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September 21, 2013

Quick Thoughts: Duke game

Filed under: General Stupidity,Hire/Fire — Justin @ 3:47 pm

This one was ugly; like Wannstedt’s mustache full of fish sammich ugly. I don’t know if I have the stomach to watch the defense and give you guys a review. If you really, really want it (post in comments what your opinion is) I’ll do it, but only because you guys are the best. I say that earnestly, not sarcastically. Here are a few quick thoughts.

1) Tyler Boyd, Devin Street, and James Conner are awesome. Kevin Weatherspoon had 2 huge catches today, a 3rd down conversion and the game winner. I think Boyd is hurt because there’s no other explanation as to why he wasn’t out there late in the 4th. Hopefully he’s OK, I bet he’ll do something even more special for homecoming next week.

2) To continue Captain Obvious statements, the defense and special teams were abysmal. While everyone is pointing fingers at Vinopal, there were a lot of goats. Shane Gordon missed an easy tackle on Connette near the goal line and Connette scored. Duke had a play where Connette pumped to the left, then came back right to a WR screen. That burned Pitt at least three times. There were a ton of missed tackles and guys who were way out of position. Aaron Donald was pretty quiet outside of a few plays, probably due to double teams, and the rest of the DL did not step up.

3) If you’re going to fire Matt House (highly, highly doubt it happens), you do it AFTER Virginia. If Chryst is considering it, he’s weighing his possible replacements now while the team prepares for Virginia. There’s a bye week after the Virginia game. This gives the new coach time to get things in place. Like I said, don’t get your hopes up. It won’t happen. As bad as the D played, a lot of it was on players screwing up.

4) Duke’s offense appeared to be crap before this game, but Virginia and Virginia Tech appear to be awful on offense as well. Virginia is ranked 111th in passing yards and 98th in rushing yards. They didn’t score against Virginia Military Institute until the 2nd quarter today and that was after 2 INTs by their QB. Logan Thomas, VT’s QB, is dreadfully awful as we saw last year and if anything, he has gotten worse.

5) The offense fired on all cylinders the first 3 quarters and stuttered a bit in the 4th. To be blunt, I think they got tired. What’s important to me is that Savage came up with a huge throw in a clutch situation with pressure in his face. I don’t think you can blame coaching in terms of a passive or aggressive choice. They tried aggressive, 3 and out. They tried passive, 3 and out. My big complain was when you’re running out the clock, don’t get cute with running plays. Don’t pull TEs or OGs when everyone knows you’re running. Everyone is firing up field to try and stuff the run and that unblocked guy made plays at least twice that I saw. Don’t get cute. Helmet on a helmet, no pulling.

6) Everyone was wowed with Savage’s deep throws to Street and Boyd but to be blunt, those throws didn’t impress me. Not saying anything bad about him, they were nice throws and he did exactly what he was supposed to do. The throws that impressed me were the game winner to Weatherspoon along the sidelines, a 3rd down completion early in the game, the dump off to Boyd, and a few throws he dropped between the CB and S in cover 2.

The throw in cover 2 is difficult because a CB is playing short with a safety over top of him and there’s a very narrow window for a QB to throw in. Savage nailed those throws. He did a much better job looking off defenders. In fact, the dump off to Boyd for his first touchdown involved him looking off a LB so Boyd had a little extra space, space he used to score. I’ll go over more on him later, but I was very, very impressed with the little things today.

7) Conner has obviously become the primary RB. The coaches are savvy and will continue to give the start to Bennett as he is the vet. It’s one of those subtle things coaches do to keep players happy when they’ve done nothing wrong. Bennett is fine; it’s not his fault Conner is playing better right now. I’m still concerned about Bennett. He just doesn’t look right out there.

8) I know we have depth issues, but there’s no reason for Ray Vinopal to start anymore. Cullen Christian, Ryan Lewis, or Jevonte Pitts can’t be worse.

Overall, it’s a win. Take some time, drink some beers, enjoy the win, and get ready for homecoming! Also, feel free to note the topic tags I used.

Congrats to Savage on his Walter Camp weekly award! Man, he throws a nice ball!

Now on to the bad stuff. The defense is in deep DoDo. As Chryst said in his post game interview, obviously we need to clean up a lot of things. Well, get out the industrial strength cleansers and a fire hose or two because this defense smells of a cesspool right now. Option teams like Navy and Ga Tech are going to make this current defense look embarrassingly inept unless things are addressed in ernest quickly!

And regarding the argument about whether there is a warrented need for a special teams coach on this team or not, who cares?? Just get SOMEBODY to take control of the wheel concerning the play of special teams, even if it’s HCPC himself! the play of special teams right now is special alright, especially horrible! That is totally unacceptable. This one circumstance alone will lose many close games for us if it’s not addressed soon with somebody taking personal responsibility for improving their overall performance.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.23.13 @ 8:29 am

I agree that House has to get more out of his defense or be shown the door, but the defense ABSOLUTELY could have been worse in that Duke game. If the D doesn’t come away with FOUR turnovers, Pitt probably doesn’t win that game. Then people would REALLY have something to bitch about. Criticism where it is due, but CREDIT as well.

Comment by JCE 09.23.13 @ 8:48 am

3 games and no injuries, whats up with that? Is there any way we can see the lineup for special teams?

Comment by alcofan 09.23.13 @ 8:56 am

I totally agree with Dr. Tom. If we cannot afford to have a special teams coach, we can still have someone be responsible for them. You cannot make it a “committee” job. I expect us to be way better on defense and special teams against UVA. H2P

Comment by pmdH2P 09.23.13 @ 8:57 am

I agree with the others above that the “Pitt is cheap” stuff is getting old, and no one has given any actual evidence that it’s the case. I don’t know, but I suspect Pitt’s salaries are in line with most other ACC programs.

IMO, House is not the DC because Pitt wouldn’t pay for someone else, House is DC because Chryst clearly likes to keep things in the family, so to speak. As many have noted here previosuly, he seems to only want to hire people he knows or has worked with before. I personally think there wasn’t anyone available at the time who fit into that comfort zone, so he chose to just preserve continuity by promoting House. I like PC, but if he’s going to be successful as a HC he needs to break out of that and broaden his horizons a bit with regards to the staff.

With regards to the current situation with the defense, something clearly has to be done. I agree that trying to bring in a new DC at this point is a bad idea, and isn’t going to happen. But at a minimum, PC needs to get House some help. Either promote someone like Palermo to co-coordinator, or bring in someone from the outside to consult and mentor him. Of course, a lot is on the players as well, and I also think we need to try to shake up the personnel a bit. Start some of the younger guys and see what happens. Honestly, I don’t think they can do much worse -some of the starters have been atrocious.

Comment by SteveS 09.23.13 @ 9:00 am

Please don’t take this as support for House because he has done nothing so far to earn a job for next year.

But…never say it can’t get worse. That’s what the Rooneys thought when they fired/retired Bruce Arians. Firing or demoting House now without a good replacement would open the door to chaos and a bad locker-room.

Whether we like it or not, he’s got the rest of this season to prove he belongs.

Comment by Bowling Green Panther 09.23.13 @ 9:07 am

EMel -On TV Duke stadium reminded me of my beloved Pitt Stadium, red track and all.
Your thoughts??

Comment by Dan 72 09.23.13 @ 9:10 am

Concur Doc Tom,

This defense as it is schemed now with the current DE’s and Safety will be torched by Navy & especially GT for huge gabs of ground yardage as their option offenses are head & shoulders better than New Mexico’s & Duke’s.

The DE’s do not do their 2 basic roles; containment on the run and apply pressure on the QB. And this was against 2 of the weaker teams on the schedule.

Another big body is needed on the D-Line and I suggest it should be Tyrique Jarret, who would immediately become the BIGGEST BODY on the D-Line at 6-3, 340 lbs.

LaQuentin Smith at 6-2, 275 is another option as is Devin Cook who is somewhat smaller at only 255 lbs. Darryl Render at 6-2, 280 lbs. also saw action last year and seemed capable.

Any of these guys would provide us with more on the D-Line than what Durham & Murphy are providing, which is close to nothing.

If House insists on only 2 big guys on the D-line, the DE’s could be Shakir Soto & Ejuan Price who I would let play standing up.

We’ve seen the Vinopal inadequacies before, as in the first 2 games last season. He has gotten no better and again his poor play is against New Mexico and Duke, 2 of the weaker teams on the schedule. He was continually picked on by Duke once they found he was a liability.

Whoever is #2 on the 2 deep needs to be inserted, sooner rather than later.

And it would be nice to know who….exactly is coaching the ….’Not so Special Teams’.

Comment by EMel 09.23.13 @ 9:11 am

@ Dan 72

A little, but on a much smaller version (33K). It wasn’t a fully closed bowl on the one end. Yea I agree about the track thing. Lots of trees around the stadium gave it rural HS feel.

Somebody told me Duke has plans to renovate/expand it to 44K or so. And add a new Press Box and Luxury Boxes, etc. Oh and they’re going to eliminate the track and move the stands closer to the field. It should be pretty nice when completed.

Comment by EMel 09.23.13 @ 9:18 am

As far as Asst. Coaching salaries. And even HC salary.

We do know for a fact, that DW was giving PITT a deep discounted rate on his own salary and those of his asst’s.

Those low asst. coach rates were initially a stumbling block for Graham’s hiring until Pitt ‘ponied up’ for higher salaries for them.

And didn’t Huxtable leave for more money at NCSU ?

Comment by EMel 09.23.13 @ 9:27 am

Also the Heyward hiring, one consideration was for sure.

He came on the cheap. Maybe that’s why he wasn’t fully vetted.

Comment by EMel 09.23.13 @ 9:30 am

Savage 51 78 861 65.4 11.04

TD INT Rating
9 4 185.9

65% completion percentage looks familiar.
The 11.04 ypa does not ! haha

Comment by EMel 09.23.13 @ 10:05 am

One Question ??
Is this what “High Octane Offense” is supposed to
look like ??

Comment by Classof69 09.23.13 @ 12:26 pm

@ Classof69, ANSWER-YES. However Duke was running on midgrade (octane 89) and Pitt was running on premeium (octane 93), and thank God they were. Pitt needed that slight extra boost to get the win!

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.23.13 @ 2:04 pm

Pitt does not release assistant coaches salaries. Paul Chryst is paid roughly the same as Cutcliffe is at Duke. Randy Edsall makes slightly less at Maryland,.. followed by Shafer at Syracuse and Spaziani at BC being paid the least. I would assume Pitt’s assistants are also in the bottom half of ACC in pay. I don’t expect Pitt to pay a coach solely coach special teams, but to not have one of our assistants at least double as that is troubling, especially how bad that unit has looked

Comment by Pap76 09.23.13 @ 2:22 pm

The only person on the staff that has special teams listed as one of their responsibilities is special teams graduate assistant Taylor Mehlhaff. I hope one of the full time assistants takes a more active role with special teams. our defense and special teams HAVE to get better or this potent offense is gonna go to waste. I think this team can win 8 games if D and special teams can get cleaned up…

Comment by Pap76 09.23.13 @ 2:31 pm

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