so inflexible on what he wants from a QB. That even if Pitt somehow lands a QB of significant talent, he wouldn’t be allowed.