Offensive line coach Jim Hueber is that frustrating superior who gives you nothing in your annual evaluation. Ryan Schlieper gets the start with Cory King out with back problems. How did he do?
“He met our expectations,” Hueber said.
“Meets expectations” is the “meh” of job performance evaluations. Nothing good, nothing bad. Just there.
Okay, he was a little better than that to Schlieper.
“We didn’t want to miss a beat, and I don’t think we did. I think he was really into the game, he knew the adjustments. For him, he would tell you that he’s happy he got the chance. He embraced it; it’s kind of what you wanted to happen.”
And then he backhands compliments him.
“I don’t know that we’ll turn him into Rudy or anything like that. But he is [a player for younger guys to look up to,]” Hueber said.
“He embraced the role as the backup guy, never misses anything, always there, always involved in the meetings and stuff, and then it paid off for him when it’s his turn.”
Embrace your crusty old man, role on the staff, Coach Hueber. Embrace it. Hold it tight and never let it go.
As for the Navy game, the Middies have something of an excuse for their Toledo loss. Injuries on both sides of the ball for that game. But against Pitt, they expect several starters to return.
The Midshipmen will welcome back a starting offensive lineman who was feared lost for the season and are hopeful a couple defensive backs who missed the Toledo game can go as well.
In addition, the Midshipmen will benefit from the improved health of starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who has missed considerable practice time the last three weeks.
Reynolds, had a head injury and then was battling the flu the last couple weeks — including through the Toledo game where he still accounted for three Navy touchdowns.
The triple option offense is what the defense will see in practice and on the field for the two weeks.
Facing back-to-back option teams should allow Pitt to get comfortable facing a scheme it doesn’t usually see.
“It depends how we play,” coach Paul Chryst said with a smile when asked if he thought it was an advantage playing the two triple-option teams back-to-back.
“The next two weeks are totally different than what we saw earlier. I feel good about our guys and we spent some time in camp on it. Our guys should have a good idea of what to expect to face on Saturday.”
The big advantage for Pitt, is that both teams are so run heavy it plays more to Pitt’s strength. Provided the defense remains disciplined.
“They’re strictly option, pound it right up the middle,” [defensive end Bryan] Murphy said. “We have to be very disciplined in our keys. We can’t make any mistakes. If we make any mistakes, one person doesn’t cover their man, then they could hit us for a big run and we’d be in trouble.”
The Panthers got a slight taste of the option earlier this season against New Mexico Sept. 14. The Lobos run more of a pistol-option offense rather than the traditional triple-option, which rarely puts the ball in the air.
The main concepts carry over, though. Each defender is responsible for knowing his assignment and sticking to it. One missed read or overcorrection could leave a runner open for a long gain.
After the defensive mess against Duke, the Pitt coaches and players swore that the big problem was players not staying in their assignment and another player trying to cover that mistake. Leading to another missed assignment. We will have to see if the defense handles things like they did with the Lobos or the Blue Devils.
Either way, the offense needs to produce. Especially the passing game that has gotten ugly in the last three games.
The improvement was tangible against Old Dominion, but hardly satisfying. Tom Savage was sacked only twice after getting dumped 15 times in the previous two games, but his overall completion percentage (56.8) has fallen to 13th among 16 ACC quarterbacks.
Isaac Bennett ran for 240 yards, but the quality and size of the opponent were nothing like Pitt will see in its four remaining ACC games or against Notre Dame.
Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said his unit has lacked consistent execution. Pitt, which is ranked 92nd in the nation in total offense (366.8 yards per game), scored five touchdowns in a 29-minute span from the start of the second quarter to the outset of the fourth. But it gave up the football several other times, including settling for two punts and a fourth-down failure while trying to run out the clock.
“We were a little slow getting started and didn’t finish quite the way we wanted to finish,” Rudolph said. “We missed a couple things early, in the backfield, and then Isaac got going.”
I know Street getting back in the line-up will help, but it’s hard not to notice Savage struggle even last week to commit to and complete those shorter passes to the tight-ends.
The game against Navy can’t be called any sort of measuring stick at this point. Pitt should beat Navy, and from what we have seen from this team to this point, it may not be the prettiest win. Just so long as it is a win.