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September 21, 2012

Injuries Ahead of the Can’t Lose

Filed under: Football,Injury — Chas @ 8:42 am

I’m not saying it’s a must win. It’s much more that Pitt cannot lose. They can’t lose to two 1-AA teams in a season (or ever again). And they certainly can’t lose another home game.

Pitt lost Jahmal Pardner in the VT game. DE Jack Lippert and TE Hubie Graham missed the VT game with injuries. LB Todd Thomas has remained in recovery mode from off-season ACL surgery — but is apparently getting closer to seeing action.

The good news is that linebacker Todd Thomas, a 2011 starter who had knee surgery in January, might get his first snaps of the season Saturday.

“I don’t want to say it’s like sending a pitcher down to Triple-A to throw, but you have to get some live work,” Chryst said. “We have to see where Todd is at.”

Thomas has been practicing for the past week and has been encouraged by his progress.

“(He) felt better after each day,” Chryst said. “Todd was able to do a lot more (Wednesday) than he did a week ago, and Tuesday he did a fair amount.”

There had been rumors that Thomas might get on the field last week. Now, it is Coach Chryst saying its possible. So at least he’s getting closer.

The big blow, however, is Aaron Donald looking unlikely for the Gardner-Webb game. He has some sort of knee injury. The only good news is that it apparently isn’t severe. Normally, this would seem fine. Let him rest versus a 1-AA team along with the bye week. Of course, Pitt really can’t take a 1-AA team for granted after the YSU debacle.

That means talking up the kids who will get more action — dare we say, opportunity — with the other injuries.

Freshman Darryl Render is listed behind Donald on the depth chart and has been receiving extra repetitions in practice this week. Render, originally recruited as a defensive end, has impressed coaches enough this season to work his way onto the field as a defensive tackle.

He has played in all three games and made two tackles.

“He’s mature beyond his years and he’s going to come in and just get bigger and stronger,” defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable said.

Render wouldn’t be the first young defensive lineman to step into in a key role. Redshirt freshman Devin Cook got his first career start Saturday against Virginia Tech at defensive end. He finished with five tackles, including two for a loss.

Chryst said that, while the experience will benefit Cook down the road, inexperience is no reason a player can’t help the Panthers right now.

“There’s a guy that I think’s growing and getting better,” Chryst said, referring to Cook. “That’ll benefit him the rest of this year, and you hope it carries over into next year, but there’s only one reason he was out there: He gave us the best chance that day.”

While the loss of Pardner means Andrew Taglianetti is now seeing more action in nickel situations, there is another player who could end up getting some action.

I asked Chryst if, with Jahmahl Pardner out for the year, there was a chance that the redshirt could come off freshman Ryan Lewis. Lewis was on the team’s travel roster to Cincinnati, which is usually a sign that coaches think a guy is ready to play, even if only in an emergency situation. Chryst said they hadn’t gotten to the point of making a decision with Lewis, though.

“We’ll kind of see,” Chryst said. “Certainly talked about that. Hopefully we don’t lose anymore corners. … Ryan is continuing to get better and you appreciate that from him. I don’t know if we’re that definitive yet.”

Probably not. Kind of surprising, though, how quickly Ray Vinopal has fallen away from any talk of seeing game action outside of special teams. He appeared poised to have a real impact based on how he was in the spring and training camp. Yet, after getting burned repeatedly in the YSU game, he has quickly become a non-factor.





Chas.. How about..

“The only thing to fear is fear itself”

Tino, OL, DL, New staff, Complacency, brain farts, etc…

Comment by CompLit 09.21.12 @ 9:58 am

“nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.21.12 @ 11:26 am

This will be a true test for the Panthers. Focus and execution can be lost when the opponent is not respected and a cakewalk is anticipated. Just go ask VT about that. You would think that won’t be the case however considering how fresh that YSU spanking is still in their minds.

Buuuut,,, this team has a history of under acheivment, so it will be interesting to see if Pitt does their usual thing and plays down to their competition or not.

It will be kudos to the coaching staff, especially with a lot of the younger players seeing action tomorrow, if this team comes out dominating the game, as they should, from the opening kickoff. Hopefully everybody will keep their head in the game and have this one be nothing more than a confidence builder going into the BE part of the schedule.

I’m really looking forward to the game actually. I anticipate Graham, Shell & Bennett all running wild tomorrow, if so that should be a lot of fun to watch. We’ll see.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.21.12 @ 11:39 am

Dr. Tom – Where did you get that phrase? I have never heard it am a bug on history.

Does anyone know anything about Gardner Webb?
What is their record? What style offense? etc.
Is the game on ESPN 3?

Comment by Dan 72 09.21.12 @ 11:40 am

G-W is horrible. pitt should beat them by 50.

Comment by scott 09.21.12 @ 11:43 am

heres GWebbs 3 games thus far:

Wofford 34-7 L

Richmond 41-8 L

Samford 44-23 L

Comment by rhyno527 09.21.12 @ 12:00 pm

I agree with Dr. Tom. Lets see if they play down to the competition. I like that the coaching staff is using the game against a *seemingly* inferior opponent as an opportunity to get some younger guys some experience and also to rest some of the starters and get them healthy for conference play. It’s smart logic, lets hope it works out!

Comment by The Atlanta Panther 09.21.12 @ 12:04 pm

Heading into the season, I would’ve been slightly disappointed but not at all surprised with a 2-2 start. It’ll be funny to see what it feels like if — hopefully when — that happens this weekend. Especially if Pitt takes care of business in an impressive way Saturday.

Comment by JW 09.21.12 @ 12:09 pm

“They can’t lose to two 1-AA teams in a season (or ever again).”

If I’m not mistaken, I think Pitt will player University of Delaware in a couple years (not to be confused with Delaware State, who just lost to Cincinnati). The Blue Hens are a D1-AA team that should be respected. That game will not be a gimmie by any stretch.

Comment by A 09.21.12 @ 12:22 pm

Game is on ESPN 3

Comment by JLawrence 09.21.12 @ 12:44 pm

Here is what we know: YSU beat us easily…We had some good momments in the Cinncy game, but lost big in the end…VT did not play its best game against us and we fully took advantage of that and beat them easily by playing our best game in years…No way I take that resume and say that it points to a “sure win” in the Gardner Webb game. Blow out Gardner Webb (by that I mean its over by halftime) and I will feel very good about this team. Struggle to win, or worse lose, and its back to the potential for a one or two win season.

Comment by HbgFrank 09.21.12 @ 12:55 pm

Have we turned the corner possibly??

Will we be the Pitt we’ve come to know over the years????

(nail biter, win the game 24-20 in the end, win sloppily 21-3, or possibly even lose????)

Or, will it be a Pitt team that we’ve long to see again????

(Pitt wins handily and easily in a blow out, 45-10, 55-14, 35-7)

I’m hoping things have started to click, everyone is getting on the same page, and this season is really a new start to many great things ahead for this coach, these players, future players, and us, the fans.

Tomorrow will be a good sign and test.

Comment by Dan 09.21.12 @ 1:18 pm

This is a must win from the standpoint that they must prove that last week was not a fluke like many are claiming…not only that, they must win decisively to prove that to themselves and because as rhyno stated above GW is a really really bad team…

Hail 2 Pitt

Comment by Leaseman 09.21.12 @ 1:22 pm

Pitt hadn’t lost to a 1-AA in 123 years of football. Ever is a long time, so let’s just settle for another 123 years, starting tomorrow.

I know anything could happen, but Gardner Webb is actually terrible. Even if Pitt’s defense has a bad day, is there anybody out there who seriously thinks any of the Running Bulldogs’ defenders isn’t going to get a bit of “Shell-Shock” this weekend?

Pitt certainly has showed that its fans can never, ever, rest easy, but I think there are plenty of objective criteria for why Pitt will win that far outweigh why there might be a possible upset. In addition to Shell, I think its worth noting:

1.) Gardner Webb’s offensive unit does not have the chemistry and time spent playing together YSU did. Nor does GW have recent pedigree, such as YSU beating the FCS national champion last year. In short, GW is not just a FCS team, but a bad one.
2.) Defensive improvement. Pitt’s defense has improved each week of the season. That is a fact. Losing Donald might hurt, but the unit as a whole has continued to play better, and it would be irrational to assume the D would stop playing well without some evidence other than fear.
3.) Coaching improvement. We cannot assume HC PC’s coaching ability is invariable. In fact, it is fair to assume that since this is the first half of his first year, he is still on the steep end of the learning curve, as are many of his assistants. As the coaches get better at doing their job, the team improves. Hard to measure, but we know Chryst has a high football IQ and its fair to say that he clearly has not gotten any WORSE as a coach, although this game will be a good test to see if he has kept the team focused.

I really think Pitt is going to go to the ground game early and often, control the ball for 35 minutes, and cruise. Frankly, I don’t think GW will have an answer for Shell, and I hope this is a good chance to rest Graham and get Bennett some carries.

Comment by TartanPanther 09.21.12 @ 1:24 pm

we should have played G-W 1st and YSU now. YSU is a quality 1A with an accomplished, veteran offense. Pitt lined up that day with 8 1st time starters on defense and really the only experience on the DL and LB were A Donald and S Gordon (who has seen limited action.)

If you read the write-ups and Redshirt Diaries blogs, you may note that multiple assignments that were missed … including the very 1st play at Cincy where the RB went 58 yds untouched.

WE may not score 40 or 50 pts but I guarantee we will not be embarrassed on the defensive side like vs YSU.

Comment by wbb 09.21.12 @ 1:31 pm

Ray Vinopal ran track in HS…
some individual events… but then 4×100…
His PR in 100m is 11.84…

That is not fast for a CB type… sub 11.3 is better in my opinion.
Maybe that is why he got burned several times at YSU… not to mention technique…

Comment by Joe D 09.21.12 @ 2:02 pm

I am a convert to Chrystianity.

Plus Holley is out of the doghouse.

Comment by steve1 09.21.12 @ 2:09 pm

For those so interested,…

Robert Foster has apparently taken to Twitter to announce his final three of Pitt, Ohio State and Alabama. I don’t follow Foster’s twitter account, but several Pitt fans that I do follow re-tweeted it today.

If so, good news.

Comment by Stoosh 09.21.12 @ 2:23 pm

Stoosh,
From what I understand regarding Foster, some schools pulled offers… either because they are at their limit or the don’t want to dance with Foster anymore.

Comment by Joe D 09.21.12 @ 2:35 pm

This game is so unevenly matched that there is not even a Vegas line on the game, not even an over/under number. If Pitt takes care of business the way that they should and if Coach Chryst is the kind of person that I think he is, he will control the game with a solid ground attack after securing the game early by dominating G-W on both sides of the ball.

I see Anderson getting some mop up time at QB in the second half while operating that running attack to eat up the game clock. That will give our offense some work without piling onto an inferior opponent by running up the score too bad.

Expect to see at least two of our running backs with triple digit rushing stats after this one gentlemen. I won’t be surprised if the final score is anywhere from 28-14 to 49-0. No doubt a Pitt win, just a matter of whether Pitt goes for the troat, taking no prisoners, or if they come out unemotionally and flat just mailing this one in. For their sake I hope Pitt kicks G-W’s ass all over the field in the first half before putting in the reserves for the second half to get some game experience. If that happens, it will be more in the 49-0 Pitt wins catagory.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.21.12 @ 2:56 pm

If Todd Thomas is close to 100% then that will be huge.

It will be interesting to see how Tino plays after his good game last week.

Anything less than a blow out will be a loss in my book.

Comment by Wardapalooza 09.21.12 @ 2:58 pm

I think the GW game will give some indication of how good a coach PC really is. YSU was his time seeing his team in a game setting. It was a horrible loss, but PC has Pitt back on track.

Pitt should win this game in its sleep even if the entire starting 22 come down with ebola. With the talent advantage, all Pitt needs to do is execute well and they win by 30+. PC needs to ensure they execute and finish.

I don’t think we can discount the ‘Tino’ factor either. But I really think the passing game will be an afterthought. Pitt should run for 400.

Comment by pghFred 09.21.12 @ 3:04 pm

@ Dan 72, I was just continuing the quote from CompLit “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” which was from FDR’s 1st inaugural speech back in 1933. It was referencing the world wide economic collapse of the great depression and the fear that resulted from it. This speech was a rally call to the US citizenship to rise up to the economic challenges facing the country to overcome it

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.21.12 @ 3:05 pm

Dr. Tom -

Something I have been wondering is who is responsible for some of Whisky’s blowouts in recent years. One of the things I liked about those teams is that they showed no mercy. I believe there were some pretty embarrassing beatdowns of Indiana in particular. I hope Chryst has that “kill” mentality and is not afraid to throw down 40+ points on a hapless opponent. I’m willing to bet that even though Bielema is the HC, Chryst had a lot to do with those blowouts . . . he called the plays after all. I would be shocked if GW managed to hold Pitt to under 30 points, and seeing as Pitt has consistently moved the ball all season long, Pitt ought to have enough scoring chances to get into 40+ point territory.

Comment by TartanPanther 09.21.12 @ 3:08 pm

TartanPanther, it may be that there will be an inadvertant beatdown tomorrow. By that I mean, if the ground game gets going and it is firing on all cylinders, we could have THREE running backs with triple digit numbers by day’s end.

Who’s going to be the one who tells Graham, Shell or Benett that, “if you break through to the secondary, slow down and run out of bounds”. I especially feel that if Shell gets going, he is going to be very motivated to prove something to the rest of the world in this game. Since he is a true freshman, and I don’t even think that he knows where he fits just yet in the BCS landscape, he might be looking for a confidence booster by laying a big number on Gardner-Webb.

Pitt may just be solidifying their claim to the title of Tailback U, considering the list of McCoy, Lewis and Graham already proven products and Shell now apparently coming onto the scene big time as well. Not to mention Curtis Martin just being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame also.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.21.12 @ 4:13 pm

Feel free to take the temperature of the state of Pitt football. We’re talking about the possibility of losing to Gardner-Webb…

Comment by Cool Hand Nuke 09.21.12 @ 4:14 pm

@ Dr. Tom,

Vegas doesn’t issue lines for D1 v DII

Comment by H.LandPitt 09.21.12 @ 4:35 pm

Nuke,

Looks to me like most of the talk here is about how big of a beatdown Pitt will put on GW. While I would love for that to be the outcome, if the team is thinking the same way we could be in for a long afternoon.

Comment by dinosaur 71 09.21.12 @ 4:41 pm

Cool Hand, the state of Pitt football has just made us all neurotic that’s all!

Comment by Leaseman 09.21.12 @ 4:45 pm

I expect complete disregard for human safety and well being tomorrow.
Anything less is a major letdown. We found our identity last week, now find our soul in the merciless beatings we lay down.
That is the attitude I want from waterboy on up.

Comment by SFPitt 09.21.12 @ 4:58 pm

Thanks H.LandPitt, I find, no matter how old I get, if I just pay attention, I learn something new everyday.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.21.12 @ 5:09 pm

Sagarin’s computer predicts Pitt +39 over Gard Webb. And if Va Tech was not an anomaly the margin could be closer to Pitt +60.

Comment by pitt1972 09.21.12 @ 6:20 pm

SF Pitt we are of the same mind…I don’t think any BCS school should ever play a D2 school, but if they do it should be a complete beat down…and not in a YSU sort of way!

Comment by HbgFrank 09.21.12 @ 6:58 pm

I live about 25 minutes from Boiling Springs,NC where Gardner Webb University is located.

There main sporting claim is in basketball, In November,2007,GWU want into Lexington,Ky and beat at that time the 20′th ranked Kentucky Wildcats. I belive it was in the first year (of two) that Billy Gillisipie coached at Kentucky. Probably one reasons why Calapari is there now.

Not really happy. The South Carolina-Missouri game is at the same time as Pitt’s. I have season tickets and love tailgating but losing my love for sitting in the stands and watching the game. Maybe one of the grandkids show up and takes my ticket and lets me listen to Pitt on sirius and continue eating and drinking.

Comment by PITT-cocks Fan 09.21.12 @ 8:21 pm

H2P

Comment by Gordo 09.22.12 @ 2:37 am

Couple of things:

Here is a good P-G article on Gardner-Webb

link to post-gazette.com

Tartan – did you feel the same way when we were watching that big lead dwindle down against Iowa and Graham had a new ass handed to him by the fans and the media for not slowing down the game? We were up by 17 points with 12 minutes left and going hard on offense lost that game.

As for G-W: I expect us to win today but not by 40 points. I still hold my prediction that we’ll be 3-3 going into the backstretch of the season. We really, at this point, have no idea how good this 2012 PITT team is.

We saw what it could do when all the stars align but until they do that two or three games in a row (against BCS teams) I’ll hold off on changing my 6-6 pre-season prediction.

Dr. Tom – your post above about telling the backs to ‘slow down’ when we have a big lead reminds me of what Joe Paterno said after his running backs kept scoring long TD runs in the 4th quarter of a blowout – “What, I’m supposed to tell them to fall down out there?”

Comment by Reed 09.22.12 @ 8:04 am

One last point – to me the comparison of this G-W game to the YSU one isn’t really justified. First off YSU is a darn good FBS football team.

But perhaps more importantly PC hasn’t suspended six players the day before this game. That really effected the team in the opener. That combined with the first game with a new staff, new systems, new communications… all contributed to the mess we saw on Sept 1st.

Comment by Reed 09.22.12 @ 8:14 am

I didn’t realize that G-W was a strict Baptist institution. Lot to be said about having God as your co-pilot. So they got that going for them.

Their defense up to this point against 3 FCS opponents have allowed and average of 229 yards on the ground per game. Ouch!

I’m anticipating Chryst and company using this as a testing ground for honing the O line’s blocking schemes for our trio of RBs. Two guys go for triple digits today, maybe even all three if Graham gets a breather and Sir Isaac Bennett gets some love and is allowed to work up a lather carrying the rock.

I think Coach Chryst is finding the guys that have the correct attiude for his starting 22 at this point, nothing wrong with starting 5 freshman today IMO. I’m seeing a win for sure and maybe a significant blowout. Depends mainly how the running game gets going. If Shell is given the opportunity and gets enough carries, I’m predicting he’s closing in on 200 yards by game’s end.

Time to get on the road to Pittsburgh, game time quickly approaching. HAIL TO PITT!

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.22.12 @ 8:23 am

I’m expecting a large dose of Bennett espeicallly in the 2nd half

Comment by wbb 09.22.12 @ 8:35 am

GAME DAY. Whoe’s ready. Lets build on last weeks game, no slide back.

Comment by alcofan 09.22.12 @ 9:19 am

This is a game where I see Pitt coming out passing… and passing some more.

Was under the impression that Tino might be limited. That doesn’t look to be the case.

However, should see someone else taking snaps in the second half if Tino can finally show some consistency and growth by putting up a second big game in a row.

The running will come in the second half to run out the clock primarily with Shell, Bennett and maybe one or two others who haven’t seen playing time.

Ideal game to give Ray Graham a break.

Ideal game to get some time for a couple of the second string offensive linemen.

Beat those Damn Bulldogs. I don’t care how nice they are.

Hail to Pitt

Comment by PittofDreams 09.22.12 @ 9:40 am

The third string better be playing by the second quarter. Give some of the journeyman some playing time. Looks like a nice day to go to a practice game. We are playing a team from a school that most have never heard of. We should be playing CALU, IUP, or Slippery Rock.

Comment by gc 09.22.12 @ 10:02 am

Reed – thanks for the link and great question. It’s hard for me to separate how I felt then about Fraud Graham, because I confess I was on board at the time, with how I feel now, but let me return to that after a brief digression. I think all good sports teams have a collective killer instinct, to finish off games. In football, burning clock can be an effective, killer strategy. We need to look no further than the 4th quarter of the Pitt-VT game to see a textbook example of a time-killing, point-scoring, killer instinct type of drive. It was a thing of beauty.

Todd Graham’s offense is not designed to do that. So while part of me in the stands wanted him to burn clock, another part of me realized he would be backing away from the fundamentals of his offense to do so. Now I realize he learned from that and has slowed down some, but it would still be a stretch to say his offenses are designed to chew up clock. That’s just not his philosophy. And frankly, Pitt was just one score away from winning that game or one stop on defense away from winning that game. Yes, Pitt could have won that game if the team was not as aggressive; however, they could have also won that game if they had executed down the stretch. Pitt had the ball with a chance to drive and win the game before Tino threw a pick. Pitt had at least three drives prior to that where they came up empty.

Honestly, I would rather see a team try to win in that way than try not to lose by running twice, throwing a safe pass and punting. Finding the proper level of aggression and caution is a difficult balance to strike, but that’s the coaches job, and I would agree with you that Graham failed to find that balance in the 4th quarter of the Iowa game.

Looking to the future, what I love about the potential for PC’s teams are the ways that they can be “safely” aggressive. A handoff to Rushell Shell is a safe play, but you cannot tell me there is anything about the way that he runs that is not aggressive. I like that his teams at Wisconsin showed the ability to rack up lots of points and maintain control of the ball. That is the best of both worlds, and why I think in the end, an effective ball-control offense can be superior to a quick-attack high-octane mumbo-jumbo style offense.

So, to actually answer your question, I wanted Graham to slow down and burn some clock, but I recognized and understood why he chose to stay agressive, and as much as it pains me to say, I respect the decision, because if Pitt had clicked on just one of those drives (or hell, if Tino had just hit a wide-open Shanahan on 4th down) it would have worked, and history would be a lot different. Fraud Graham would be getting his ass handed to him by Texas A&M faithful after the Aggies get ripped apart by the big dogs in the SEC. Oh if only . . .

Comment by TartanPanther 09.22.12 @ 10:11 am

If Pitt wins 1-0 that will suffice in my book.

I don’t care what the margin of victory is at the end of the day. The team needs to grow, understand the system better and progress towards mistake free football (penalties, turnovers, blown assignments). They need to win the turnover differential.

Should be a good day to see the back-up OLine in game action. Can’t wait to see the likes of Arthur Doakes at 6’6″ 350, ply his trade as a road grader. Again, a good day to get some snaps for the 2 deep.

Only mick vick beat the bulldogs….

Comment by dhuffdaddy 09.22.12 @ 12:51 pm

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