October 2, 2012

Over the many years of blogging, both sides of this Pitt-Syracuse game have noted the complete lack of vitriol and hatred. Despite Syracuse being Pitt’s (tied for) 3d most played opponent in football. And the fact that they will have the #3 spot all alone in a few years when ND starts rotating on and off the schedule, there isn’t much of a burning desire to burn their city and make them cry when it comes to football. Everyone wants the win, but no one circles this game on the calendar when the schedule is announced.

In about five years, Pitt will be Syracuse’s #1 most played opponent. Yet, they too can’t muster the hatred.

My longstanding theory is that, despite the closeness of the historical series — Pitt holds a 34-30-3 edge — the fact that neither team has been good at the same time has muted it. Pitt dominated them in the 70s. Syracuse ruled in the 80s and 90s. Now Pitt has been the force for the past 10 years, winning 9 of 10. How do you build up hate if only one side is ever playing for anything? If the other is stuck in their latest down-cycle or rebuilding?

So, instead, what has the team been up to with a bye week?

Cutting down on penalties was a stated priority for Coach Chryst.

Chryst said a goal will be to reduce the number of penalties. Through four games, Pitt (2-2) ranks 87th in Division I-A with 7.5 flags per game, costing them 69.75 yards per contest.

Not to mention, improve the kicking game.

Ray Graham is trying to get closer to 100%.

“I feel like after a full year, once I start feeling good to where I’m not thinking about anything at all, it gives me no problems, I think that’s when I’ll take the brace off and keep things going,” Graham, 11 months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL, told

The biggest change from the first two games and the next two games, the defense was getting off the field.

“It’s a work in progress, but the guys have been working really hard, and they’re staying very, very positive and upbeat,” defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable said. “They’re giving us everything they’ve got. We’re nowhere [near] where we want to be yet, not even close, but we’re just going to continue to work hard as a coaching staff and as a group of players.”

The most common refrain coming from Huxtable as well as defensive players is that players have simply understood and executed their assignments better in the past two games. The Panthers were not physically dominated in the first two games, they just weren’t where they were supposed to be.

Those mistakes are particularly evident on plays such as the 58-yard touchdown run by Cincinnati’s George Winn on the Bearcats’ first play three weeks ago. If a linebacker had been there to fill the hole, Winn could have been stopped for a minimal gain.

Um, the defense was definitely dominated. The reasons may have primarily involved not being in the right place, but they were were being overwhelmed. That they now have a better sense of what they should be doing and where is a positive, but it still frustrates that they couldn’t get the understanding sooner.

At the same time, it isn’t like the defense was the only unit to have things finally start to click after a rocky first couple of weeks.

Like most of the team, Pitt’s receivers have been trying to answer questions about what had changed during the two-game winning streak that followed the team’s 0-2 start. The passing offense — which ranked 52nd in Division I-A with 258.5 yards per game two weeks ago — now is No. 23 at 299.25 yards per game.

Receivers have credited increased practice repetitions, assignment knowledge and hard work as reasons for improvement. Shanahan, though, also said the Panthers have simplified the playbook a bit.

“We kind of scaled back on the different plays that we’ve been running,” he said. “We rep a lot of the same plays at practice. We’re just getting really good and comfortable with them, and we know what can beat certain coverages.”

And of course, since Coach Chryst is the new coach, he has a style that the players are responding well to — especially now that they have won a couple games.

Receiver Devin Street, who hasn’t caught fewer than four passes in any game this season, calls Chryst “a great teacher.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been around a coach with so much knowledge about the game,” he said.

Senior receiver Mike Shanahan, who has at least five receptions in every game, said he appreciates the respect shown to the seniors, which allows them to adopt leadership roles in the locker room.

But another side of Chryst has endeared him to his players.

“He is always cracking jokes, making fun of people,” Shanahan said.

A frequent target is senior receiver Cam Saddler, who isn’t afraid to give it right back.

“That’s another cool part,” Shanahan said. “We can fire some shots back at him if we want to.”

Of course, if Pitt had not won the last couple of games, the narrative would not be that sunny. Instead it would be about how he needs to be the head coach. Let the players know he is in charge. Crack the whip. Etc.

here is Prosser’s post-season recordat Wake — note that he did make one Sweet 16 but otherwise was finished in the 1st weeelend — Wake was a No. 1 seed in 2002-3 and:

2001–02 Wake Forest 21–13 9–7 T–3rd NCAA 2nd Round
2002–03 Wake Forest 25–6 13–3 1st NCAA 2nd Round
2003–04 Wake Forest 21–10 9–7 T–3rd NCAA Sweet 16
2004–05 Wake Forest 27–6 13–3 2nd NCAA 2nd Round
2005–06 Wake Forest 17–17 3–13 12th NIT 1st Round

Comment by wbb 10.03.12 @ 8:19 am

@ Jimbo Covert’s My Dad,”All the praise of Tino the last few weeks in games where Pitt’s taken big leads”. I realize where you you were headed in that post and in expressing the tentativeness of putting our faith in Tino to continue his improved performances. But lets just not rewrite history. The last few weeks actually as of today is 19 days and involves only 2 games, one of which we should have beaten the FSC team by 4 or 5 TDs. Oops, we did do that didn’t we? But anyway there is a lot more rubbing to be done, IMO, before the previous tarnish that Sunseri has accumulated on his reputation is eliminated.

To really make me a believer I also want to see Tino lead that come from behind pull a victory out from the jaws of defeat type of win. Of course I’ll be satisfied if we just keep on winning, but I’m still skeptical about Tino’s ability to keep it going. We easily could end up 3-9 by season’s end with the arrival of new bad Karma.

This game on Friday will be a real tester for the entire team and coaching staff however. An away game in a noisey stadium after a week layoff is a recipe for defeat if you look at Pitt’s recent history. A win on Friday gets me one step closer to believing but I’m not there yet.

I sure would like to be exposed as a Tino hater blowhard however. Make me eat crow Tino, all season long.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.03.12 @ 10:31 am

Actually, Pitts main rival in the ACC may very well wind up being Miami…We will play them every year, and we already hate them.

Comment by HbgFrank 10.03.12 @ 12:56 pm

Doesn’t everyone hate Miami.
Rivals have to have equal(or at least some) hatred imo. Miami fans do not have any hate towards Pitt. Cause we hardly beat them.
And the way we layed down in that end of the season, winner gets the Orange Bowl game in 2003, they should love us.
And they have Florida & Florida State to hate first. Then probably ND and then some more ACC schools, Pitt would hardly register on the Miami Hurricane hate meter.

With moving to a new conf. the only way to guarantee to generate hate, is to come into the conference and win it.

Comment by EMel 10.03.12 @ 4:11 pm

Good points EMel, but I need someone to hate! Gone are PSU and WVU. I would have picked BC but we are not going to play them every year.

Comment by HbgFrank 10.03.12 @ 4:47 pm

Vocab King,

While you might think yourself pretty good at vocabularly, syntax is obviously not your bag.

Quotations provide opportunity for uniqueness and variation.

Just thought this might help.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.04.12 @ 12:59 pm

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