September 20, 2013

Duke Wants to See Progress

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 1:45 pm

Okay, Duke is 2-1. But it isn’t a great 2-1. They had a 1-AA patsy and struggled with Memphis before being trucked by Georgia Tech. Possibly the most humiliating aspect of being beaten by GT 38-14. The Yellowjackets scored four of their five touchdowns in the air. That’s right a Paul Johnson, option team that wants to run the ball found itself passing for touchdowns in and around the red zone. Georgia Tech only had 125 yards, but 66 yards came as touchdown passes.

Duke only managed 254 yards that day. About the only positive they had was that they had no turnovers.

So it is no surprise that the Blue Devils are looking to improve after that. Primarily — and this shouldn’t be a surprise with Dave Cutcliffe as the head coach — on offense.

The Blue Devils must be sharper on offense. Cutcliffe said Duke left too many yards on the field through hesitant decision making and missed reads. The wide receivers need to play better—improve their spacing, splits and ball catching—to help out quarterback Brandon Connette. And Connette needs to relax and play to his strengths, leaving the pocket and running more.

“I want to see him cut himself loose,” Cutcliffe said. “He needs to probably relax a little bit, and when he runs, cut himself loose and run. Don’t stop, trust your speed, etcetera, etcetera.”

As Cutcliffe pointed out, Connette doesn’t have much experience in third-down situations, especially third-and-long. That was a major struggle for the Blue Devils, as they went 3-of-14 on third-down conversion attempts.

Two of the conversions came in the first quarter on third-and-1 plays: a Duncan rush and then a checkdown to Issac Blakeney that went for 20 yards after he broke the initial tackle. The protection on that throw was great, as Connette had time to roll to his left and then back to his right. Then Duke went 1-of-11 the rest of the way.

“He had to learn getting his eyes right, vision, but, in fairness to him, it wasn’t just him and accuracy, it was just not the crisp execution that we get all over the place,” Cutcliffe said of Connette. “When that happens, and you’ve got a new guy, it’s never going to be good. It was a little shocking in that regard because we execute better than that 99 out of 100 times.”

Duke seems to be taking solace in only trailing 10-7 after the first quarter. As if it was just that because the offense couldn’t get going the defense lost ground.

That lack of offensive execution took its toll.

“As we lost steam on offense and clearly didn’t execute well, I think Georgia tech wore on our defense a little. Overall I thought our defense fought hard under the circumstance of being back on the field so quickly so often,” Cutcliffe said. “I think we left a lot of yards on the field offensively. Certainly had too many penalties.”

Of course they were down 24-7 at the half and did not score again until the 4th quarter. So either the defense got worn down really fast, or Coach Cutcliffe is trying to stay positive.

There isn’t a lot of shame in losing to Georgia Tech but Cutcliffe doesn’t feel that the way they lost should be used to judge the Blue Devils as he still is confident he has a good team.

“They’re a good football team. They played well as a team,” Cutcliffe said. “I don’t think it is an indication of talent. I know it’s not an indication of how good we can play. I know if we don’t like it we’ve got to go get something done about it.”

Yeah, I’m going with trying to stay positive.

Now to be fair they are running with their back-up QB in Brandon Connette. So it seems the entire team is trying to stay positive and speak of stepping up to help him.

The receivers, in particular, have been the subject of criticism over the past few weeks. Jamison Crowder, Duke’s No. 1 option, said the group hasn’t been pleased with any of their three performances. And their shortcomings have made it difficult for Connette, who took over the starting role for the injured Anthony Boone in the second quarter at Memphis.

“With him stepping in at the quarterback position and expecting us to be at a certain position on the field as far as running routes, and we’re not there, it’s definitely putting him in a bind and definitely throwing off the timing of the offense,” Crowder said. “That’s things that we are working on cleaning up this week.”

The receivers have also spent more time running RVAs – routes versus air – to fine-tune their timing with Connette. As a group, they’re aiming to do everything they can to make Connette’s job easier.

“A quarterback stepping in, I can’t even imagine, there’s so many things going through your head, making reads, zone reads, where to throw the ball, I can’t imagine doing that,” receiver Brandon Braxton said. “Just getting his confidence up and making him feel confident in what he’s doing is the biggest thing.”

If they are looking for positive vibes, then the best thing Pitt can do is stymie any early success. This is a chance — if we are talking about confidence — for the Pitt secondary to get some swagger back. They were abused by Florida State. New Mexico hardly counts as a test when the Lobos total passing yards was 57. No interceptions yet by Pitt. I’m sure the secondary would like to show they have made progress.

This game is like a 3 foot putt, it feels just ok when you make it but it is devastating when you miss.

We need another decisive win.

Comment by gc 09.20.13 @ 2:31 pm

I will be happy with any type of win, and hope some day we can look forward to these type of games with confidence. I don’t want to sound negative but I would expect Duke to handle New Mexico pretty easy at home too. Isn’t decisive asking a lot? Looks more like a 5 footer to me.

Comment by spiritofsection 22 09.20.13 @ 3:01 pm

I felt pretty good about this game until I read this. For some reason I think it’s going to be tougher than we think. We haven’t been able to contain a running quarterback going back to last year. Hopefully we copied GT’s blueprint for stopping these guys, and hopefully their execution hasn’t gotten that much better in a week.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 09.20.13 @ 3:03 pm

Anyone wearing a Levance Fields BBall jersey to the game?

link to

Comment by Pitt Dad 09.20.13 @ 3:27 pm

DAD, Lol

Comment by spiritofsection 22 09.20.13 @ 3:39 pm

Folks the Gulf is going to funnel some serious rain into Durham on Saturday, particularly during the afternoon. For other attending Panthers bring your rain gear. Hey PC kick the offensive gear into run heavy and bring the biggest cleats we got! GO PANTHERS, beat Duke! UPone

Comment by UPone 09.20.13 @ 3:46 pm

Upone, The gulf can’t rain on the Dukies anymore than Levance did.

Comment by spiritofsection 22 09.20.13 @ 4:04 pm

This is the type of game Pitt has to win if it is to claim progress. No execuses. GC’s analogy is right on the mark!!

right on Upone! Enjoy the game.

Comment by Pittscript 09.20.13 @ 5:20 pm

Yep Accuweather is reporting about a 60% chance of rain tomorrow for Durham-Raleigh. Amazing cause it hasn’t rained in over 3 weeks down here.

That sux, cause this stadium has no seating under cover at all. And we’re not about to sit in the rain (well I would, but the GF for sure won’t).

Comment by EMel 09.20.13 @ 5:27 pm

The O/U finally came out….for PITT/Duke


Pitt has dropped to – 3.5

So we win 41-10 I’m presuming, and cover. lol

Comment by EMel 09.20.13 @ 5:32 pm

Pitt 21 Puke 13 in a driving rainstorm,Connor explodes for 150 yards!!!

Be there!!!!!

I will!!

Comment by Why ask why??? 09.20.13 @ 6:05 pm

It rained here in Durham last night and during the day today…and got a LOT cooler.

Comment by panther94 09.20.13 @ 7:51 pm

I’m not convinced that the heavy rain will be there during the game. Looks like it may be afterwards. We shall see.

Comment by Mailman 09.20.13 @ 7:52 pm

BC, nice analogy! Spirit, I can never be confident, but I long for the day. With Royal Blue and Mustard colored glasses: Pitt 33-28. H2P

Comment by Iron Duke 09.20.13 @ 8:01 pm

I just hope the equipment mgr packs the long cleats.

Comment by Joe Lawrence 09.20.13 @ 9:20 pm

I like how the offense is progressing, D may still be a work in progress. Pitt 31-21. Let’s Go Pitt!!!!

Comment by pittman4ever 09.20.13 @ 10:29 pm

Game Day! The weather may make this one for the big uglies. Hold on to the ball. Pass to the tight ends.

Comment by gc 09.21.13 @ 6:40 am

Storm front moving slowly may not be a factor. Need to score early in case it comes in later.

Defense needs to hit their third string QB early and often, in fact on every play. Todd Thomas 15 tackles.

Comment by gc 09.21.13 @ 6:48 am

Y’all will get the rains we had in Texas but not until Sunday. Our front came through last night. We are in the 60’s as a low this morning for the first time since early May. Highs in the low 80’s today. Love Fall weather.

Comment by TX Panther 09.21.13 @ 7:09 am

“Funble that ball, y’all!” first time I heard that cheer was at Duke in 76.

Game is eminantly winnable and easily losable.
Mistakes and miscues could kill Pitt but I believe Chryst is a coach of details…we’ll see.

GC – Best analogy of the week. Pirates missed a 2 footer last night!

Comment by Dan 72 09.21.13 @ 7:50 am

The thing that I’ve seen, and appreciated, in the first two games, is that the Panthers have come out smoking at the start. Even when Savage gave up the ball on the first offensive play, the Pitt defense just stuffed NM and gave the ball right back to him. Thereafter, Savage attoined for his previous sin and put seven on the board during that succeeding drive.That my friends, is NOT “the same old Pitt”.

Gentlemen, we are in the midst of watching a metamorphosis of this Panther Football team. This squad is now composed of a bunch of players, many of them newbies, that have bought into the newly installed team mentality of hard work, perseverence and no excuses for what transpires on the field. The malcontents and black sheep that have not been on the same page with this coaching staff have been shown the door.

The group that remains has been entrusted with the responsibility to be the standard bearers for this new generation of Pitt Football. One that is based on the traditional values that has produced success for the Panthers back in their glory days.

We don’t have the manpower in place yet to pull off winning the games against the elite programs in the country as was obviously demonstrated against FSU, but I didn’t see any lack of effort on the part of the Panthers as they went down in defeat in that game.

As I mentioned before, this game is the perfect opponent for Pitt at this point in our season. This game against Duke will be a good baromenter on where Pitt stands right now in their ability to compete in the ACC. I read the Bleacher Report prediction for this game and they say it’s a Duke win at 35-24. When I read that, all I was thinking was, “aren’t you guys in for a surprise”?

If I’m correct in my sense on how this young team is gelling, I think that we are going to see a performance from Pitt that us old timers have been waiting for for waaaaay too long. That is, a simple line it up against your opponent and just impose your will upon them with your superior personel. Why?

The OL continues to improve, expect to see Dorian Johnson again on the field today contributing. Todd Thomas will again make a significant impact on the defense. Aaron Donald is destined to make life horrible for the Duke QB today and our running game blossums into it’s true potential with another 100+ yard rusher, especially if the weather ends up becoming a factor.

This Duke team is just the type opponent that Pitt needs to step on their throat early and demonstrate that they are embracing the killer attitude that has been missing from this program for many years now. And against Duke they can pull it off. This group gets it, that is what they are striving for and IMO they succeed in producing it against the Blue Devils.

We’ll know for sure in about 8 hours. Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.21.13 @ 7:57 am

Game on TV anywhere outside of Raleigh and Pittsburgh? I like Pitt -4 and under 51

Comment by Upittbaseball 09.21.13 @ 8:10 am


Comment by steve1 09.21.13 @ 8:14 am

Thx Steve.. I need it in Texas. Why is Ohio State -10 only against Florida AM? I like OSU, Auburn +17, and Stamford -6

Comment by Upittbaseball 09.21.13 @ 8:29 am

I don’t like the Dukies and beating up on their cheesey football team would be a great way to start the conference relationship. I can’t wait to get them at the Pete either. HTP

Comment by spiritofsection 22 09.21.13 @ 8:55 am

Also ESPN3:

9/21 12:30 PM EDT Pittsburgh vs. Duke

Comment by steve1 09.21.13 @ 9:25 am

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