September 29, 2013

My dog decided he wasn’t going to let me sleep in so I can post a few thoughts before I resume moving. As always, a win is a win is a win. I can’t emphasize this enough. This was Pitt’s first 3 game winning streak since 2010. If you told a Pitt fan that they’d start the season 3-1 and the loss was to FSU, I can’t imagine a fan who wouldn’t be happy. Have the past 2 wins been ugly? Absolutely. Last season, we lost pretty to Notre Dame. I’d prefer an ugly win.

The main reason Pitt won and Virginia lost was Pitt took advantage of miscues and Virginia did not. When Virginia turned the ball over twice in the red zone, Pitt’s offense punched it in. When Virginia drove into scoring position, they went for it on 4th down four times and only converted one (which was subsequently followed by a failed 4th down attempt). Obviously the offense did nothing after the 1st quarter but thankfully the defense stepped up. Virginia’s defense did exactly what I predicted they’d do: they pressured and rattled Tom Savage.

I said this on twitter and I want to emphasize it again. We’ve seen back to back TEAM wins. Last week the defense and special teams crapped the bed and the offense took care of business. This week the offense may have been shut out if it wasn’t for the turnovers. Outside of Blewitt’s missed FG, the special teams did a good job. There was a bad bounce on one punt, but those things happen. The overall results were good.

The real problem yesterday as Chas pointed out yesterday was the OL. They got dominated inside and prevented the run game from going anywhere. They were beaten outside and let their QB get sacked and hit repeatedly. They generally failed at everything they needed to do. The running game couldn’t get anything going, which put a ton of pressure on Savage. He had some impressive moments (deep throw to Boyd, touchdown to Street, but mostly he was just trying to survive. Very few QBs can succeed in games like yesterday. My only big complaint was the second interception. He had Boyd open, threw it way too late, and threw it to the wrong spot. He needs to throw it vertical and let Boyd chase it. By throwing it short and late, he let the DB catch up. I’m very annoyed the TE screen I predicted was dropped by Orndoff.

We saw yesterday what a Chryst offense looks like when the running game gets nothing. It isn’t pretty. But like last week, let’s keep some perspective. Everyone was calling for the defense to make massive changes and the defense was almost the same as last week (minus Matt Galambos at MLB instead of an injured Shane Gordon) and they responded with a great game. Virginia shot themselves in the foot numerous times but when they did succeed, the defense found a way to stop them. Aaron Donald was a monster as usual. Ejuan Price had some huge tackles in the backfield. Matt Galambos joined the list of true freshmen starters with impressive games. Last week’s whipping boy, Ray Vinopal, impressed.

Pitt heads into the bye week with 3 straight wins and relatively healthy. Tom Savage did display concussion like symptoms late in the game and was promptly yanked for Chad Voytik. I know myself and a few others were confused as to why Voytik was in the game, but if any player is showing signs of a concussion, you have to pull him from the game. I’ve seen some people question the coaches and trainers, but it seems like it was teammates who brought this to the attention of trainers, which is a great thing to see. Like I said, this is a TEAM. They’re looking out for each other. When one unit struggles, another steps up. Last year, Pitt loses to Duke and Virginia. This team found ways to win where others found ways to lose.

The team has 2 weeks to prepare for their best opponent since FSU, Virginia Tech. Tech is 4-1 and their only loss is to Alabama, so you can’t judge them for that. The list of teams that could reasonably beat Alabama doesn’t require a second hand to count. This is a big match up and VT will not underestimate Pitt like they did last season.

Logan Thomas isnt a good QB. VT falls to Pitt. Good D or not Logan is very bad.

Comment by Upittbaseball 09.29.13 @ 7:17 am

There were no long drives .. only a handful of long passes completed. Part of the reason was the lack of a running game of course.

Another reason could have been the game strategy by Chryst or the selection of passes by Savage. Aside from the screens, there were only (1) out patterns or (2) deep sideline throws.

I do not recall one pass thrown in the middle of the field (not even a long post) but what I really don’t remember is a 10 yard buttonhook or a crossing pattern … nothing the entire day. The only semblance was the one interception on a slant which was a fine play by the DB.

Not sure if the QB or the coach has confidence in Savage’s short game …. but, with the lack of a run game, it is essential that Pitt is able to connect on what normally is the higher percentage passes — 10 yards or less crossing patterns or turn-ins especially when you have the TEs that Pitt has

It also voids sacks in that the QB doesn’t hold the ball so long

Comment by wbb 09.29.13 @ 7:20 am

The dropped TE screen was frustrating. So was the sailed overthrow of Manasseh Garner. That play had TD written all over it.

Comment by Barvo 09.29.13 @ 8:08 am

What ever happened to JP Holtz? Also only the 1 pass to TE Orndoff, can’t figure out why there were not more shot passes to offset the rush.

Comment by JP 09.29.13 @ 8:11 am

Graham put the final nail in Kiffin’s coffin last night hanging 62 points on USC. AM’s Sumlin would be a good get.

Comment by Upittbaseball 09.29.13 @ 8:17 am

I would feel a lot better about our chances against vtech if savage is a go to play. The more info that is realesed about what he was doing in the huddle has me feeling he will be out at least a week maybe longer. I know we have a bye but voytik making a first start vs vtech isn’t good

Comment by Why me 09.29.13 @ 8:36 am

Wbb. Agreed on the quick short passes. They were there for the taking. At least 5 times when Savage threw long, he had wide open receivers short underneath. But he was locked on to either. Boyd or Street. 10 yd “look in” passes were also available as UVA was doubling Boyd and sometimes Street

Comment by Dan 72 09.29.13 @ 9:12 am

As much as I dislike Kiffin, I feel terrible that Graham’s Sun Devils put the final nail in his USC coffin. We still hate you, Mr. Graham.

Comment by MikePITT 09.29.13 @ 9:16 am

Justin, good post but I feel that Virginia’s defensive line did not get the credit due them. Pitt will be hard pressed to play against a more aggressive defensive front seven for the remainder of this season. Yes, they exposed our O line and the blocking inadequacies of our RBs but make no mistake about it, the Cavs played well on D.

But Pitt fans, being typical Pitt fans, have to find stuff to bitch and whine about concerning the Panther’s play, rather than ever giving the kudos due to the opponent for just their own dominant play.

And please, don’t anybody begin the conversation again (like in the previous thread) about how stupid it was of the Cavs not to kick the FG at the end. Virginia’s coach knew that he would never have a better chance to put 6 on the board in THIS game than he did right then and there, so he PLAYED TO WIN and was willing to put the game on the line then and there, PERIOD.

Then (in that same thread) you get people questioning why HCPC didn’t have Voytik take a frickin safety after our defense just played OUT OF THEIR MINDS AWESOME to deny the Virginia TD on 4th down. Please,,,, THINK before you type, because it won’t make your ideas seem so clueless in the future when you do so.

It is called “Monemtum” and it wins and loses football games. When you have it, you milk it for all it’s worth and you NEVER, EVER give it up voluntarily when you have it!

Those same posters screaming for a safety, used to complain about DW always “playing not to lose” but a voluntary safety with over 3 minutes to go, SERIOUSLY????? If that is not “playing not to lose” I don’t know what is? And it totally gives up the momentum back to your opponent!

That is exactly the the way “the same old Pitt” would have lost this game. Here’s how that would have played out,,,,,

Safety, now it’s 14-5, Pitt free kick results in $hitty Pitt kick coverage with the Cavs returning it into Pitt territory with 3 minutes to go. Pitt D plays soft prevent coverage and lets Virginia eventually into the endzone on that drive with a minute or so to play, now 14-12. The Cavs recover their subsequent onside kick, then put up a pass that the refs call pass interference on against Pitt and in the remaining seconds Virginia kicks the winning FG, HELLO 14-15, and the Pitt people whine about “the same old Pitt” yet again and we are all left to lick our wounds after, yet again, another horrible loss!!!

But in reality, Coach Chryst instead PLAYED TO WIN himself. He trotted his RS Freshman QB out there with a pat on the back, demonstrating his confidence in him, and told him to get a first down “and this game is over”. Chryst refused to give up the MOMENTUM. He trusted his QB as well as his true Freshman RB, Ibraham to win the game for him. And that is exactly what they did.

Do you think Rachid Ibrahim might have been excited after that sweeping run of his for the first down to seal the win? Do think that maybe that final Pitt drive experience demonstrated clearly to his team that this Coach believes in his young players and is currently playing the future stars of this team, TODAY? Do you think maybe all of the 4* local recruits that Pitt have offers out to might be taking notice of these facts, too?

This is NOT the “same old Pitt” and I’m learning to love them pretty quickly. This gentlemen is the “New Pitt Football” mentality, learn to like it and also learn to stop your whining.

Hail to Pitt! Man, I’m proud of these guys!

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.29.13 @ 10:01 am

Great win, because it was a win. As they say here in Georgia, it’s much better to learn from your mistakes after an win than a loss. I think we all agree with that.

We face a huge challenge next game with VT. Their defense is even better than Virginia’s, and you can bet they are going to bring the pressure. Hopefully Savage recovers. Hopefully those nine sacks he took will teach him to stop looking deep on every play when the other team is bringing the wood.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 09.29.13 @ 10:06 am

^ and Oh Yeah! Great comments Dr. Tom!

Comment by Atlanta Panther 09.29.13 @ 10:08 am

if voytik plays in the next game if savage is out
you will get your wlsh for short passes to the TE
and crossing patterns because voytik will only throw long 3 or 4 times game just to keep the D honest

Comment by FRANKCAN 09.29.13 @ 10:18 am

In the interest of enjoying the win, you have to love James Conner.

Here is his quote on the touchdown run:

“I just tried to lower my shoulder, and he was in the way,” Conner said. “Next time he’ll get out of the way, I guess.”

Read more: link to
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Comment by Atlanta Panther 09.29.13 @ 10:21 am

Dr Tom, as usual, you appeal greatly to all of the Kool-aiders here … and I agree we Pitt fans always should be happy with W.

However, both scoring drives were less than 20 yards, given to us on a platter by 2 turnovers we didn’t even force.

After years of 1st level season tickets, I am sitting in the cheap seats this year, and the best thing about the 5th Level is that you get the panoramic view of pass plays. And as Dan 72 alluded to above, there were large handful of plays when the TEs were wide open but Savage didn’t even look their way.

Yes, he completed a few long ones but there no long scoring drives at all for Pitt yesterday. And if you can’t establish the run, then you better get the short passing game in order because Va Tech is not Duke in the secondary.

Further, if you watched the Hokies’ DL blow up the Ga Tech OL the other night … you would know that (1)Pitt will have trouble running the ball, and (2) Savage will have less time for the long passes to develop than he did yesterday when he was sacked 6 times.

Comment by wbb 09.29.13 @ 10:31 am

On the bright side, the punt teams got a lot of work…

A win is something to build on. The schedule seems to be favorable in that each game gets a little more difficult (FSU excluded). If this team continues to improve, then we will get 6 to 8 wins and will give every opponent on our schedule a solid game except for maybe Miami.

Comment by Rockymtnhigh 09.29.13 @ 10:55 am

@ wbb, I miss the point of the “however” comment? You simply detailed the issues that plagued the Pitt offense after getting their a$$es handed to them by the Cavs defense.
There sure is plenty of improvement that is required on both sides of the ball.

In spite of these deficits, this young Pitt team is simply finding a way to win in each game. The team has a lot of warts and blemishes but they’re still our team. I’ll continue to appreciate every ugly win that they provide for us.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.29.13 @ 10:58 am

UVA’s receivers are terrible! Numerous
dropped passes. However their defense
is decent. Savage did not have a great day
prior to his injury. He missed a wide open
Garner down the middle of the field. That
said he completed a key pass when
suffering symptoms of a concussion. Tough
kid. Glad we have bye.

Comment by JR 09.29.13 @ 11:02 am

I’ll take the win and be happy!

Virginia’s defense is very good, but VT’s is better. Virginia’s offense is not very good, but VT’s offense is not as bad.

Very disappointed with yesterday’s attendance, particularly the students.

Comment by HbgFrank 09.29.13 @ 11:06 am

Dr Tom – excellent post. Could not agree more with everything you wrote.

wbb – “Kool-aid drinker” is a trite shortcut used to marginalize others instead of doing the hard work of actually crafting a thoughtful response to a prior post. I suppose the worst thing I could say about it is it’s one of JoeD’s favorite tools to demean.

That aside, your response missed the point Dr Tom was making. It had nothing to do with missed reads or the length of drives. It was about a winning mindset – instilling it in your players by showing that you are confident in their ability to get the job done.

And when it mattered most, the kids delivered. Just like last week when Savage and Weatherspoon delivered.

Think about the UCinn game for all the BE marbles…think about the loss to Navy at home a few years prior. Think about. UConn converting on 4th and short. Think about the Syracuse game last year… And so on…

The kids were clutch yesterday and that’s worth celebrating. We haven’t seen much of that around here in recent years.

Comment by Joe Lawrence 09.29.13 @ 12:14 pm

ugly win but glad to get a win. Do we win this game with Tino?? absolutely not.

Comment by Coach Ditka 09.29.13 @ 12:21 pm

Every team will have an off day offensively and defensively (hopefully not together). Last week the D had a very off game and the O covered. This week the O had an off game and the D covered. I see this as a positive.

The 2 weeks will be good to prepare for Vtech (though PC hasn’t been known as a great preparation guy when given time). I would imagine that Blacksburg will not be friendly to us as we have had their number.

Side note: I agree that it was not nice to see ASU drop 60+ on USC especially given the fact that Fraud Graham was the coach. USC is awful. Lane Kiffen ultimately got what should have been coming to him after last season’s collapse. Expect Fraud Graham to try to slck his way into consideration of USC or at least use it to prostitute himself for more money or time at ASU.

Comment by Pitt Fan In Atlanta 09.29.13 @ 12:45 pm

Dr Tom. Great post.

Stating that the short passes were there for the taking is a huge stretch. First of all, the TE and RB were kept in often to help protect. Secondly, we have no idea what the QB reads are for each coverage. Thirdly, if the short pass was a check down route when the hell did Savage have time to go through any progressions.

Let’s not act like we know the ins and outs of the offense unless you have run or coached it.

Comment by notrocketscience 09.29.13 @ 12:54 pm

Pitt Fan, I was thinking the same thing about the Fraudmaster…However, I don’t think he has the stones to even try that at this point. I can think of one other person who is not with his new team for a year that may surface as a possible candidate at USC – Chip Kelly. If this experiment with his offense in Philly continues to head south this season, he may look for greener pastures. He would not be the first high profile college coach to have a short, unsuccessful stint in the NFL before returing to the college ranks.

Comment by HbgFrank 09.29.13 @ 1:15 pm

Thanks for the nod Joe, you nailed my intent perfectly!

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.29.13 @ 1:33 pm

we didn’t find a way to win yesterday — we were handed it on a golden platter.

Their punt returner makes one of the stupidest plays that you’ll ever see, and we recover in their red zone. The, they botch a snap from center, again in the red zone. Pitt didn’t force either of them … not even close.

notrocketscience, stating that there short passes for the taking was NOT a stretch … I saw them … DAMN IT!! I’m not saying that it happened every play but as dan 72 said above, there was at least a half dozen times when the TEs were open underneath yet all our QB was looking for was throwing long passes into double coverage.

Comment by wbb 09.29.13 @ 1:38 pm

I hope that you can find a way of turning that frown upside down, wbb. Trust me, you would be happier.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.29.13 @ 2:37 pm

no offense Dr Tom but I think you are ingesting too much of that gas you use on your patients

Comment by wbb 09.29.13 @ 3:26 pm

Ingesting that gas intended for my patients, UNHEARD OF! I would never even consider such an action, now INHALING, that’s a different matter.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.29.13 @ 4:06 pm

Clueless Herr Doktor.

Now now don’t get all white coat on us and demean those of us who mentioned taking a Safety up 14-3 and pinned deep in our end was a possibility. After all Yoklic wasn’t exactly booming them from punt formation and he’s not exactly quick getting them off. How would have you felt if Yoklic, had his punt blocked there and recovered for a TD and it’s Pitt 14 UVA 11 (with a 2 pt try) with over 3 minutes left and Pitt with NO Savage receiving the kickoff or a UVA onside kick. What is so clueless about that scenario.

While I criticize some of the things the coaches do occasionally. I don’t demean other posters. (except Joe D).

Let’s try to be civil here, since we all want the same thing. Pitt to win !

Comment by EMel 09.29.13 @ 4:35 pm

I’ll have to agree with Dr. Tom regarding the intangibles of the football team and players at that point in time when Chryst decided to keep the momentum and show real trust in his offensive players right after that excellent goal line defense we had.

For too long we PITT fans have been caught up in analyzing the individual plays and have been forgetting that being a head coach is also, in large part, getting the kids’ mindset as positive as it can be both pregame, in-game and off the field.

I truly believe that is what is happening at PITT this season, a real change of attitude. Some of it is because of the the personnel moves Chryst made over the off season; part of it is having an truly open competition at almost every position during the spring and summer camps. That in itself tells the young players that if they work their asses off and practice better than the upperclassman they will get deserved early playing time.

Second stringers have a chance to get into the games and stay there as long as they are productive. They aren’t just in there to place hold while the starter gets better, the staff has to really feel the starter will give the team more than the back up is to begin playing again. That is what sports is all about. As Chryst has said before “Don’t talk about it, show me”

Does anyone not think there is a real correlation between Boyd, Howard and Webb seeing so much playing time and the effects they have on the other kids? These players all know what each other accomplished in HS and they know about the Clairton legendary championship streak. Chryst is taking those players and making them leaders both on the field and off of it.

Players coming out of HS dream of being in the same position that Ibrahim and Voytik were in that last series yesterday, to be trusted to come off the bench and help win the match. Recruits will see what Chryst is doing and how he sees young talent contribute and they will take notice.

We may still end up with 6 or 7 wins but now I think PITT fans can see that 7 or 8 is just as realistic for 2013. Who knows, but IMO it is very nice to see fresh faces and fresh talents doing so well.

Comment by Reed 09.29.13 @ 5:03 pm

Luckily we didn’t have to punt immediately since Ibrahim picked up a 1rst down and moved the sticks to the Pitt 22 and eventually the Pitt 31, before some really bad clock mgt. and Pitt actually calling a timeout before punting.

Which showed how fortunate we truly were thruout the day as Ibrahim, a kid who had barely played picked up the crucial 1rst down against a defense who had totally shut down our running game, up to that point.

And our 1rst and only TD’s of the 1rst quarter were truly fortunate as well as wbb correctly pointed out.

The way I look at, we usually are on the short end of the ‘fortunate stick’. So it’s about time we get the big end.

Comment by EMel 09.29.13 @ 5:03 pm

The Panther’s worst enemy, attendance-wise, is the Steelers.

Comment by 17YearsAtPitt 09.29.13 @ 5:20 pm

Emel, I don’t have to inform the readers of the Pitt Blather that you are a veteran poster to the blog and also a loyal Pitt fan, but you can’t have it both ways. Coach Chryst is demonstrating by his coaching decisions and by his game day actions that he intends to be a an offesive minded coach who is going to play for the win. I can live with that attitude even when it blows up in our faces and we lose. But when we lose that way, at least, we’re going down swinging. That’s the kind of football team I want to root for.

Taking a safety is NOT of that philosohpy at that point in this game. As I said, that is DW technique of “playing not to lose”.

Just pick a side, you can’t have your cake and eat it too based solely on the outcomes unless you want to be called on it when you flip-flop back and forth about such basic strategies.

And, BTW, IMO the clock management AFTER the Ibrahim 1st down run was just fine. Chryst utilized his timeouts just prior to delay of game penalties and bled the clock to it’s max. The clock management was a distant secondary concern anyhow. THEE concern was the first down and indeed “we did find a way to win” once again, by producing the longest run of the game just when it was the most essential to produce. That is playing to win!

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.29.13 @ 5:26 pm

Dr tom

Comment by Dacs 09.29.13 @ 5:51 pm

i am with Wbb and EMel they both know what is up 99
times out of 100 .

Comment by FRANKCAN 09.29.13 @ 6:36 pm

No worries you can be the third Stooge.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.29.13 @ 7:32 pm

Dr Tom

To my regret I drank a lot of alcohol in my lifetime so…
right now I for one like kool aid !!!

Comment by Classof69 09.30.13 @ 8:26 am

@outoftown, you are absolutely correct. It’s a small minority, but there are in fact Pitt fans that would rather Pitt lose, so they can proclaim how right they were with their own opinions.

Not unique to Pitt. Steelers, Pens, Pirates have them too, and not unique to Pittsburgh even.

Has nothing to do with Kool-Aid drinking either. I know Pitt isn’t a top 20 team. I watched us get blown out by FSU. However, we are 3-1, blew out a low level team (that we were supposed too, but hasn’t always happened in the past). And we just beat two ACC opponents, that I believe would have been games we could have lost in the recent past.

There’s room for criticisms, but there really is no need for negativity at this time. Yes, they are different.

We very well could lose, but then again, we could win against Va. Tech.

In the event of a win, I have some ideas for a few of you to comment with after the game.

ya, but this isn’t the same Va. Tech as usual.
ya, but this was a really sloppy win
ya, but we won in spite of Chryst.
ya, but we were lucky it was raining.
ya, but this was an ugly win.
ya, but when they play a legit “D”, lookout.
ya, but when they play a legit “O”, lookout.
ya, but Beamer’s not the same old Beamer.
ya, but if we ever play on arificial turf.
ya, but Savage can’t hit the short one.
ya, but Conner might get the sophomore jinx.
ya, but the TE’s didn’t catch many passes.

@outoftown, maybe they aren’t actually cheering for Pitt to lose, but if Pitt happens to lose, their weekend will be made by coming on here, calling radio shows etc. etc. and proclaiming to the world,

“I told you so, I told you so, I told you so!!!”

“Same ol’ Pitt”

“You silly Kool-Aid drinkers”.

Comment by Dan 09.30.13 @ 10:29 am

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