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November 30, 2012

The Basic Piece to Beating USF

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 8:59 pm

We can discuss the slew of injuries that USF has endured that make them the proverbial wounded bull that could still harm Pitt. And frankly it just doesn’t seem natural that for the final meeting with USF, there is no B.J. Daniels to throw the ball to imaginary targets that only Daniels could see. All while looking so athletic that you forget the record and brain farts for moments to get wistful that he was your QB. Then he throws a pass in the dirt, one  over the head of his own coach and into a safety just sitting in the middle of the field… and the moment passes.

We could discuss Ed Tinker getting a chance when Devin Street was hurt. Or how Coach Chryst avoided playing many freshmen this year. Watch it, the whole, “he won’t play freshman” meme is a protected trademark of Coach Jamie Dixon.

There’s the Skip Holtz is on the hot seat issue. Well, he is with the fans. Given the uncertain future of the Big East and by extension the USF athletic program — and their budgets — Holtz should survive this season even if he finishes 3-9. He had the good fortune of an athletic director that was a little too eager to give him extensions.

After all, he signed a contract extension in June that will pay him $2 million per year through 2017, and USF owes him a $2.5 million buyout if he is fired.

Mind you, that extension came in just his second season at USF, where the Bulls finished 5-7 and there was no one sniffing around him.


November 29, 2012

To Get To A Bowl

Filed under: Bowls,Football — Chas @ 8:27 am

The good news, is that Pitt has been following that whole 2-wins, 2-losses thing. So from that side of things, Pitt should win in Tampa on Saturday night.

The bad news. Pitt hasn’t won a Big East road game this year. The only road win this year: at Buffalo. Oh, and Pitt is 0-4 in night games this year (1-6 in all games that did not start at noon).

Pitt sits at 5-6. A win squeaks them into a bowl game. Normally this would have Pitt staring down the barrel of a 3d straight trip to Birmingham and the BBVA Bowl. Yet, oddly enough, there is a good chance for Pitt to snag a bid to one of the other bowls.

The Pinstripe and Beef O’Brady Bowl both seem to be expressing a bit more interest in grabbing Pitt.


November 28, 2012

Struggling Inside

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 2:33 pm

Pitt has size to compete inside, but it does not have strength right now. If there is one weakness in having Talib Zanna and Steven Adams as the starting frontcourt, it is that both lack the pure physical strength to bang and fight for position inside. Especially when teams are packing it inside whether in a zone or to crash the boards.

A passive defensive scheme still paid off for the Bison, who had a 17-16 edge in rebounding, held Pitt to six field goals on 17 shots from 2-point range and only trailed, 36-28, at the break.

“We wanted to control the paint,” Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry said. “We thought we could control the paint in the zone, make them make eight or nine passes, make them think a little bit, make it look like the paint wasn’t available.”

Howard’s big men, center Alphonso Leary and forward Mike Phillips, upstaged Pitt’s post players early in the game. Each scored 8 points in the opening half to help Howard finish with 24 points in the paint.

Pitt, meanwhile, had just 10 points in the paint.

Especially in the first half. It also helped Howard dominate inside by being extremely physical with Pitt inside. Even with a lot of stuff allowed, four of Howard’s starters had two fouls in the first half.


The City Game on the Cheap

Filed under: Basketball,Money — Chas @ 1:28 pm

I’m amazed Pitt made it through football season without going this route. But the Pitt-Duquesne game at the Con on December 5 gets a Groupon.

$12 for one ticket for seating in section 217, 218, 221, or 222 (up to a $27.70 value)
$16 for one ticket seating in section 202, 203, 219, or 220 (up to a $33.80 value)

Limited number of tickets per order. And by “limited” they mean eight at a time.

ACC Takes Louisville

Filed under: ACC,Big East,Conference,Expansiopocolypse — Chas @ 10:05 am

Oh, lord the expansiopocolypse just keeps rolling. Let’s start with the latest and work backwards to Tulane.

There was a sense of inevitability that the ACC was going to take another team after Maryland decided to depart. In theory, the ACC could have stayed at 13 for football and 14 everywhere else with ND. But, that just isn’t how expansiopocolypse works.

It seemed that UConn would be the obvious choice. Actually on the East Coast. With BC’s obstinate AD Gene DiFillipo retired, that barrier was done. Including Hartford, Connecticut actually gives UConn a bigger TV market than Louisville. Better academic ranking. All the things that go into present-day conference realignment.

Plus, when you put UConn in there with Syracuse and BC, there’s a strong argument that the ACC would have some real market penetration in both NYC and Boston — at least insofar as there is interest in college sports in those markets. Cable outlets like SNY might be much more inclined to align with ACC interests with both Cuse and UConn part of the package — especially since they will have to worry about YES becoming aligned with Rutgers and the Big Ten.



November 27, 2012

Open Thread: Howard-Pitt

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 5:28 pm

In something of a sign that Pitt is catching people’s fancy (or that the NHL lockout has some media outlets starved for extra content), a game that would otherwise be subject to only being available on the Comcast-Pitt channel in Western PA (Ch. 188). A game that is a pure patsy game. This game is being picked up elsewhere. SNY (NY/NJ area) and TCN (Philly) are going to offer the game tonight at 7 pm.

This should be an easy win for Pitt. Howard is 1-5. They have lost to Gardner-Webb, West Carolina and Lincoln University (Pennsylvania). Expect a lot of substituting and I will be shocked if any of the starters play more than 25 minutes.

Getting To 6 & Other Goals

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 8:33 am

That 6th win. That’s what the focus is. That the opponent is South Florida seems almost secondary.

“You only go to a bowl game if you achieve a certain level,” Chryst said. “That’s certainly a goal.”

In Pitt’s case, that would mean beating South Florida on Saturday night and reaching a .500 record in the regular season (6-6) for the second consecutive season.

That likely would lead to the school’s fifth bowl berth in a row, either the Pinstripe, BBVA Compass, Liberty or Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.

“There absolutely is value to it,” Chryst said. “The benefits to the program and the rewards to the players are huge.”

The tangible benefits to the players — other than the gift bags and free meals offered by bowl officials at the site — would be license to practice 15 more times.

Senior guard Chris Jacobson, who has gone to a bowl game in all but his freshman season with the Panthers in 2007, said the experience would be good for younger players who didn’t get a lot of practice time during the regular season.

“We really got after it, the younger guys, and the older guys got a break,” he said, recalling previous pre-bowl practices. “It’s kind of rough, actually. I feel bad for the younger guys,” he said, laughing.

It would be nice for the team to go to the bowl game with the same head coach they had for the first 12 games.


November 26, 2012

The details of Trey Zeigler’s DUI are still unknown. The consequences, however, are. Zeigler is suspended indefinitely following the incident of Saturday night/Sunday morning. Not really surprising. This suspension was a no-brainer.

“The incident involving Trey Zeigler is not only surprising, but incredibly disappointing,” Dixon said in a statement. “Although I believe it was out of character for Trey, he has been immediately suspended until further notice. Trey has expressed his deep regret to me and understands and respects the importance of accountability for one’s actions.”

Zeigler also issued a statement that reads: “I want to apologize to my family, the University of Pittsburgh, my teammates and coaches and the entire Pittsburgh community. This is not indicative of the kind of person I am, nor the kind of person I want to be.”

This is the first incident where Zeigler has gotten in any sort of trouble like this. It was a big screw-up, and hopefully his only one.

Belated Thoughts from Rutgers-Pitt

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 11:55 am

Where to begin…

I am not immune from bouts of ABT. As I watched the game on DVR delay, purposefully cut off from the internet, I listened to Beth Mowins and Joey Galloway praising Tino Sunseri in the first quarter. The same Sunseri who started 2-7 on the first four possessions and looked dreadful. Prompting me to wish that Coach Paul Chryst would snap and bench him on senior day.

But he recovered to do a good job in a game that earned him Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors. Yes, a 21-39 for 227 yards and 2 TDs was enough in the second last weekend of the season to be the best offensive performance in the conference. That’s not saying a lot about the rest of the conference. His game also led to this actual headline on the the Star-Ledger websiteRutgers defense meets its match in Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri.

/spit take


So, we can’t enjoy a weekend stress free, huh?

Potentially ugly news right now. Let’s start with the most salacious version of things — since this is the one everyone is going to focus.

Pittsburgh police said football player Stephen Williams was charged following an alleged domestic incident with a woman in Oakland on Saturday. Police said the woman flagged down officers as she stood on the street, bruised an holding a clump of her hair.

Hours later, police found University of Pittsburgh basketball player Ernest Zeigler III passed out inside his Hummer at an Oakland intersection.

Police said Zeigler failed all field sobriety tests, had a blood alcohol level of .129 and threw up in a holding cell toilet.

Oh, boy. Sounds really bad. For both situations. Ugly Saturday night for all. Yet, this is the only story on Williams, and Zeigler’s tale seems not to jibe with other versions.


November 25, 2012

Not Bucking the Trend

Filed under: Uncategorized — Reed @ 12:22 pm

If one were to chart the results of the 2012 PITT football season you would have had the graphics of a perfect sine curve up until the Rutgers game yesterday afternoon.  Far from being just a coincidence that sine curve is the symbol of what it is to be a PITT fan.  We don’t get too high on a winning streak because a losing streak is sure to be at our back door.

We started off with two killer losses. First we had the 31-17 loss against a FBS Mountain Valley Conference Youngstown State team who beat us like a drum at home in racking up 381 yards of offense.  This was Paul Chryst’s debut in a long line of recent head coaches at PITT.  He made his first impressions by suspending six players, including three starters, for undisclosed reasons then went out and lost what should have been a rather easy win.  Needless to say it was an inauspicious debut.

We followed that up with a 34-10 ass kicking road loss against a BE opponent in Cincinnati.  This game set the tone for the season IMO.  We could believe that the YSU game was something of a fluke but to play so damned poorly against someone who we have had great and close games against over the years was adding insult to injury.  It didn’t take a Lydia Callis to show us how screwed we were.

Plus we permanently lost the Riverboat Trophy.  Even though Darrell Strong, who was intimately involved obviously, and I are the only PITT people who actually liked the trophy it still would have made a nice addition to the rest of the PITT bling down at the Southside Complex.  Oh… it would have been a needed win also.

But wait, there’s more!

Chryst and the players righted the sinking ship in grand fashion by throttling the #13 ranked (yeah, sure!) Hokies of VA Tech 35-17 and playing the way we fans felt this team could. It had all the elements for a big game – uncertainty in regards to the ability of the staff and team, a great offensive showing in putting up 581 yards and 35 points and a defense that stifled the Hokie offense.   Sunseri threw for 283 yards and three TDs including the missing deep ball; Ray Graham continued showing us how well he could do even after that injury (that first cut was amazing); Devon Street played the way we have been waiting for him to play and Rushel Shell gave us a glimpse of the future.

We played very well and kept the Hokies from singing their victory song in the locker room after a win.  If you think “genac, genac, genac” is weird take a look at this:

Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy.

Techs, Techs, V.P.I.

Sola-Rex, Sola-Rah.

Polytechs – Vir-gin-ia.

Rae, Ri, V.P.I.”

Speaking of fight songs here’s a PITT one I found that I had never heard before.  So, win number one under the belt, a following tune up against the weakling Gardner Webb (a 55-13 victory) and we are ready to tackle the rest of the season in fine fashion having shown what we can do.  Right?

Not exactly the way things played out though. Standing at 2-2 and with a two game winning streak we followed up with a 14-13 away loss against a struggling 1-3 Syracuse team.  The fact that we missed a relatively easy 1st quarter field goal attempt just made it that much harder to bear.  What was scary about this loss was the return of the “4th quarter Sack Fest” that Sunseri gets an invitation to every week.   He did make a nice play under intense pressure when he hit Shanahan for a big gainer while getting hit.

OK – we’ll get ‘em next week.  We played pretty well against SYR and just didn’t get the breaks we need for that close loss. We are 2-3 and have a lot of football left to play.  Next week’s a win, take it to the bank…  sure Louisville is ranked #18 but didn’t we just beat a #13 team two weeks ago?  Well, that thud you heard after the Cardinals racked up 21 unanswered points in third quarter was the PITT fan’s expectations for the rest of the season.  Who the hell is Senorise Perry anyway and where does he get off playing like that against us?

That was how it played out in the beginning of the season: two losses – two wins – two losses.  Regular as can be and the only consistent thing we had done all year.  It was too much to bear and got us fans thinking that the season was a complete write off at that point at that point.   We have Buffalo and Temple up next. OK, but we just lost to YSU and SYR so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

We pulled those next games out with another two game winning streak, the second one of the season, and we were back at .500 ball.  But let’s face it, going into South Bend and playing the #3 team in the nation is a sure loss.  Well, it was a loss but there was nothing sure about it.  We outplayed the Irish for 3.5 quarters and took them into triple overtime before the dust settled with ND on top by a score of 29-26.

OK, OK, OK!  Hold on! We lost that game but hey, didn’t we look great in doing it? We have UCONN coming up next and we all know how badly they suck.  A 3-6 record is terrible and that means something doesn’t it?  No, it really doesn’t and they had their way with us in grabbing a insurmountable 24-0 lead in the 1st half.

A crap 24-17 loss to a poor team and we’re back to the 4-6 W/L rotation.  Not going to get any better next week either.  Maybe we’ll buck the trend and lose to make it three losses in a row.  It can’t be any other way.  Except the Vegas money men saw things differently.  They had PITT giving points in this home game and somehow that turned out to be the case with a 27-6 PITT win.

It was a satisfying win on many different levels.  One of which is that it put us within reach of a bowl bid if we can beat a pretty poor 3-8 USF team at their place next week to finish at 6-6 for the regular season.  Secondly we beat RU in our last BE game together with them going to the Big Ten and us to the ACC, that feels nice.  Lastly it showed that this team can win a football game again.

So now we sit at 5-6 in a 12 game season, with 6-6 being the best we can do at this point.  It’s been a roller coaster ride this year, down/up/down/up/down and now up again, and leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions moving forward.  Can we finish the season on a high note and beat a team we are supposed to beat?  If we do that will the Bowl officials look at PITT and be convinced they want us in their post-season games? Can we actually get through this season with a winning record after all the poor and inconsistent play we put out on the field?

However, perhaps the most important question to be answered in the future is this: Will we be able to look back on 2012 and see that it was a season of growing pains a new head coach went through for things to get better in 2013 and beyond or will we look back and say that 2012 was the harbinger for the remainder of Paul Chryst’s time at PITT?

Personally, I think the former.

November 24, 2012

Open Thread: Big East Home Finale

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 7:44 am

Sorry for nothing but open threads the last few days. Between the holidays and some traveling to see family, there just hasn’t been time (or an internet connection). Heading back home late this morning so I couldn’t go to the game and I can’t even watch it live. Going to be a DVR-delay day.

This is the final home game for Pitt for the year. Their final home Big East game. Naturally, given the present state of the Big East it makes perfect sense that at the last minute it becomes a meeting of teams heading somewhere else.

Though Rutgers — most likely — will be playing one more year in the Big East. Don’t forget, the exit fee was raised to $10 million after Pitt and Syracuse announced their plans to leave last year. So, to pay extra to leave after the 2013-14 season (instead of 2014-15) will still cost the Scarlet Knights some where between $12.5 and $15 million.

Rutgers has had a very good year under new coach Kyle Flood. Aside from that home loss to Kent State, they have been winning games primarily behind the defense. They are set up to play for the Big East title and the BCS bid next Thursday against Louisville (assuming Louisville takes care of business against UConn today). Sadly, Pitt can’t even play the role of spoiler as Louisville already has a conference loss.


November 23, 2012

Open Thread: Consolation NIT Game

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 1:26 pm

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. It’s been hectic, but no major family dysfunction that spilled into the open. No resulting fights or ongoing passive-aggressive behavior that makes everyone miserable.

No real chance to get to a recap. And now there is the early afternoon game on ESPN at 2:30 or so.

Hopefully no lingering hangover from the close, but no cigar loss on Wednesday. The Blue Hens beat Virginia to get to MSG. They gave K-State plenty to fear.

November 21, 2012

I went to pick up my son from kindergarten this afternoon. The principal helps direct out car-riders. He brought my son over, and I noticed he was wearing a Michigan tie. I was wearing a Pitt shirt, so I tried to engage him about the game tonight. Big surprise, he had no clue.

Sure they have a top-5 team. They are playing a big non-con game in prime time on ESPN2. Considered the best game of the night. Nothing. It’s all about Michigan-Ohio State this week. Their news coverage is really, really limited. Basically it’s, “hey, this is the first real game for Michigan, but, whatever.”

[As an aside, here I was all primed to give the Trib some grief for not using a regular beat writer so far this season — leading to some uneven coverage — but compared to the effort in Michigan…]


Blast From the Past: Jerry McCullough

Filed under: Alumni,Basketball — Chas @ 8:00 am

Here’s something to note. Jerry McCullough, who came to Pitt during the downside of the Paul Evans era, is now coaching high school prep basketball in Massachusetts. He seems to be making an impact.

MacDuffie may not have that same pedigree, but second-year coach Jerry McCullough believes the Mustangs can compete now for Class AA hardware.

“I do — that’s why we play,” McCullough said with a chuckle. “Realistically, it’s going to be very challenging for us to do that. We want to improve and grow with the school.”

McCullough, who played under Paul Evans at the University of Pittsburgh before a professional career in the U.S. and Europe, brought the Granby school to the Class D championship game in his first season.

MacDuffie entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and was unbeaten against Class D opponents before falling to Hoosac in the final.

Now the Mustangs are making the jump from NEPSAC’s lowest division to its second highest. Only Class AAA is higher, with schools like Brewster Academy, New Hampton Prep, Northfield Mt. Hermon and St. Thomas More, programs that churn out Division I recruits on a yearly basis.

McCullough was playing in Italy, as recently as 2009 (he’s even got a small entry on the Italian Wikipedia). He seems to have made a quick adjustment from the end of his playing career.

McCullough has had an influx of potential Division I level players who want to play for him, which necessitated the jump in divisions. We may be reading more about his program and his players in the coming months or years.

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