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?
As for Pitt, well the players admit they aren’t exactly where they want to be.
After the most recent loss, a 45-35 defeat against Louisville Saturday, Pitt coach Paul Chryst said his team was “at a crossroads.” Center Ryan Turnley agreed.
“I think that we’re at a crossroads. We agree with coach Chryst,” Turnley said. “We talk all the time about how we just have to step up as a senior class and show guys how to do it the right way.”
And the eternal cure-all: fixable mistakes.
“We still have more games to play,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “We can’t change the four losses but we can change the two wins to three, four, five. We’re just trying to build off what we’ve got right now. We’re a good team, strong team. We’ve just got to fix the mistakes.”
According to Chryst, the mistakes Pitt has to fix are within its locker room. Donald said the corrections are similar to the ones Pitt made after its opening two losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati.
In its third game, Pitt beat then-No. 13 Virginia Tech, and followed it up with a pounding of Gardner-Webb.
“Truthfully, I think it’s probably that we didn’t do anything magical to get back,” Chryst said. “I think we just played more complete, didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot as much.”
It’s an annoying reality. There’s not much that can be done as far as who plays at this point, to improve the team. The only place there seems to be shuffling of the line-up is with the linebackers. And that’s out of injury problems, not to provide a spark. Manny Williams is out, so Todd Thomas who just returned will slide into his spot.
Shane Gordon is also highly questionable. Making it likely that Dan Mason will start for the first time in two years. Inspirational that Mason is starting? Yes. A good sign for the depth and talent at the spot? No.
Speaking of depth. The O-line continues to get by without depth. How scary is that lack of depth? Despite Coach Chryst believing in physical practices and hitting in practice, the offensive linemen get something of a break.
Aware of the limits of the human body, Hueber allows players to skip post-practice sprints and some meetings on the field.
“I try to get them off their feet,” he said. “Durability-wise, we haven’t shown any signs of fading in a game. I think they are taking some pride in what they’re doing.”
The other limit is talent. Combine that with the lack of depth and O-line Coach Jim Huber acknowledges the reality for the future.
“We may have to play some young guys again until we get it squared away,” Hueber said. “Hopefully, we are going to do some things in recruiting.”