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October 11, 2013

Media Run-Through, 10/11

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:05 am

I got promoted at work a couple weeks ago. So, the extra hours/work and new stuff has me adjusting my schedule quite a bit. I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent slowdown in posting. It’s not as good an excuse as Justin has with moving and a baby on the way (Congrats, Justin), but it’s the best I can do. This has led to a pile-up in browser tabs. So it’s time just to clear them.

Recommended reading time. The Key Play has an exhaustive game preview for the Pitt-VT game. Lots of really, really great info stats and X-O material. Especially about Pitt’s defense and giving up the run.

The ongoing surprise in the offense has been how underutilized the tight ends have been. Obviously there is the breakout of Tyler Boyd to allow for deeper passes to him and Devin Street. There is also the issue with blocking. The tight ends have had to do a lot more of it to help the O-line. The other aspect is that Tom Savage still is not as accurate — or comfortable at times — with the dump-off or short passes to the tight ends. It’s not a crisis, but given the amount of hits Savage is taking looking downfield, it might be good to go shorter occasionally if Savage wants to live through the next eight games.

As for Tom Savage, it wasn’t a surprise that he was cleared for this game. While most of us assume that it was the helmet-to-helmet cheap shot he took when he slid after a scramble that caused the concussion, Savage chalks it up to more of a cumulative effect of all the hits he took that day. That really doesn’t make me feel better about things.

This kind of does. Savage and Pitt’s offense is the type that has had good success against a Bud Foster defense.

Technically, this is not Pitt’s first road game of the season. Duke does count. Sure, even the official attendance was under 23,000, but it counts. Right? Lane Stadium, even if it isn’t in an evening  alcohol fueled energy hazed frenzy is going to be something different. So the defense is hoping they can do something like last year to take the crowd out of it.

Time for the Tyler Boyd collection. Tyler Boyd background — read all of it. Tyler Boyd stepping up to give Pitt a dual receiving threat. Tyler Boyd and Devin Street as one of better receiving duos in the country. Check that, one of the best receiving duos in the country.

“We definitely saw some confidence, which was great to see for a freshman to have such confidence, and not confidence where it was cocky or anything,” Street said of Boyd’s on-campus arrival. “He was confident in his ability to go out there and play and compete at a high level. As a person, he’s a great kid. He listens all the time. He’s very detailed and he just works his tail off each day. I can’t say enough about him. He’s going to beat all the records I’m trying to reach. I think he’ll be breaking them soon.”

I love that quote from Street. Not because of how even he sees such big possibilities for Boyd. But how he is happy and not threatened by it. Street is a senior and has done more than simply say all the right things as a team leader. He has led. He has set the tone. He has made it all about the team, rather than his numbers and his draft future. He desperately wants to go out with a big year for the team, and doesn’t care how it happens.

Who has been the bigger impact freshman for his team? Tyler Boyd or VT’s Brandon Facyson? Just might be fun to see it settled out on the field on Saturday.

Logan Thomas has been the Hokies starting QB for three years. He had an outstanding first year as a starter. Going 10-3 and leading VT to the Sugar Bowl and losing in OT to Michigan. The inevitable comparisons to Michael Vick (which really began the moment he signed with VT) only increased. Last year was something horrible. Thomas struggled. The VT running game was bad. Really bad. And it all began with that loss at Pitt. It sure looked like his regression of 2012 was reality in 2013 with his performance in the opener against Alabama. 65-134-4-6 and a paltry 768 total yards in the first four games. Then conference play began and he has been a different player. 38-53-4-0 in the last two games and 574 total yards. Whether Thomas is going to stay that hot is debatable, but it seems a bit silly to assume he is going to repeat the Alabama performance. And I’m not counting on him crapping the bed like he did against Pitt last year.

Press conference questions with VT’s DC Bud Foster and OC Scott Loeffler.

Loeffler is bothered by the poor Hokie running game.

Like other coaches, Loeffler said you can pin Tech’s rushing struggles on one thing. It’s overloaded boxes, missed assignments, missed blocks, missed reads — everything.

He said Tech putting in a sixth lineman on its final drive and calling the same running play six straight times until the Hokies got in the end zone was to prove a point.

“We need to do that a little bit,” he said. “We ended the game the right way from that mindset. We were going to line up and we were going to run that play six straight times and we were able to get in the end zone.”

Wasn’t that an early scene from Necessary Roughness?

Bud Foster is definitely playing up the revenge and out-and-out lying about things. This line pretty much summed it up:

“I personally think they’re the best offensive line we’ve played to date, cohesively.”

Uhhhh….

Foster went on to mention that Alabama had a lot of new faces for the opener, so that probably colors his opinion. He mentioned Pitt’s size. Right guard Matt Rotheram is 6-foot-6, 340 pounds. Left guard Cory King is 6-foot-6, 325 pounds. They’re certainly in the mold of the beefy linemen Paul Chryst had as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator.

Foster conceded that the one area Pitt has had trouble is in pass protection, though. The Panthers have allowed 13 sacks in four games. The 3.25 they’re allowing per contest is 114th nationally. UVa sacked Savage seven times.

“But we’ve got to find that out,” Foster said. “We just have to get them behind the sticks where we can pin our ears back and go a little bit from that standpoint. … I think the key is you’ve got to make the quarterback hold the football a little bit.”

Also it looks like no Antone Exum at cornerback as expected.

On the Pitt side, Gabe Roberts is out for the year… again. The back-up, back-up center is Shane Johnson who is injured as well. He got hurt in Tuesday’s practice and is “questionable.” Chryst declined to say who would be the emergency center if Artie Rowell gets hurt, but it’s probably senior guard Ryan Schlieper. Linebacker Shane Gordon and defensive end Bryan Murphy, however, are feeling much better and should play tomorrow.

For Pitt’s offense, OC Joe Rudolph kind of concedes that the O-line performance against Virginia was troublesome.

Pitt offensive line had its worst game of the season against the Cavaliers, and the Panthers allowed quarterback Tom Savage to be sacked seven times in the win. Rudolph, though, said he didn’t pin all of the pass protection struggles on the offensive line.

“When you’ve got a team that’s playing you tough, all that strain and that finish, most of the time, is the difference between being successful or not,” he said. “That’s just kind of been the emphasis. Each guy’s got to be their best on a play if we’ve got a chance to be successful offensively. I definitely wouldn’t hang it on the o-line, that was as much backs running and tight ends fitting things on the edge. It was across the board that we didn’t get it done.”

Despite the success Virginia was having in the pass rush, the Panthers stuck with a lot of five- and seven-step drops on passing plays (some of that was necessitated by the fact that they couldn’t move the ball on the ground, so faced third-and-long more often than they would have liked). Rudolph said he adjusts playcalling within the game, but also needs to trust his players and stick to the gameplan at a certain point.

“I think you’ve got to trust your guys to be the best, I don’t think you can change everything,” he said. “But they did a nice job of pressuring us and there were times where we just had breakdowns and weren’t able to hold up.”

I can’t decide if that performance was a “burn the tape” thing for the O-line or “show it on a loop to motivate them.”

Oh, and in the predictions realm, Stewart Mandel of SI.com is going with VT 24-10.





Great article Chas.

We can win this game if the breaks go our way. If we get turnovers and don’t commit any then I like our chances.

Comment by Reed 10.11.13 @ 8:18 am

Agreed Reed …Pitt will win this game if they play mistake free football. Savage will shine at QB. When was the last time a Pitt QB actually won a game for Pitt with his skill and ability making the difference?

Comment by Dan 72 10.11.13 @ 8:56 am

I just want to make sure I read this right. From the Key Play’s blog:

“Actually, this week our offense is at a bit more of a disadvantage than the last few weeks as Pitt’s defense is pretty good. Not VT-good (3rd in the nation) but good (28th).”

Who knew…

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.11.13 @ 9:00 am

“Lane Stadium, even if it isn’t in an evening alcohol fueled energy hazed frenzy is going to be something different”. OK, Chas, I’ll give you the obvious fact of not being an evening game but I take exception to your assumption that the game will lack an alcohol fueled frenzy!

Isn’t that why they invented Bloody Marys and Mimosas? My crowd will be in the Lane Stadium parking lot plenty early enough to obtain our daily RDA of vitamin C in their morning juice while simultaneously getting juiced, if you know what I mean!

Time for Pitt to earn some real ACC respect and this game fits the bill for us to do so.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.11.13 @ 9:02 am

And here we learn about why we can’t stop running quarterbacks:

The Panthers have seven defenders in the box, with a single high safety and another safety in coverage over the slot receiver. They leave the boundary corner way off of the line of scrimmage, which leaves him totally ineffective when the ball is run away from him. UVA has seven blockers, as well as a running back and a running quarterback. Just by doing the math, it’s obvious that unless a Pitt defender makes a spectacular play the run will pick up good yardage. The crazy thing is, this isn’t a one time thing. This happened consistently throughout the game.

Ouch.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.11.13 @ 9:06 am

I’ll stop after this post. I promise. But any confidence the VA game gave me regarding the OutHouse Defense has quickly evaporated.

“In short, if Pitt lines up the same way against Virginia Tech that it did against it’s other opponents… Loeffler and Co. should have a field day on the ground. Anything less than a season high total on the ground would be unacceptable. The only thing that would stop the Hokies from running all over this defensive game plan would be a lack of execution by the offensive line, poor reads by Logan Thomas, or bad vision by the running backs. If the Hokies have a dominant spread rushing attack in them, this is the team that should bring it out of them.”

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.11.13 @ 9:08 am

Such a simple game, Blocking and tackling. Sometimes we do ,sometimes we don’t, and if we do both this week we can take a nice step forward. I think it is great to be in this position and can only hope our boys seize the opportunity.

Comment by spiritofsection 22 10.11.13 @ 9:09 am

I dream quite a bit and recall them, rarely about foootball though. Had one last night and recall several crazy things. For real, no punchline coming, had this dream.

1. Could see the scoreboard at Lane Stadium, sorry, Va Tech 37 Pitt 34

2. There was an incident in the crowd, involving about 10-15 Pitt players falling on people in the stands.

3. My nephew coming up to me after the game and saying you guys played well, and you certainly play a brutal schedule, I can’t believe you guys play Oregon at the end of the year.

So, there’s that.

Comment by Dan 10.11.13 @ 9:24 am

Sorry Chas Off Topic but had to slip this in here…

Had a ump in Legion ball in SW PA that reminded me of this guy. He umped in mid 90’s. Maybe someone had him umped one of their games.. He was kinda like this guy. LOL

Go Pitt!

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/best-strike-three-call-ever-003743426–mlb.html

Comment by Upittbaseball 10.11.13 @ 9:33 am

Yeah, a real simple game if you’re playing four on four with a 3 second count before rushing the passer while playing in your back yard on a 40 yard field between the neighbor’s fence and your Dad & Mom’s back patio. It gets a little more complicated when you get to the college level, don’t you think?

In that regard, Kudos to that cumulative report prepared by all the writers of “The Key Play”! Now these guys are into the Xs and Os of the game.

I sure hope that Rudolph and House have spied this analysis out as well as digesting all of the VT film available from this year. These guys have some solid evaluation skills. Pretty much pointed out the obvious problems associated with Pitt’s defense against the run vs. Virginia.

Hope two weeks of prep time has resulted in a solid gameplan for the Panthers against VT.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.11.13 @ 9:34 am

1 thousand one, 1 thousand 2, 1 thousand 3 … you had to traverse the entire length of the field in 4 downs.. and often did
Final Scores were usually 56 – 42 (X Pts were automatic)

Backyard / Playground Football or the Big 12?

Comment by wbb 10.11.13 @ 9:57 am

No worries Dan, your dream pans out like this,,,, the scoreboard did read VT 37 Pitt 34, but the clock had 0:11 remaining. Blewett came on and kicked the tieing FG that put the game into overtime. The Pitt players falling into the crowd was the result of Boyd’s spectacular over the shoulder catch in the endzone to win the game in double overtime at which time the Pitt bench empied into the visiting team grandstand to celebrate with the traveling Pitt students. Your nephew’s comment was simply clairvoyant, since we go on to finish with a season record of 10-2 and do in fact play Oregon in a FBS Bowl. Unfortunately we lose that game by 35 after Oregon beats our defense like a bass drum for four solid quarters. 10-3 not a bad record for our second year HC though. Who says that you’re the only one allowed to dream?

Gotta think positive, drink plenty of Pitt Koolaid, and never ever give up!

Hail to Pitt! Hammer the Hokies!

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.11.13 @ 10:08 am

Dr. Tom you are The Man.

Hail to Pitt

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.11.13 @ 10:39 am

Dr. Tom, Brilliant!! I like it.

Comment by Dan 10.11.13 @ 10:51 am

Dr. Tom…

Like that interpretation. Makes sense.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.11.13 @ 10:58 am

Getting to 37-34 with eleven seconds on the clock is not going to be easy.

This excerpt from TheKeyPlay hones in on what could prove to be the key challenge facing the Pitt offense Saturday.

********
The Hokies ability to cover receiver in man coverage on crossing routes allows Bud Foster the ability to blitz his linebackers, and Savage isn’t mobile enough to avoid the rush.

********
But where there’s impending crisis, there’s also opportunity.

Difficulty in reading defenses has been a criticism leveled against Savage throughout his career. However, Saturday… he must be able to know when VaTech is sending their backers… because they’re going to be coming.

It may be that the tight ends finally emerge this game as HOT reads could prove critical.

Stay passes and quick slants to Boyd also if he’s getting a cushion.

Man, is this game going to be interesting to watch. Let’s just hope it stays interesting for four quarters.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.11.13 @ 11:22 am

Chas – last time I checked, this is a free site, so you don’t owe anyone anything. Thanks for what you do!

Dr Tom – I tend to agree with Chas on the idea that it won’t be an alcohol fueled frenzy. Most Hokie fans I know here in Central Va. Will drive up that morning – 3.5 hrs – and head back post game. The evening games tend to gave more staying overnight in Christiansburg, Roanoke/Salem , etc

And from personal attendance experience I can vouch for it as well.

Reed – enjoyed your post yesterday, but didn’t have time to respond. I still think PC & JR. need to get the TEs involved early – and they need to hold onto to the ball – to keep Foster and his D off balance. If we limit ourselves to running and deep safe balls, we will have trouble IMHO.

Gil Brandt tweeted today that he thought Savage could be a first rounder if he continues to improve. Part of that improvement has to be an improvement in checking down and finding the TE or RB.

Comment by Joe Lawrence 10.11.13 @ 12:14 pm

Hope springs eternal. Maybe this will be Savage’s (real) breakout game.

Agree that it should be an interesting one to watch.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.11.13 @ 12:28 pm

I think we need a trick play to win this game. Maybe a pass from Boyd off of the jet sweep to Orndorff.

Comment by JJ 10.11.13 @ 12:34 pm

You want to involve Boyd in a “trick” play, then just put him under center in the Wildcat. Simplier mechanics and more options to play from that formation.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.11.13 @ 2:44 pm

WE’re going to have to run the ball effectively if we’re to win this game.

Accomplishes several things;

1) Slows down their pass rush
2) Wears down their d-line.
3) Should then open up the play action passes
4) Keeps their offense off the field
5) Keeps our defense off the field
6) Limits their blitzing options

When PC was at Wisconsin their offense revolved around a punishing ground game which then opened up the pass. I see Wisky is till avg’g 300 ypg rushing.

Last game we sort of gave up on the ground game too early, I think this week PC goes back to what’s worked in the past for him.

Comment by EMel 10.11.13 @ 5:36 pm

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