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October 31, 2012

We Get Letters — Sort Of

Filed under: Admin — Chas @ 8:06 am

We lost power for a near 24-hour period thanks to high winds and rain. Somehow our block had minimal tree damage. The block east of us, however, got slammed. Some 8 or 9 trees knocked over on that block. Including one that took out a transformer (and a car and part of a house). So the 3 inches of water in the basement because the sump pump wasn’t on seems relatively minor. A good part of my day will be bleach washing the basement surface and getting rid of a bunch of kids toys (not exactly the plan I had to get rid of a lot of old toys, but I’m going with it).

In the meantime I figure on sharing this e-mail that got forwarded to me from a reader. It came to me from Yardbarker’s managing editor, who received it — and was quite confused as to why it came to him. This really is an actual e-mail from an actual person.

I was given your name by Jerry Micco, Sports Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  I wrote to him expressing concern about the Pitt Blather column which is published in the Post-Gazette.  He responded by saying that the column is a publication of FOXSports.com so I am forwarding my concern to you.

I like the content of Pitt Blather very much, but I don’t like the name “Pitt Blather”.  According to the dictionary, blather means non-sensical talk.  What kind of a name is this to assign to a serious blog about Pitt football?  The names of the blogs for Penn State (Black Shoe Diaries) and WVU (The Mountaintop), which also appear in the Post-Gazette, are dignified and pertinent, but Pitt Blather is not only off-target but also demeaning.  I am hoping that you will find a way to have the name of this column changed to something that is more appropriate.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of my request.

Sincerely,

[Name redacted]

If you ever wanted to know why corporations were wary/parnoid for so long about including hyperlinks and sidebars to outside content, meet Exhibit A.

I’m mostly amused, but for the suggestion that this is a “serious blog about Pitt football.” That kind of depresses me.

When I was trying to decide on the name of this blog the runner-up to “Pitt Sports Blather” was “The Babble Pitt.” To this day I still second-guess the decision.

October 29, 2012

Another October of Injury Disasters

Filed under: Football,Injury — Chas @ 1:49 pm

Not quite the miserable M*A*S*H unit of last year’s UConn game — and for the season — but geez. Bad things out of the Temple game.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst announced Monday that three players — linebackers Dan Mason and Manny Williams and offensive lineman Ryan Schlieper — would miss the rest of the season with injuries.

Manny Williams got hurt in the Louisville game. An ACL injury that has kept him out of the last few games. He has been trying to rehab, but it isn’t getting that much better so he is opting for the season-ending surgery.

Dan Mason. Yow. Just yow.

Mason returned earlier this season after missing two years with a knee injury, but lacerated his liver making a tackle late in the Temple game. Chryst said he is healing normally, and was optimistic that he could return for spring practice next year.

This just isn’t fair.

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October 27, 2012

Open Thread: Temple-Pitt

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 6:22 am

Have to keep this brief as I need to hit the road to Heinz Field.

Early start. Dreary day. On the bright side, my daughter comes with me to this game. She looks completely dazed and hopefully will fall back to sleep in the car.

Will Pitt stop the run and contain a mobile QB? Can Pitt run with some effectiveness in what should  be another wet and cold game that demands a running game? These and other questions to be determined at noon.

October 26, 2012

Good God, Play the Run

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 12:43 pm

Memo to Defensive Coordinator Dave Huxtable. Do not. I repeat. DO NOT overthink what Temple will do on offense.

They run the ball. That is the primary. I noted yesterday that they run the ball on 68.5% of their offensive chances. It dawned on me, though, that I don’t think I made that point clear enough.

On first down it is even more absurd. They are second from the bottom of all of 1-A football when it comes to pass attempts on first down. Only the creative genius that is Bob Davies in New Mexico passes less on first down.

There is no excuse that Pitt should be in anything but run defense on first down (and most other downs). The only reasons: either Pitt managed to steal the offensive playcalling signals from Temple, or Temple is in some sort of two-minute drill trying to drive at the end of the game to score. Otherwise, just stop the damn run.

October 25, 2012

Owls Return Briefly

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 1:55 pm

It’s been eight years since Pitt and Temple played a football game. From 1974 to 2004 the teams met annually. Pitt had a 25-6 advantage, and it isn’t a stretch to say that everyone of those losses was embarrassing. I remember the last loss in 1998. I sat in the stands and watched Pitt build a big lead only to fade — as they often did that year — and lose in the final seconds 34-33.

Now with Temple being reintegrated into the Big East, there is one more meeting before Pitt heads to the ACC in 2013. Much has changed for Temple. They have shown a degree of competency in recent years. More surprisingly, some actual commitment to trying to field a decent team and play winning football. The biggest surprise is a willingness to spend money — when they clearly have no hope of making it back in the near term.

For example, Temple had to join the Big East in football this year. The Big East sprang them from the MAC early. It still left Temple without a 12th game, which they did not fill. Now they sit at 3-3 with five games left. They want to be bowl eligible, but that means going at least 3-2. They have to play Cinci, Louisville, Army and Syracuse in addition to Pitt. Getting three wins looks iffy — which is why they actually face a must-win against Pitt. Though, their coach won’t say that.

Or do they?

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More Basketball Link Clearance

Filed under: Basketball,Players — Chas @ 8:15 am

As I said. A lot more links to get through before tomorrow’s exhibition game against IUP.

Hey, here’s something that isn’t the complete focus of Pitt’s upcoming season from a media coverage perspective. More pieces on Steven Adams.

Starting with the lists. Even though he hasn’t played a minute of college basketball yet, Steven Adams came in at#22 on CBSSports.com list of top 50 big men.

ESPN.com recruiting also tabbed Steven Adams as the top incoming player to the Big East (Insider subs.):

Jamie Dixon’s club could have used the New Zealand Sensation last season. Khem Birch’s mid-semester transfer left the Panthers undermanned in the middle, to say the least, and they’ve been anxiously awaiting Adams’ arrival ever since. Although he won’t be ready to play a starring role from day one, Adams will be ready to make contributions on both ends of the floor.

Offensively, he’ll be a game-ready finisher right away and has the jump hook to become an increasingly dangerous threat on the block. Defensively, he’ll replace the shot-blocking presence that Birch was supposed to be while also providing a dependable rebounding presence.

As an added bonus, they list the top-5 recruits in the Big East for next year.

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October 24, 2012

Exhibition Basketball Soon

Filed under: Basketball,Players — Chas @ 1:58 pm

Geez, the first exhibition basketball season for Pitt is on Friday. The season is almost upon us. A ton of links to start clearing out.

You know, after back-to-back trips to Birmingham for football and winning the CBI last year, the only-half-joking point was that those events should serve as an example and motivator to the teams for what not to let happen to the season (“If Pitt wins, the trophy can go right into storage. Only to be brought out as a reminder to the players at the start of next season — this is not the goal.”). Apparently, Coach Jamie Dixon did want to use the CBI experience as such a motivator:

The Panthers had only a CBI Tournament title to show for last season. A photo of the nearly empty Petersen Events Center at the first-round game against Wofford was hung in the locker room last March with a message to the players, reading, in effect: “This is what happens when you miss the NCAA Tournament.”

I just hope this means the CBI trophy is locked in some old storage closet.

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October 23, 2012

Running Into A Wall

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 8:03 am

Nothing upset me more on Saturday than when Pitt had first and goal from the 6 in the first half, and had to settle for a field goal. Against the worst team in the MAC. In general, when Pitt has been lining up to run straight ahead, it has not been pretty.

“There have been times where it was good and times where it kind of (eroded) a bit,” Chryst said. “I thought we had some decent runs on Saturday (at Buffalo), but we had some in crucial situations, a couple third-and-shorts we didn’t convert.”

That’s especially distressing against Buffalo, which came out of the Pitt game with the 86th-ranked run defense in the nation (allowing 184.9 yards per game). The Panthers managed only 126 while Graham averaged 3.7 per carry, and Shell 2.9.

Equally disturbing is the fact that Pitt is throwing the ball more effectively than at any time in the past three seasons, and the run game has not been a beneficiary of what should be a more balanced attack.

Instead of improving, the ground game has regressed. Graham averaged 90.5 over the first four games, but only 50.3 in the past three. Shell has dropped from 76.3 to 44.3.

Against Buffalo, holes seldom opened for running backs. Shell scored on a 4-yard run, but he was forced to reverse his field after running up the middle, taking a shot to the stomach and having the wind knocked out of him.

Too many “third-and-shorts” have resulted in the opposing defenses in the backfield before the running back can even take two steps towards the line with the ball.

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October 22, 2012

A Game of Meh

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 10:29 am

It was a win. It snapped a 2-game losing streak. It was the first road win of the season. Pitt didn’t lose to a MAC team.

Really not a lot to say about this game. There was a lack of energy from both sides. It permeated the small Buffalo crowd and the announcing crew for the game. Everything and everyone seemed to be going through the motions. Pitt wasn’t particularly impressive, but a win is a win.

The O-line continues to make me cringe. The D-line struggles to contain. The lack of available linebackers has me thinking Pitt might have to stick with a nickel package as their primary defense.

Coach Chryst seemed to echo the sentiment that it was a win and little else.

“It was good to get a win, obviously there’s a lot of things as we look at the tape that we have to clean up and get a lot better at,” Chryst said

To put it mildly.

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October 20, 2012

Open Thread: Pitt-Buffalo

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 12:16 pm

Hey, a 3:30 start! That’s different. Oh, wait it’s on the road. At… Buffalo. The things you have to do in scheduling. It was a 2-for-1 deal that meant Pitt didn’t have to buy the Buffalo appearances. Considering they got $1,000,000 from Georgia it makes some sense. It also tell tells you the going rate these days to get a 1-A non-BCS program to do a one-offer — and why everyone is using 1-AA schools now.

Not even sure I’ll be able to see the game. We are visiting some of my family this weekend, so I’m not even sure if the game will be shown where we are.

October 19, 2012

Running Back Insurance

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 1:34 pm

I’m not saying that the Pitt coaches think Corey Clement is a shaky — at best — commit to Pitt at this point. The fact that Clement is visiting Wisconsin and seems to have a lot of interest in Notre Dame seems to be enough of a hint.

So, while Panther fans dream of the Dorian Johnson commitment, another offensive lineman, and maybe a linebacker or two Pitt gets a commit from an athlete/running back/safety.

Pitt received its 19th commitment from the Class of 2013 on Thursday night when running back/safety Rachid Ibrahim told coaches he will enroll next year.

Ibrahim (6-foot, 180 pounds) attends the Avalon School, a Catholic all-boys school of 100 students in Gaithersburg, Md.

“He is not only the best athlete, but the hardest worker,” Avalon coach Tad Shields said. “You can’t ask for a better leader.”

Ibrahim held offers from BC and Iowa. He had interest — but no offer from Penn State, Mizzou and Virginia Tech.

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Bulls on Parade

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 8:27 am

It’s homecoming for the Bulls of Buffalo. Hopefully theirs ends much like Pitt’s did last week.

Buffalo is 1-5. They have been without their best offensive weapon — running back Branden Oliver — since mid-September. He’s been officially listed as day-to-day since getting hurt, but realistically he won’t be back until next week.

For the Bulls, they have been losing a lot. They went on a rent-a-patsy trip to Georgia ($1,000,000 pay day). They lost to UConn. They too are winless in their conference. Basically, the previous AD’s aggressive scheduling is putting them in a bad place as far as wins and losses go.

This is the start of four straight home games for Buffalo. Their head coach is going with the “we’ve got to take it one day at a time” cliche.

“I think it is very important for our kids to understand that this is a one week, one day, one play at a time and now our opportunity is Pitt,” Quinn said. “But they are a team coming off a tough loss as well and they are an 0-3 football team [in conference play] as we are, so, when you look at both programs, nobody is happy in either place right now …

“The game is at our place, it is our home turf, we have to go back and demonstrate the kind of football play and kind of intensity and physical toughness to get this thing back on track where we belong, and a big win at home would certainly lift the boys’ spirits and our coaches, this ballclub, the program.”

Wow. Do you think that coaches have their own private message board where they exchange cliched coachspeak statements? Or maybe it’s a panel discussion on the topic at coaching clinics?

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October 18, 2012

Everyone Wants to Know Steven Adams

Filed under: Basketball,Players — Chas @ 7:58 am

If Coach Dixon had opted to bring Steven Adams to New York City for Big East Media Day, I have no doubt that he would have been the player getting the most media attention. The big kid is already the player getting the most buzz in the Big East in terms of curiosity.

Time to take a look at the interest around Steven Adams.

Over at SI.com, Seth Davis classifies Adams as the most intriguing freshman.

For intrigue, however, it’s hard to beat Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams. A seven-foot center from New Zealand, Adams is extremely skilled and agile for a player his size. He even outplayed Noel when their high school teams faced off last season. Aside from DaJuan Blair, Jamie Dixon has never recruited a player this heralded, and Adams is joining the program at the perfect time. The Panthers had a disappointing 2011-12 — it was the first time in Dixon’s nine years that they failed to make the NCAA tournament — but that was partly because early on point guard Tray Woodall sustained a leg injury that dogged him all season. Woodall is now at full strength, and the team is adding another prized freshman, 6-3 guard James Robinson, as well as Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler. Adams will give Pitt a unique presence in the post. If he’s fun to watch, the Panthers will be as well.

Also check out the note after Adams regarding officiating and the call of  block/charge.

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October 17, 2012

Big East Media Day Polling

Filed under: Basketball,Big East,Conference — Chas @ 4:04 pm

This is the final time for actually caring having a vested interest in the results of preseason Big East polls.

The Preseason teams and individual honors and predicted outcome for the season were offered. On the individual honors and All-Big East teams,

Steven Adams was picked as the “Preseason Rookie of the Year.” There are a lot of national expectations and curiosity about the Kiwi Phenom.

On the preseason All-Big East teams, Travon Woodall was named to the “Honorable Mention” (third team) squad. He was the only Pitt player on any of the squad. So start firing up the “no one believes in us,” meme.

The preseason player of the year was Louisville’s Peyton Siva. Probably for much the same reason that Ashton Gibbs was named last year: no clue among the returning players to give it to. I think I might have picked Georgetown’s Otto Porter.

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Injuries and Improvement

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 12:58 pm

Power through and clear some links time.

It has seemed like a long time coming but it’s good to have Todd Thomas back on the field. He made his presence known with the blocked punt against Louisville. Unfortunately, the linebacking corps is not getting any deeper. Thomas saw more action in the Louisville game in no small part because Shane Gordon and Manny Williams both were hurt. That has also led to more Dan Mason on the field.

As inspiring as it is to see Mason out there, it is really depressing that he needs to be played so much. The injury situation at linebacker has them shuffling guys around.

We only got to watch the first half-hour of practice today, but in the brief team session we saw, it looked like Todd Thomas was working at weakside linebacker. Up until now, he had been playing on the strong side behind Eric Williams. In the lineup we saw, it was Thomas, Dan Mason and Eric Williams. It’ll be interesting to ask defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable about that later this week, because that may be a way they see to get their three best linebackers on the field, regardless of position. Responsibility-wise, the weakside spot requires a little more in pass coverage, which I think Thomas should be able to handle with his athleticism.

Freshman Nicolas Grigsby has been seeing more action. He’s probably the first guy to come in when they rotate.

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