Ah, the bye weekend. Also known as catching up with the mostly non-Pitt activities. The Pitt players may have needed it to get healthy and let the coaches go out recruiting, but it was almost as necessary for the rest of us.
Watch WVU make the Big East appear to be a two-team race at this point on Friday night. I mean, I know USF was great at stopping Devine, but how does he only get 17 touches, and instead the Hoopies put the game in Jarrett Brown’s hands (32 passing attempts and 11 runs). Please. Please. Please. Maintain that gameplan when Pitt comes to Morgantown at the end of November.
Saturday an early mish-mosh of Lowes-hell with the wife as she extends the list of things I need to do. Followed by a Saturday afternoon of drinking, twittering and livechatting. A break to take the kids Trick-or-Treating. Then back to just watch the World Series.
Today has been nothing but work around the house. Getting to things that need to be done. Hell, I missed all the NFL games today. Now watching Game 4 of the World Series and try and bang some stuff out.
So let’s clear the links.
I’m not going to excuse the poor attendance at the USF-Pitt game. Pathetic. Still, the students were out in force. Far better than in Syracuse, wehre the students were given free tickets, the game is on campus, and they still failed to show up for a big game against Cinci.
Not sure I ever quite will understand picking the senior captains for the football team halfway through the season. It’s a limited pool and if you don’t know who the leaders on the team are after the spring drills. Off-season and training camp, well… I’ll leave it alone. Congrats to Byham, McGee and Malecki for the offense and Gunn, Mick Williams and Mustakas.
More love for OC Frank Cignetti, as Bruce Feldman at ESPN.com lists Cignetti as #3 as assistant coaches doing the best job with their unit.
Cignetti was hired in February and has done wonders with QB Bill Stull, who is among the most improved quarterbacks in the country. Credit Cignetti for not only rebuilding Stull’s confidence but for giving him the drills and preparation to become much more adept at handling pressure in the pocket (the team went from 101st in the country in sacks allowed to 13th) and for being much more decisive in his reads. Stull is third in the nation in passing efficiency. Better yet, this is an offense that has replaced two NFL runners in LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling effortlessly with the emergence of freshman Dion Lewis.
Stewart Mandel at SI.com also noted what Cignetti and Pitt are doing.
I watched a lot of that game and Pitt, now 7-1, looked pretty good. In fact, the Panthers looked like the team I was expecting to see last year, with all those highly rated Dave Wannstedt recruits from the past five years finally playing like seasoned vets. For one thing, you can’t ask for a more balanced offense. Give a ton of credit to new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr., who’s helped transform quarterback Bill Stull from mediocre and job-insecure to the nation’s third-ranked passer. Whether it’s the play-calling or Stull’s improved decision making, he always seems to be throwing to the right spot, and Jonathan Baldwin and Dorin Dickerson catch everything in their sight.
And the beautiful thing is, Stull still doesn’t have to carry the load because he’s got one of the most productive running backs in the country behind him. It’s amazing how quickly freshman Dion Lewis has asserted himself as a bona fide star.
Defensively, that lineup is comprised almost entirely of juniors and seniors like end Greg Romeus, tackle Mick Williams, linebacker Adam Gunn and cornerbacks Aaron Berry and Jovani Chappel. That’s a lot of playmakers. However, it’s this side of the ball that remains my biggest concern about the Panthers. Quite frankly, they haven’t faced many explosive offenses. And in the one game they did lose, NC State’s Russell Wilson tore them to shreds. Wilson’s a great player, but the Wolfpack are 3-4 and Wilson hasn’t played like that since. It’s a cause for concern, because Pitt is going to face two pretty darn good quarterbacks, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike, in the weeks ahead.
Cignetti’s job performance already has some wondering just how long Coach Wannstedt wants to stay in charge and the whole “coach-in-waiting” thing. Let’s wait a little longer before we get to that point. Cignetti has been a solid coordinator elsewhere, and no question he has been outstanding in the first season at Pitt. Still, let’s see a couple more years before getting to that point.
Plus, there’s always room to kvetch. How about a fade in the endzone that actually connects?
With Pitt now at 7-1, and their best start in 25+ years, many units can share in the reason. The O-line. The D-line. The secondary — and Elijah Fields playing well as a hybrid linebacker/safety these days.. The receiving corps.
And of course, there is Dion Lewis.
Last offseason, new Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti was charged with invigorating a squad missing quarterback Bill Stull (concussion), but he found a tailback by the spring game. Lewis, who enrolled early in January, started out No. 3 on the depth chart. Once on campus, he impressed with his bench press (365 pounds), short bursts and understated approach. “We didn’t have to de-recruit him,” said Buddy Morris, the Panthers strength and conditioning coach. “He just shut up like Dan Marino and Curtis Martin did when they were here.”
Running backs coach David Walker noted Dion’s ability to process things. “He would tell me he saw things in between series and when we watched tape, he was right,” Walker said. “Some guys think they see things, but they are just mistaken by speed.”
The final month will be huge for Pitt’s fate. ND, WVU and Cinci. The Big East really got lucky or knew what they were doing with the schedule. Of course, Pitt has to get past all the expected mousetraps expected this week with the “trap game” of Syracuse at noon this Saturday.