This would be a much more exciting game if this was a meeting in November. And it was on the hardwood. Ah, well.
I was looking forward to getting to the Burgh until I realized that the game landed on Yom Kippur. So instead of meeting with my friends before the game. Sitting in the pressbox to watch. And all the other stuff. I’m not. Fasting. Heading to Synagogue shortly, then cutting out around noon to be home and watch the game without drink or snack. Yeesh.
This is the ACC Network Game of the Week. (Really? Wow? ESPN must have gobbled up everything else from the ACC if this is the best they are doing.) You can find ACC affiliates here.
So just the final media rundown.
Bob Davie was an assistant under Lou Holtz. He does now how to poor mouth his team versus the opponent.
“Pitt is much bigger, much more physical than we are,” Davie said. “That’s obvious. That just jumps at you.”
New Mexico’s tricky triple option offense — run from the pistol formation — could be the equalizer that keeps the score close. But Pitt’s size advantage on the offensive line can’t be ignored.
Pitt averages 315 pounds — no one is under 300 — but the linemen on the Lobos’ 3-4 defense check in at an average of 280.6, backed up by 6-foot-2, 204-pound outside linebacker Rashad Rainey.
“They are so much more physical-looking,” Davie said. “We’re a smaller team from a smaller conference (Mountain West) coming in with a unique scheme trying to play the big, powerful BCS conference team. All it is for us is a great opportunity to try to get better.”
Man, there’s downplaying expectations. Then there’s publicly stating that you don’t even believe in your team. Can’t believe Bob Davie wasn’t in more demand as a head coach after ND.
It isn’t that New Mexico’s “tricky triple option” isn’t a challenge, but when one player is responsible for 45.4% of your offensive yardage it shouldn’t take a genius to know that the defense should have a spy on Kasey Carrier for every play.
“It’s actually been very fun and pretty easy,” Carrier said. “The offense for the running back, it’s not very difficult to pick up. It’s a great offensive scheme and zone scheme to be a part of if you’re a running back. Really, you fall in love with it playing in it.”
Saturday, Pitt will be tasked with shutting down Carrier and the Lobos offense.
Panthers quarterback Trey Anderson was a sophomore at Pearland for Carrier’s senior season and said he isn’t surprised by his former teammate’s success. But he has given his current teammates some advice on bringing down the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Carrier.
“You’ve got to bring your body when you tackle him,” Anderson said. “He’s going to run through arm tackles and he’s shifty. You’ve got to make sure you bring your feet and hit him with everything you’ve got.”
Pitt coach Paul Chryst said Carrier is one piece of the New Mexico offense that stands out when he watches tape.
“This isn’t just a coach trying to play up a guy; he’s a good player,” Chryst said. “And I think certainly their scheme presents some challenges. He’s shifty, powerful enough to break tackles and he has the ability to turn it into a big play.”
To repeat, this is a team with quarterbacks that have a sub-50% completion rate and have thrown only 24 passes in two games. I’m not saying they are pushovers, kind of. I’m not saying teams can’t make mistakes against the option. I am saying that the defensive gameplan should be rather simple.
Davieson: What things does Pitt need to focus on in order to stop New Mexico’s Offense?
Sam Werner: The biggest thing will just be playing sound, disciplined football and sticking with their assignments (something Pitt did not do very well at all against Florida State). Against an option team, it can be really tempting to ditch your man and swarm to the ball on a run, but if you do that and you’re supposed to cover the pitch man, you’ll get burned on the pitch. The key to stopping an option is not being discouraged by giving up runs of 4-6 yards. That’s going to happen. What you can’t do is give up the 60-yard home runs because you got caught out of position. Eventually, you’ll get the offense in a third-and-long and force the offense into an uncomfortable position.
Sam Werner: An addendum to that answer is that it’s very important for Pitt to jump out to an early lead. If you fall behind an option team early, they can just grind the ball on the ground all day long. If you take a lead, it forces them to play catchup and get out of their comfort zone.
Offensively, there is no reason Pitt can’t run their stuff. There’s nobody on the defense beyond a decent linebacking corp that even looks to match up well with Pitt. Pitt will want to be balanced, and make sure both the passing and running game get their confidence. New Mexico is expecting abuse in the passing game.
While Chryst intends to get the Panthers’ running game going against the Lobos, UNM coach Bob Davie said he also expects Pitt to test UNM’s young secondary with some deep passes.
“I anticipate they’ll throw the ball down the field on us,” he said. “We haven’t really been tested that much (with deep passes) early in the season. … I’m kind of anxious to see if we can respond.”
Also worth noting that the Lobos O-line already has a key injury. Their senior center is out due to an MCL injury.
Silly stat time. This will only be New Mexico’s 10th trip East of the Mississippi.
Their record in those games is a not-so-mighty 1-8. In the eight defeats, UNM has been outscored 281-82.
So, um, yeah. That might contribute to the 21.5 point spread in this game.