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September 9, 2009

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.





“That even if Pitt somehow lands a QB of significant talent, he wouldn’t be allowed.”

You didn’t just go there. Not you, Chas.

Comment by Brian BK 09.09.09 @ 12:52 am

Did his high school QB steal his girl and become King and Queen of the prom?

Comment by steve 09.09.09 @ 7:39 am

Wanny/Stull apologist time again:

1) you may remember that after facing T Pike last year, Wanny publicly admitted the value of having a mobile QB. As a result, they went out on a national recruitment campaign and got K Gray out of Texas. And they are a finalist for T Gonzalez.

2) Chas wrote – “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.” Just remember, whether or not the boos are intended for the coach, the intention doesn’t matter … the perception does .. and it was VAST perception that the ire was intended for the QB.

Comment by wbb 09.09.09 @ 8:34 am

Is UTEP good? I am sure better than YSU, but how much of an indicator is Buffalo’s win last week?

Comment by NYC Panther 09.09.09 @ 8:40 am

UTEP has been a middle of the pack (at best) member of Conference USA. Buffalo beat them at home last year handily. Not sure if UTEP was highly considered for the C-USA this year, but it does say something for a school to travel half way across the country with 1st year starting QB and RB and win.

Two things for sure — crowd & team will be primed, and Turner Gill is a heckuva coach

Comment by wbb 09.09.09 @ 9:49 am

buffalo beat a 12 ranked ball state team last year… and won a part of the MAC…and considering how we play against the mac on the road… its a scary game.

Comment by Snala the Panther 09.09.09 @ 10:07 am

Any idea of a location in Richmond Va that will carry the game on TV?

Comment by tsquare 09.09.09 @ 10:21 am

tsquare,

Game will be available on ESPN 360 or ESPN Gameplan.

Comment by John 09.09.09 @ 11:00 am

For those of you that have Dish Network, with the Sports Channel Package, the game will be on Channel 438 (SNY)…Chas, I have to respecfully disagree with your “even if” comment. DW let Tyler Palko throw and throw plenty. I don’t think that it is so much that the coaches are inflexible as it is that the QB’s are limited in what they can do. For those of you enamored with the Tony Pike/Cinn story…If we threw the ball 23 times in the first quarter and a half (which Cinncy did this week), we would put up some big numbers too…Problem is with that offense, it does not win national championships. This coaching staff wants a national championship. Running the FB does that. Our problem is that being able to throw the ball effectively makes the running game better. I think the coaches have done a good job recruiting top level WR’s and RB’s, now we just need consistent play from our QB to get us to an elite level. Think Troy Aikman not Peyton Manning.

Comment by HbgFrank 09.09.09 @ 1:00 pm

FYI–

Really nice condensed video highlights from the Pitt/YSU game on http://www.bigeast.org for you guys that did not see it live…

Comment by Pauly P 09.09.09 @ 1:14 pm

Yay, I can pick up the game out of Y-town!!!

Comment by dugdog 09.09.09 @ 2:29 pm

Who was the ad wizard that decided we should go play in Buffalo?

Oh yeah, Jeff Long.

Home & home series are good if you schedule as long as you have an advantage. We beat Buffalo, it is a ‘they should have’. We lose to Buffalo, it is a disaster.

Comment by JoeyD 09.09.09 @ 3:15 pm

JoeyD… you hit my point exactly. I HATE playing these MAC schools for the same reasons you mention (we get NO credit when we when and only ridicule when we lose)…. I’d prefer a IAA patsy, then go against a MWC or low-tier BCS team.

Utah is very encouraging. We have Miami and Va Tech coming up, plus ND… these are more in-line with types of games we should be playing NC.

Comment by Pauly P 09.09.09 @ 3:53 pm

Thanks Pauly, for the link. But are we really that fast? If so, WE’RE #1. Grin

Comment by steve 09.09.09 @ 6:49 pm

Note on the “QB” comments…JoPA has been blamed for years for molding his QB’s to the same image
Wanny is accused of.

Second..I am in the Burgh for business and was very disturbed at the Joe Bendl radio show tonight…commenting on Rob Hauser missing so many blocks against YSU in pass defense. Actual talk going on about replacing him at center.

Comment by Dan 72 09.09.09 @ 10:24 pm

Stull has it in him to play well, just not at an All-American level. Sadly, I think that injury really spooked him and we’ll see if he recovered emotionally from that…he had about five games last year, particularly at S. Florida, where he played really well and looked like a second team Big East-er, which is more than enough for this team. Saying that, I’d still give Sunseri playing time no matter the score, and have him ready if Stull implodes. Cautiously optimistic on the season right now…

Comment by Matt N. 09.10.09 @ 9:10 am

Ugh. Erie, right next to Buffalo and not far from Pittsburgh, doesn’t get the game on TV. I’d go to the game, but UatBuffalo is crazy charging 38 bucks for essentially bleacher seating.

Oh well, ESPN 360 or the radio for me.

Comment by Russ 93 09.10.09 @ 11:33 am

Matt, trouble is that Stull will always remembered for the Sun Bowl fiasco, and the further we get away from that game, the less remember about it. In fact, the anti-Stullers refuse to admit the large impact that (1) the wind, (2) the decimated o-line which was dominated by the OSU D-line, and especially (3) the low-risk, low-reward playcalling which almost guaranteed bad passing stats, had on the game.

I do believe Sunseri has a higher upside but I don’t disagree with the approah being used entering this season … nor do I believe Stull is nearly as bad as many people who post on this blog apparently think he is.

Comment by wbb 09.10.09 @ 11:34 am

I know the booing issue has been discussed a ton but I had to think long and hard about it before I chimed in. I am a second year teacher who is slightly older than Billy Stull. I have not been happy with the play of any of our QB’s since the Palko days. I booed on Saturday against YSU. My boos were meant for Dave W. because in my opinion he is inflexible with his personnel decisions, he doesn’t adjust well when the team is trailing, and he is arrogant when questioned. Bill Stull most likely thought all the boos were meant for him. Stull can’t help that he is the best man for the job even if his skill set is below what we as fans feel is necessary for success. I feel that whatever Stull does this year is kind of heroic because it sucks to be booed by your own supporters let alone opposing fans. He’ll never forget it as long as he lives just like you never forget getting picked on in grade school. I had a student tell me yesterday that I sucked and that he hated me and my class. I know this student is just an immature and rude teen trying impress friends, but it is only human nature to think about stuff like that before you go to bed. It shakes your confidence. It doesn’t necessarily hurt emotionally, but it makes you question yourself. I am a big boy and will easily move on, but why hurt one of our own? I’m done booing period. You’re either on the Pitt train or off of it and I’ve been on since I’ve been a little kid when we only won one and two games in a season. Let’s think before we boo.

Comment by AJ 09.10.09 @ 8:00 pm

AJ – Chas, and others, have the right slant on this booing issue I think. If you remember that the first boos started right after we missed a third down conversion on the very first offensive series of the game – so now fans debate whether the boos were meant for Stull or for DW… but I guarantee you every kid on that offense who was walking off the field had to wonder “WTF” and if that was for them for not converting.

That’s the thing about all this – it’s a totally non-specific show of displeasure, and while the fans who boo can try to justify it all they want by saying it was for DW or Stull… they fail to realize it is heard by every kid down there.

Which is, IMO, the exact opposite message we want to send to our team at the beginning of the game or at the beginning of the season.

Honestly, I think booing kids who go out there and try the best they can to do good things for us is about the most selfish act a fan can perform.

Comment by Reed 09.11.09 @ 5:12 am

when it comes to booing — it’s not about the intention …. it’s ALL about the perception.

Thus, it doesn’t matter for whom the boos were intended; obviously the vast majority thought that they were aimed at the QB

Comment by wbb 09.11.09 @ 7:55 am

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