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.”
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.