November 1, 2009

Clearing Last Weeks Links

Filed under: Big East,Conference,Football,Players — Chas @ 11:25 pm

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 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 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.

We’re 13th in the BCS, just thought I’d throw that out there.

I noticed that Pitt does have a ton of 12 pm starts. Why is that? Down here, USF rarely plays at home before 7 pm. Their attendance picked up a bit lately, but it might be because the local pro team sucks now so some people are looking for something to hitch their wagon to.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's My Dad 11.01.09 @ 11:34 pm

Oh, I guess I didn’t make this clear in my post, but I meant to say that maybe the noon starts really do affect the crowds.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's My Dad 11.01.09 @ 11:36 pm

Interesting that David Walker used the phrase “de-recruit” when talking about dealing with a new player. I guess that’s when you have to sit the kid down and make him understand that you’d been blowing smoke at him for the last year and he really sucks – in comparison to other college players.

Comment by Reed 11.02.09 @ 5:05 am

Stewart Mandel, you needn’t worry so much about the D. The NC ST fiasco was caused mainly by Gunn’s injury, Mason being thrust into an unenviable role and a defensive backfield also hurt and in utter disarray. The USF and RU games are much better indicators of the current state.

Howsabout this for a nickname for Dion Lewis: “Skip,” as in Dion “Skip to My” Lewis.

Go easy…

Comment by Steve 11.02.09 @ 8:34 am

Warning: Expect to lose all your programs and your computer’s identity when migrating from Windows 7 release candidate (Ultimate) to Windows 7 Professional.

For shame, Microsoft. You could’ve warned me in big red letters. Nothing on the written instructions.

Microsoft is like the owner of the B&B in Groundhog’s Day. When asked by Bill Murray if there’s hot water for a shower, she responds “of course there wouldn’t be.” Or some such.

Comment by Steve 11.02.09 @ 8:44 am

Looking for a place to watch the game saturday in central jersey…

I’ve read before some Pitt fans to to
Fox & Hound Pub & Grill , and Champs… in Edison…anybody know if they usually play the pitt games ?

Comment by Snala the Panther 11.02.09 @ 9:33 am

This phrase from “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” … I believe is right-on.

Stull clearly panicked last year when pressure came, but I have seen him actually evaded rushers and complete passes and even run for 1st downs this year. But maybe more importantly is his pre-snap reads, he often seems to know where he should go to when dropping back …. but, to his credit, he has also made some very key plays to his secondary receivers … a key 4th down pass to Byham vs UConn comes to mind who was his 3rd option.

There is no question that Stull is much better prepared (and coached) this year .. but of course, the other big asset of Cignetti is utlizing all of the playmakers …. as opposed to just hadning off to Shady or throwing the fade to Baldwin.

Comment by wbb 11.02.09 @ 9:35 am

off topic: I know it is only Slippery Rock but note that Dante Taylor went 9 for 11 from the field, and 9 for 11 from the line … which is impressive when playing against no one (although I’m probably thinking about the way I shoot.)

Comment by wbb 11.02.09 @ 9:39 am

Snala, better is Fox and Hound. Beer specials, better access to TVs, more of a football crowd. The food? Just average.

I’d join you but am taking the fam to the game. Their 1st time to Pittsburgh!

Comment by Steve 11.02.09 @ 9:42 am

Syracuse “big game” against Cincinnati? Syracuse won’t be playing any big games for a lonnnnggg time.

Comment by Jamie H 11.02.09 @ 10:08 am

Agree with Steve. The D is the NC State game was an aberation. Every team is allowed one slip up per year, but imagine where we’d be ranked if we hadn’t blown that late lead? Damn…

Comment by Bobby 11.02.09 @ 10:27 am

Pitt should beat Syracuse to a pulp based on my wathing them vs Cinncy this weekend. First, they make way too many mistakes on the field to win against a good team, second Paulus is more a part of the problem than the solution with his horrible play, and third….Pitt is just the much better team. I will be very disappointed if this game is close.

Comment by Dan 72 11.02.09 @ 11:01 am

Pitt opened up as a 19 point favorite over Syracuse!!

Comment by The Dallas Panther 11.02.09 @ 11:12 am


SU turned the ball over twice in the red zone and fell asleep on a UC FG attempt, SU has problems but that game could have been a bit closer.

SU will up for the game this Saturday, if Pitt concentrates and takes care of business this should be a win.

Comment by The Dallas Panther 11.02.09 @ 11:17 am

Didn’t Paulus play for Duke when Pitt beat them in MSG a few years back?

Comment by Jimbo Covert's My Dad 11.02.09 @ 11:17 am


Yes, Paulus did play for Duke during that game; however, I don’t think he started…his late Duke career was rather irratic, and often was used off the bench.

Comment by Pauly P 11.02.09 @ 11:41 am

wbb, Cignettis short time with pitt has confirmed what we have all thought – Matt Cavanaugh was not meant to be running a modern day college offense. He had weapons he didnt know how to use and was not exactly a visionary. He is now where he wants to be, back in the nfl. We wish you well Matt but dont miss you as OC.

Comment by Coach Ditka 11.02.09 @ 11:47 am

Anyone heard a ND game time yet…Will it be the 8:00PM ABC game or will ABC take Iowa/OSU for 8:00PM?

Comment by Section 110 11.02.09 @ 11:52 am

Pauly – Paulus was still the starting point guard when Pitt and Duke met in Dec. 2007 at MSG. I don’t think he lost the starting job until later that season (during ACC play). His biggest weakness was his lack of speed, particularly on defense. Since Duke plays a lot of man-to-man, opposing guards found they were able to break him down one on one.

Comment by Pantherman13 11.02.09 @ 12:17 pm

i would hope if pitt and nd both win this wk, the game would be an 8:00 KO. what sucks this game would have been a sell out at 12:00…
Hail to Pitt

Comment by mike 11.02.09 @ 12:36 pm

The Pitt/ND game will be an evening game. That word comes from the ‘Stache himself.

Comment by Bobby 11.02.09 @ 1:04 pm

wbb- I was at the Pitt-SRU BB opener. Me and a few other diehards. Lots of empty seats on a Steeler bye week. Good chance to see the young colts in action. Taylor looked quick and was clearly the star of the game. The other new faces—Miller, Adams, Patterson, Woodall—had their moments. Miller and Robinson looked strong and will help at forward in BE action.We need better guard play. Dixon’s return will obviously help. Levance left a big void at the point. Way to early to judge anybody, but Taylor is an exciting addition. Gary McGheelooked like Gary McGhee.The Rock hit some bombs that kept the game close. Another winning start for Jamie D, as he takes on his biggest challenge to date. stay tuned.

Comment by Bossdaws 11.02.09 @ 1:09 pm

aren’t ND games brodcasted by NBC.. so there shouldn’t be a conflict with abc…

Comment by Snala the Panther 11.02.09 @ 1:32 pm

P13 & JCMD… check out the YouTube highlights of that famous Duke/Pitt game in MSG with Paulus playing for Duke. Field’s game winning shot, to this date, was one of the greatest regular season Pitt shots in my recent memory (Ramon to beat WVU, Fields to seal victory versus UCONN last year, Krauser coast-to-coast to beat Miami)….

Granted, it was a regular season game. But my attitude is…when you get a chance to beat a storied program (regardless of time of the year or implications), you gotta do it. That Pitt win over Duke was awesome. OT. Big Shot Fields. Oh, and some heartache (Cook went down in that game)… But to see Levance almost kicking JD in the face while celebrating is a lasting memory!

Comment by Pauly P 11.02.09 @ 3:16 pm

Snala- Only ND home games are on NBC, so ABC can show Pitt-ND.

Comment by Jim from Mars (PA) 11.02.09 @ 6:50 pm

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