November 9, 2012

One Last Trip To The Rent

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 11:20 am

Okay, so that final visit to Nippert didn’t go so well. Next up on the farewell to Big East venues tour: the Rent.

Rentschler Field does not hold happy memories for Pitt and Pitt fans. It has been the scene of — and I say this with a lot less hyperbole than you may think — career defining losses for two Pitt coaches. Paul Chryst has already had his share this season, so it would be nice to avoid adding to the collection.

UConn isn’t good, but that has never stopped them from making life miserable for Pitt. To the surprise of few, Paul Pasqualoni has struggled to win and recruit at UConn. And the Husky fans, not particularly enamored with the hire two years ago, really dislike the situation at the present. Apathy and flat out ignoring the existence of football has quickly become the norm once more in Connecticut.

Into this depression steps Pitt on a Friday night game with the randomness of the Rod Gilmore zone possibly effecting reality.

So, what is the mood of Pitt players? No one pretended that they were anything but devastated to have lost last week. Coach Chryst is just as curious as you are:

Chryst wants to see the proof.

Before he accompanied his team to Connecticut for Friday’s game at Rentschler Field, Chryst was asked if the 29-26 loss in South Bend will make Pitt stronger. After all, the Panthers came within a missed field goal of upsetting an unbeaten Irish team in noisy Notre Dame Stadium.

“I am anxious to see if that cliche holds true,” Chryst said. “That, to me, is one of the storylines. Are we going to learn from that? Is that a one-time deal? Or, is that we are growing as a team?”

Will they take it one play at a time? Play down to their opponent? Take their frustrations out on UConn? Are they still hung-up on blowing the chance to beat Notre Dame? Not even their hairdresser coach knows for sure.

One thing Pitt gets to play for: a bowl game.

“Yeah, but we’ve got to get this one [at UConn] to get six. This is big,” left guard Chris Jacobson said. “These seniors want to have an extra game with a bowl game, but we’ve got to get this one to get to six. Our whole focus this week is turning the page and playing UConn.”

Especially for the seniors, who have gone through three coaching changes in their time at Pitt, the opportunity to play one more game is more than enough motivation the rest of the way.

“I think that guys want to play one more game together,” center Ryan Turnley said. “We’ve been here for a while, we’ve been through a lot together. As long as it can last, we want to keep it going.”

Pitt coach Paul Chryst said that he doesn’t mention it often, but will occasionally remind players of the big-picture goals in what he called “State of the State” meetings, though he noted, “believe it or not, they’re not long meetings.”

Beating UConn would also be the official elimination of all hopes of a bowl game for UConn. Not that they had much hope at 3-6 with Louisville and Cinci to follow, but it’s always nice to be the official final nail in the coffin.

As for UConn and their problems. It starts on the offense (and dies painfully there).

The Huskies are 90th in the nation in third-down efficiency, at 36 percent.

Can you imagine how much more efficient they might be if quarterback Chandler Whitmer was upright a little more often?

It hasn’t happened much lately, particularly in the past two games, when Whitmer is either planted to the turf or running for his life.

Whitmer has been sacked 26 times. The offensive line’s No. 2 problem — behind opening holes — is protecting the quarterback when he goes back to pass, particularly on third down.

The blitz has worked at limiting an offense that is, well, limited. The blitz has been a monster against what is, for the most part, a young and inexperienced offensive line.

UConn is 100th out 0f 120 in 1-A in protecting the QB. Their O-line may actually be worse than Pitt’s since they also can’t run the ball.

In bits and pieces, Pasqualoni, in his second season, has mentioned issues that have a dogged a once-proud running game that is now wallowing at 116th in the nation among FBS teams, with an 82-yards-a-game average.

The passing game, 58th in the nation at 235.8 yards a game, is better than in past years. Still, the Huskies aren’t scoring enough to win games. They are 117th out of 120 schools in scoring, at 16.6 points a game. The latter is an embarrassing statistic at any level, and the persistent offensive struggles tell another story: they are a primary reason why UConn is just 8-13 in the Pasqualoni era.

“It’s been an accumulation of a bunch of little things,” Pasqualoni said of the running game. “The details … sometimes [we’re] just not getting the execution that’s required. You can’t say it’s any one particular guy or any one particular position. I think we’ve all contributed to it in the run game.”

Paul Pasqualoni has forgotten more about football cliches and excuses than most of us will ever learn.

Poor third down efficiency that stall out drives despite a decent bit of yardage in the air. No running game. Guess what that does to scoring?

The numbers are staggering, not a secret, but worth pointing out. The 16.6 points the Huskies are averaging per game is the lowest in the Big East. Nationally, the number is 117th out of 120 FBS schools. The Huskies have only three touchdowns in the [four game] losing streak, the most recent in the second quarter of a 40-10 loss at Syracuse Oct. 19. The streak of consecutive quarters without a touchdown in the second half dates to the fourth quarter of the Sept. 29 game against Buffalo, so that’s nine quarters, not counting the overtime period against Temple on Oct. 13.

Thus that D will be a challenge for a Huskies offensive line that has had trouble protecting the quarterback (26 sacks this season) and has especially had trouble recognizing and picking up blitzes. The Huskies have struggled to move the ball on first and second down, so defenses have simply pinned their ears back and sent the house at quarterback Chandler Whitmer. When the running game can’t produce, the defense knows UConn has to throw, a position it has found itself in far too many times.

Defensively — other than being destroyed by Syracuse — they have been pretty good. They just don’t have any offense.

Pitt has no excuse not to take out UConn. Player disappointment over the ND loss or not. They simply cannot lose this game.

Being only a 3pt favorite I’m worried.

Comment by alcofan 11.09.12 @ 11:24 am

Who cares what the point spread is? That is determined by factors out of the control of this football team. As Coach Chryst states, “control the controlables”. If Pitt ONLY has to overcome their opponent then they win this game going away. They should be hungry for a win after letting ND get away with a win last week. This team has something to prove tonight, it is not the time to be hanging our collective heads or second guessing ourselves. Or worrying over who on the team uttered the most recent stupid sound bite.

Mason up and demonstrate to the rest of the world that the ND effort put forth was not a fluke!

Hail to Pitt! Put a hurt on the Huskies!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.09.12 @ 12:15 pm

Go Pitt! Penn State SUCKS!

Comment by TX Panther 11.09.12 @ 12:48 pm

a vegas point spread’s sole function is to maximize the odds that there will be a 50/50 split between pitt and uconn of total $ bet. it is not an analysis of each team’s ability.

Comment by scott 11.09.12 @ 12:52 pm

Playing in front of an empty stadium usually deprives the home team of the emotional “home field advantage” lift in spirits.

I expect to see Pitt play aggressively on defense and offense. The way to beat this team is to keep their defense on the filed and defend the entire field.

I expect UCONN to pull all rabbits out of all hats. They will go for it on 4th down fromm the 40 in and will blitz Sunseri (or whomever if some of you get your wish) from all angles.

Look for Pitt to screen and draw.

Pitt wins.

Comment by sfpitt 11.09.12 @ 1:12 pm

Can’t wait until we leave the Big East.
Hopefully last game against Uconn. Just
get a “W” and get back to Oakland.

Comment by JR 11.09.12 @ 1:21 pm

Connecticut obviously due for a win. Good defense. Decent quarterback.

Let’s hope this isn’t a game where they find themselves a running game.

Pitt should win but don’t feel like it’s going to be easy.

Comment by PittofDreams 11.09.12 @ 1:49 pm

We need to jump on UConn early and build up a sizable point differential going into the fourth quarter in order to minimize as much stress as possible for Tino.

Comment by Floyd 11.09.12 @ 1:53 pm

As a fan, I still feel defeated after Notre Dame. How can the players still not feel like garbage? I am preparing myself for a sloppy game and another let down on our possible road back to Birmingham.

Comment by AJ 11.09.12 @ 1:54 pm

“They (Pitt) simply can not lose this game ”

Oy Vey….more often than not, when this phrased is used……you know what happens.

Yes they have a crummy offense.
Still…Uconn has the #1 defense in the BigLeast
and # 9 nationally.

And this is the only game left on their schedule they have some reasonable chance to win. And it’s at home, and we all have fond memories of Reschler Field or whatever they call it. NOT !

In past years other than 2008 & 2009 this would be a game we would….well you know …don’t even want to say it.

You lose this game, the ND moral victory (whoop) and the Va Tech win mean absolutely nothing.
Just anomalies.

Comment by Emel 11.09.12 @ 2:43 pm

On the other hand, the BigLeast won’t come close to filling all their esteemed Bowl Slots if Pitt loses, as we would then most certainly lose to Rutgers as well. With conference revenue sharing of Bowl money, it behooves the conf. to have as many bowl eligible teams as possible. So…..

we shall see !


P.S. Tino had a big game against this pathetic team last year I believe. It it’s not too windy for his candy arm, he should have a big game.

Comment by Emel 11.09.12 @ 2:51 pm

Geez…11 comments on GameDay…lots of interest in this team. 😉

Comment by Emel 11.09.12 @ 2:53 pm

You know it’s interesting. As heartbreaking as the ND loss was, I think we took a step towards legitimacy. All of the sudden Dorian Johnson and Robert Foster as scheduled for official visits. All of the sudden there are recruiting updates about lineman. We all know that goes up in smoke if we lay an egg tonight. You said it best Chaz, we simply can not lose this game. I see us wounded but hungry. In the words of the Immortal Dr. Tom. Mason up fellas and win this one. Not just for yourselves, but for the future of Pitt Football.

Hail to Pitt.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 11.09.12 @ 3:06 pm

One thing we do know.

If it’s close, contrary to the last time Pitt played at the “Rent”… Chryst will go for the Win!

Let’s hope Tino finally shocks the world and is up to the task.

Actually I would love to see Trey Anderson somehow get the chance and show Tino how it’s done. But that’s just dreamin’.

Comment by PittofDreams 11.09.12 @ 3:12 pm

Yes the spread is 3, but that’s not why I’m worried.

We’ve lost 5 of our last 8 conference games and have a been a fustercluck of inconsistency this year. Who in their right mind would put us up as big favorites?

I’m worried because we are not that great of a football team, but getting better. We can lose ANY of the games left on our schedule just as easily as we can win any of them. It’s not like we’re going in with a 15 game winning streak.

Comment by CNorwoodAZ 11.09.12 @ 3:38 pm

The 15 game winning streak starts with UConn.

Comment by TX Panther 11.09.12 @ 3:47 pm

When I get frustrated, I find myself in a bad mood. When I’m in a bad mood I get angry, when I get angry I like to hit something hard. When I hit something hard enough times for a long enough period, I don’t feel frustrated anymore.

@ AJ, for the above reasoning this is why the Pitt Panthers are going to be all over the UCONN Huskies tonight. This team is learning how to win, it wants to win and it is definitely pissed off that they didn’t bring home a win last Saturday. Tonight they should still be angry about that and in a very bad mood. I suggest the cure for what ails them is to hit things hard, many times, for a full sixty minutes. Then they should feel much better and no longer frustrated because they will have put a win in their back pocket. The Huskies however no so much. I’m already kind of feeling sorry for those poor dogs.

And I’m kind of disappointed in your prediction PittofDreams, we are usually of like minds, but this time you see a tough game for Pitt, I feel a blowout by Pitt over UCONN. I hope that my optimism isn’t just due to the fact that I ate two bowls of Wheaties this morning. And you know what they say about Wheaties.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.09.12 @ 3:59 pm

Good Doctor,

I’m still waiting for your first novel to come out.

Comment by PittofDreams 11.09.12 @ 4:44 pm

Dr. Tom – I was literally getting ready to write you and ask if you had your Wheaties, changed your meds, brand of whisky etc. Your comments over the last 3 weeks seem full of a noticeable increase in testosterone and emotion.

Several of my Frat Brothers are making the trip by Amtrak (if they don’t get waylaid at Penn Station NY)as they do every other year. Much like playing WVU, I hope this is the last time we ever see UConn on the football field!

Would also love to see Anderson start. If Chryst actually does it, there is no use tipping his hand.

Comment by Dan 72 11.09.12 @ 4:49 pm

Yinz are a hoot, I’m so f**king proud of this blog!

Comment by steve1 11.09.12 @ 5:02 pm

Maybe Tino could play the first three quarters and then Trey for the 4th. Or maybe a wildcat for the 4th. It couldn’t be any worse. Just don’t tell Tino ahead of time, cause then the 3rd quarter might be like the 4th usually is for him.

Comment by Crackbaldo 11.09.12 @ 5:18 pm

Well, this will be a good test of coaching.

I agree AJ, I still feel the sting of last Saturday, so how could the kids not??

Agreed, but, the coach and staff had to be working on this all week. Get the motivating tools out. Many other teams come out and win after a tough loss (I know, I use to use that theory when betting chocolate chip cookies), it worked about 50% of the time. Just like the actual betting!! LOL

@Steve1, you know what would make me proud, ending this NHL crap and get to playing.

That’s a nice thing in the winter, Pitt hoops one night, Pens the next!!!!!!

Comment by Dan 11.09.12 @ 4:57 pm

Dan, my college hockey fix is in, I subscribed to my son’s alma mater online sports. Big games this weekend.

Go Big Green!

Comment by steve1 11.09.12 @ 5:01 pm

YOU know i am worryed abought a let down after the high of last week.
i hope i am wrong

Comment by FRANKCAN 11.09.12 @ 5:24 pm

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