October 24, 2013

A Game for Meeting Expectations

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:42 am

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.

… and they’re heavily recruiting the 7 footer from Kiski School in Saltsburg

Comment by wbb 10.24.13 @ 10:10 pm


The reason for my comments about Voytik’s apparent athleticism is primarily based upon his performance as a high school All-Star in the U.S. Army Bowl.

Having played at a WPIAL “AA” level in Tennessee, it was the first time to evaluate Voytik against other BIG-TIME players from larger high schools.

Frankly, he looked completely outclassed when it came to dropping back to pass. However, his one shining moment came when he tucked the ball in and leaped into the end zone for a TD.

Voytik’s strong suit as an athlete also seems to be the conscensus from people who’ve watched him in practice… Reed among them.

Based on Savage’s difficulties, it only makes sense at this point to see what Voytik can do to provide a spark. This is especially true give that Pitt is about to return to playing some tough Defenses who can pressure the quarterback. Savage has shown nothing to suggest he’s going to improve in his ability to avoid the rush and make plays consistently.

While I have been consistent in the doubts I have in Voytik as a talent when it comes to passing the football… it is possible that he could exceed expectations.

We’ll never know for sure until he gets his chance.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.25.13 @ 5:49 am

You guys bashing Savage and our other players need to watch some tape and analyze the situations we are putting them in, with the coaching staff on offense continuing with a very predictable, NFL type mentality and on the defense having our players scared shitless of making a mistake. DB’s way off, front 4 in predictable gaps and LB’s with way too much middle to cover in between. With our OLine not able to dominate people we should adjust the scheme – I saw Ibrahim in trying to pass protect when we obviously have bigger guys to try to take on the first threat. Even with Savage we could bootleg on occasion. As has been noted, special teams are a disaster. I fear for this game because it is exactly what teams like Navy and Ga Tech do to exploit several wins a year with inferior talent – they outcoach coaching opposing staff’s like Pitt’s. So, if we see Navy moving the ball around, I won’t be pissed off at the players – this is largely the same defense that stopped Notre Dame last year, I will be watching the schemes and watching the endless rotation of players the defensive staff uses to “punish” players – anyone remember Thomas ? – that stay in their doghouse. This one shouldn’t be close – but will be and could very well end up being a “L”, and if so, turn our season the other way with much tougher games ahead. Let’s support our players and hope they can overcome and fight through an inferior staff.

Comment by PittMan 10.25.13 @ 6:16 am

Agree that the returning players on Defense have been thrown into a difficult situation with the change to a new and unproven Defensive Coordinator.

But, give House credit. Although we need more evidence, it seems he’s mproved while learning on the job.

Tougher to explain the dropoff in the Offense from what we saw last year.

Yes, there’s no Ray Graham and newcomers have been added to the O-Line… but that falls short of explaining things.

Savage simply isn’t making the kind of plays you need from your quarterback when running Chryst’s Offense. It’s about knowing where to go with ball and getting it out quickly to the right guy at the right time.

One of the BIGG knocks on Savage both as a freshman and sophomore at Rutgers was that he had difficulty reading defenses and making quick decisions as to where the ball needs to go. I think that’s what we’ve been seeing this year.

While the Defense has been getting better… and the O-Line has been getting better… Savage has been regressing.

At this point after watching him against a PUTRID Old Dominion Defense… there is no evidence to suggest he’s going to improve.

We can only hope.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.25.13 @ 6:44 am

McGarvey’s it is

link to

Comment by wbb 10.25.13 @ 6:52 am

question on hueber. does he have a son and is it his son who helps out on the sidelines?

Comment by jk 10.25.13 @ 7:31 am

The Pitt defense has the perfect opportunity tomorrow to prepare for GA Tech while also collecting their fifth win of the season.

This game can be lost, but as many posters have opined above, we lose this game only if we beat oursevles. Now there are plenty of ways to accomplish that but I just don’t see that occurring.

With a solid defensive strategy of dedicated man assignments for key players on Navy’s triple option I see us keeping the Midshipmen in front of us all day long. We don’t need to stop them, we just need to slow them down to a snail’s pace and then our defense has done it’s job.

I see a guy like Todd Thomas being assigned the duty of spying on their QB, Reynolds, and being encouraged to focus on tackling him consistantly even when he does release the ball to a trailing back in the option read. This would be a very effective method to wear the Navy offense down and at the same time increase the likelyhood of a mishandled toss to a RB eventually when a guy like Thomas disrupts Reynold’s pitch timing by closing fast and tatooing him squarely in the chops just one too many times.

It will be a huge boost getting both Conner and Street back into the lone up as well.

As I’ve said previously, this team is growing game by game and when they finally put a complete game together on both sides of the ball, well then, we’re going to be a hard team to beat. This game and opponent might just be the perfect combination to produce that kind of effort from Pitt. We’ll all see soon enough.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.25.13 @ 7:47 am

Nice article wbb, too bad the post gazette sports page is worthless. Front page today has a long article with a color picture about the big PSU-OSU rivalry. A tiny article about Pitt-Navy follows.
Then a mention of the Luther verbal and a small article about UC-Santa Barbara.

It shows our relative value, when you get four or five pages dedicated to the Steelers or Pirates, even when they are bad. Obviously, we don’t sell papers. But how about some public service and local pride to the hometown team?

POD, you are getting to be a broken record are you just cutting and pasting the same stuff each time?

wbb, good point about local recruiting, I know it was tongue in cheek, but it does make you wonder, we were getting guys like Adams and Montreal’s gift and now a local kid recruited by Duquesne. No offense to the kid, I hope he is great, but no one special since Mostrella. Where is our ace recruiter?

Comment by gc 10.25.13 @ 7:52 am

gc, our 3 incoming commits plus the kid from Saltsburg are from a 25 mile (half) radius north and east from Oakland. We don’t need Roehrrsen, maybe we should have hired Yuri Dmetrius

Comment by wbb 10.25.13 @ 7:58 am

FWIW, Lucas Nix is starting at guard these days for the Raiders

Comment by wbb 10.25.13 @ 8:40 am

lol wbb

Yea I thought we brought Slice back to get some more NYC & national talent. Not kids from Saltsburg. Didn’t even know they played basketball in Saltsburg.

Actually I’ve been to Salzburg, Austria. Beautiful place, home of Mozart, JD should visit some time, maybe he’ll find some International talent ! 🙂

Comment by EMel 10.25.13 @ 8:45 am

I’m gonna post this again since we got our daily POD.

Tom Savage was a freshmen All-American at Rutgers and led his team to 9 victories.

Being able not to read defenses, throw 4 feet to his RB and just generally being an all around buffoon.

Comment by EMel 10.25.13 @ 8:48 am

I bet the guy who made the decision to replace Savage wouldn’t mind having him down in Tampa Bay.

That is if Schiano has a job by the end of next week.

Billboards appearing around Tampa, ‘Fire Schiano’.

On the bright side, maybe DW will get the HC job.

Comment by EMel 10.25.13 @ 8:51 am

So I looked at Navy’s roster and I watched a couple of highlight clips. While this by no means makes me an expert there are a couple of obvious observations.

1. We should definitely be able to move the ball on their defense. They are not that big and they are not that athletic. Good opportunity to keep the run game going. Just like I’ve been saying all year, we need to come out and Punch ’em in the mouth, and keep up that physical playing style all game long. Interesting side note they do have one 300-pounder on D line and he’s from Monessen.

2. I only saw one offensive highlight and wow those cut-blocks look vicious. I’m hoping our line can fight them off, but I think the key to this game is going to be our linebackers staying disciplined on the edge. I have all the confidence in the world in Todd Thomas, less so in Anthony Gonzales. Hopefully he’s up to the task. Aaron Donald also needs to have a disruptive game.

Prediction: I want to say our defense will shut them down but I have the sinking feeling (no pun intended) that it will be more of a bend-but-don’t-break type of day. Overall it could be a pretty high scoring game. Pitt 35. Navy 31.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.25.13 @ 9:06 am

EMel – that “Freshman All-American” award, while nice to have, is a bit misleading. His competition was any other freshman starting at QB. That really limits the candidate pool. But yes, he won it.

My stance all along isn’t that Savage is a bad QB, it has been since last summer camp that he wasn’t going to be the greatly productive QB PITT fans were sure he would be. That was skewed by his being “ABT” also.

@gc – our redzone production is average, 81% scoring, & 74th nationally, although there is little difference in the rankings. Out of 22 redzone visits he has thrown six TDs, we ran for nine and had three FGs.

Last season we were slightly better at 82% scoring with 17 TD passes thrown in the red zone – which highlights the lack of deep passing TDs by Sunseri.

Comment by Reed 10.25.13 @ 9:16 am

gc… get over it.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.25.13 @ 9:26 am

@ EMel, Savage was an all around buffoon his Freshman year? Just a lttle too harsh there on the color commentary , aren’t you???

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.25.13 @ 10:00 am

Reed, 15 for 22 in touchdowns, with only 3 field goals, seems pretty good to me. Surprised that is only average.

How many red zone field goals last year?

Comment by gc 10.25.13 @ 10:16 am

@ Doc…..


Comment by EMel 10.25.13 @ 10:29 am

@ Reed

If you remember I wrote several posts pre August camp and during camp, suggesting that a 3 year layoff for Savage wouldn’t be the easiest thing to overcome. And I also wrote that if he and Voytik were about equal, it would be crazy not to go with Voytik, since TS is only here for 1 year and why not get your future QB ready instead of going thru another new QB next year.

That all being said, I don’t think we’d be 4-2 at this point with Voytik. We certainly lose the Duke game and who knows, maybe ODU as well and UVA.

Savage is very good when given the time. Unfortunately for him and us, we have a crap offensive line and apparently no coaching schemes to provide more time, protection or otherwise.

Comment by EMel 10.25.13 @ 10:37 am

POD, I am over it, that’s the problem. It is pretty obvious that Savage has weaknesses. But I don’t think getting brutalized by VT and playing without Street means he is regressing.

He will be fine with Street and more time to throw, he is never going to be a quick release QB.

I am pretty tired of hearing about Buttgers though, redundant.

You are not going to see Voytik unless Savage gets hurt, or the game gets out of hand, positively or negatively, which one are you rooting for?

Comment by gc 10.25.13 @ 10:42 am

EMel, got it 😉

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.25.13 @ 11:03 am

@ gc, Savage just has to put together another Duke type of game and all of this superfluous chatter surrounding his current situation will evaporate. Only problem with that is the hill gets much steeper in the second half of the season so this might be the last opportunity for Savage to shine over an inferior defensive opponent. He had that chance against ODU too but Bennett kind of negated the need for Savage to have to carry the day in that one.

Two things are for sure however, Voytik WILL be the man next year, no matter if a JUCO QB guy comes in or not and even if either Freebeck or Bertke end up imitating the second comimg of Chryst at the QB position.

Second, this offense is going to look a lot different next year than it does this year with Chad in there at QB. It might be better, it might be worse, but it will show a whole different look with a QB that can be evasive and has some ability to earn yards with his feet.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.25.13 @ 11:51 am

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