November 8, 2013

Know Your Enemy: Notre #$%&!# Dame

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Justin @ 1:00 pm

I don’t like Notre Dame. I try to be professional and I won’t use some of the insults I’ve seen my fellow Pitt fans post on twitter and Facebook, but trust me, they’re in my head. I’d love to say a few things about that videographer murderer smug jerk Brian Kelly, but I won’t. The one thing to keep in mind is that the football team has to beat Notre Dame and the zebras. Last season, they beat the Irish but they didn’t beat the Irish and the zebras. Let’s look at the filth Notre Dame will put on the field.

On offense, they’re led by mistake-prone senior QB Tommy Rees. Rees is a pure pocket passer. His season long rush? 1 yard. Rees, like Tom Savage, has put up good stats against bad opponents and awful stats against good opponents. Against Temple, Purdue, and Air Force, he has 10 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The rest of the opponents? 12 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Rees will frequently make decisions that will cause Irish fans everywhere to facepalm. Like Logan Thomas and the VT game, a lot of this game will depend on whether or not he makes stupid decision. Pitt was unlucky and got good Logan Thomas. Unfortunately bad Logan Thomas showed up the following week.

When he’s making the right decisions, he has options. Senior WR TJ Jones already has career highs in yards and touchdowns and 100+ yards and a touchdown in three of his past four games. Across from him is a talented but inconsistent DaVaris Daniels. Daniels was on fire at the start of the season (17 receptions, 299 yards, and 4 touchdowns in 3 games) but has cooled since (15 receptions, 197 yards in 6 games).

The Irish have had a good tradition of talented TEs recently (see jagoff Tyler Eifert last season, who “earned” a bogus 4th down pass interference call that proved to be a game changer) and Troy Niklas is next in line. The 6’7″ Niklas is a big play threat (touchdowns of 66 and 30 yards) and a nightmare in scoring range (3 touchdowns from inside the 25 yard line). He’s one player Pitt has absolutely no answer for. Niklas has at least a 4″ height advantage on any back seven player Pitt has (Anthony Gonzalez, 6’3″).  The problem with a guy his size is that even if coverage is good (which it hasn’t been for Pitt lately), Niklas is still open.

When they run the ball, the Irish will use a three back rotation. Early in the season it was Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson, but Tarean Folson has earned carries the past two games and responded well (29 carries for 187 yards and 1 touchdown) while Carlisle has had no more than three carries the past  six games. Notre Dame isn’t lighting the world on fire on the ground (88th in the country) but they’re very consistent (100+ rushing yards in every game but one).

They run the ball more than they pass (52:48 ratio), so expect the Irish to try and pound the ball to set up the pass. If they can’t move the ball on the ground, expect the offense to struggle. Their worst rushing game of the season (Michigan State: 29 carries 84 yards) led to an awful offensive game where they needed four pass interference calls and a turnover on a trick play to score 17.

A huge advantage for Pitt will be on the interior. Donald and Ezell could have a field day. Notre Dame’s interior OL looks like this: first-year starter at C, true freshman at RG, and a LG coming back from an injury. Hopefully Aaron Donald continues to wreak havoc inside because interior pressure is very difficult to scheme around. Darryl Render has played a lot as of late too and looked good.

The offense’s success comes down to two things: can they consistently move the ball on the ground for 3-6 yard chunks to make life easy on Tommy Rees and will Rees not suck. If the Irish can grind it out on the ground and Rees avoid boneheaded mistakes, expect their offense to put some points up.

I’m actually relatively confident the defense can slow Notre Dame down. The run defense has been pretty good this season and Notre Dame can’t do anything unless the run game is doing well. They don’t have to break huge gains to score (as evidenced by only 8 of their 30 offensive touchdowns coming on the ground) but Rees is not good enough to win with just his arm and no running help. Pitt’s defense has been pretty good the past five games, especially on the ground.

 On defense, Notre Dame runs a 3-4 with some big bodies up front. It’s all based around NT Louis Nix, who is not having the season many expected, probably due to health. Even still, the big bodies up front will be difficult to move in the run game and it’ll be one of few times the OL faces guys who are just as big as they are. The player I’m worried about is OLB Prince Shembo. Shembo is a good pass rusher and the type of player the OL has struggled with (think Attaochu from GT). The offense absolutely has to account for him on every pass or else we could see another pass rusher tee off on Savage all game long.

They have two very good CBs fully capable of handling Street and Boyd. Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell will match up one-on-one quite frequently with Pitt’s dynamic duo and it wouldn’t be unthinkable for the WRs to be held in check. Their safeties are nothing special and they’ve moved some guys in and out of the lineup there.

Notre Dame’s defense has struggled against smart, efficient offenses. You won’t beat them one way, it has to be varied. They only have 10 forced turnovers (1.1 per game) and 13 sacks (1.4 per game) on the season, which shows you they aren’t big playmakers. Even without the big plays, they’re only allowing 23 points per game, good for 40th in the nation. They play solid defense, limit big plays, but don’t do anything particularly well. If the offense wants to score (without short fields caused by turnovers or special teams) they’ll have to be methodical, something they have not done all season.

Either the offense has to step up or the defense has to play lights out and force some turnovers. Pitt could easily beat Notre Dame and I expect it to be close, since the last five games between them have been decided by six or fewer points. In the end, here’s how the game will look. The offense will start slow and the defense will play a good game then collapse in the 4th quarter. It’ll look like the past several games and Pitt will lose 24-13.

Just beat these clowns

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.08.13 @ 1:25 pm

I think you hit the nail on the head with this: “If they can’t move the ball on the ground, expect the offense to struggle.” Our defense has to stop the run, as you mention we did well the last few weeks. Hopefully house picks up where he left off in the GT game and has our LBs 5 yards off the line instead of 7.

Unless our defense can come up with some turnovers I’m pretty skeptical about our chances to put enough points on the board. If we can take away the run, then Rees has to beat us and I dont think he can.

But unless we can run a little it won’t matter. That’s the real problem I think we’ll have. Unless we find a way to get the TE much more involved than they’ve been to date, I just don’t know how we move the ball without an effective run game. 40 yards rushing isn’t going to do it.

I expect a pretty low scoring game. First one to 24 wins IMO.

Comment by PittHW 11.08.13 @ 1:49 pm

Also, I’ve hated Kelly since he was winning D-2 National Championships at Grand Valley State. Played him back in the day in the GLIAC, then I come to Pitt and first he’s haunting me at Cincy and now ND.

If you think the videographer stuff is bad, you should read about the rapes he covered up at GVSU.

Comment by PittHW 11.08.13 @ 1:51 pm

“Let’s look at the filth Notre Dame will put on the field.”

Little extreme there Justin.

They’re just college students who chose to go to South Bend.

And when places as Creepy as Pedo State dropped Pitt off it’s football schedule(for what will be 16 years), Notre Dame always was there to supply a rare home sellout for us. Most years it was the only highlite and national game of consequence we played.

Comment by EMel 11.08.13 @ 3:00 pm

While Rees isn’t great, I’m concerned greatly that he will look like John Elway to this defense.
Who the past 2 games have played subpar Triple Option QB’s and in some cases (like when the game was on the line) couldn’t even stop them.

Kind of surprised Kelly hasn’t recruited better QB’s as of yet. He seemed to have better ones at UC, like Tony Pike for example and the starter he replaced(?).

Unfortunately I see us getting steamrolled, as the offense won’t be able to run and we know what that means. 42-10 Irish

Comment by EMel 11.08.13 @ 3:10 pm

A win will go a long way towards making this season more bearable. H2P!

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 11.08.13 @ 3:13 pm

Should be a great atmoshphere tmrw nite.
65K fans cheering for the blue and gold!!!!

Comment by Dan 11.08.13 @ 3:36 pm

@Emel, brother, whoa, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you take offense to anything!!! LOL

Comment by Dan 11.08.13 @ 3:37 pm

I believe the only thing I’ve ever taken offense to on here, was when Chas let the guest poster on here with some sort of rhyme or something. It evades me what it was about right now.

I remember some were offended on religious grounds, some by the vulgarity.

I was offended because it was so sophomoric, it belonged on the bathroom wall of a middle school!!! LMAO

Comment by Dan 11.08.13 @ 3:41 pm

JS: “and Father, you might like to know, Dr. Whatley is telling Catholic jokes”

Priest: “hmmmm”

JS: “not to mention all of the Jewish jokes”

Priest: “and Jerry, this offends you as a Jew?”

JS: “no, frankly it offends me as a comedian”!!!!

Ha ha ha, oh were those four people funny!!!

Comment by Dan 11.08.13 @ 3:44 pm

lol caught me in a solemn moment. I suppose.

I love the Irish beating up on all the Big Joke teams. Since they’ve been courting the Irish forever and ND gives them the finger. Gotta love that….right !

Comment by EMel 11.08.13 @ 3:48 pm

No…know your enemy….Savannah State…gametime in 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Only 4 games till:
Texas Tech
Pedo State

Comment by EMel 11.08.13 @ 3:50 pm

EMel: I stand by my comment insulting their hygeine.

Comment by Justin 11.08.13 @ 4:01 pm

Was looking at Savannah State. Last year they weren’t the usual doormat they have been in years past. They were 19-15 last year, 11-5 in conf. (MEAC)

They beat Robert Morris last year 61-52 and made it to the postseason. (CIT)

That said, their 3 Top scorers are gone, but the next 3 top scorers from last year are back.

PITT should still win by 30 !

H2P !
VeV !

Comment by EMel 11.08.13 @ 4:04 pm

Just thought of another reason we need to beat ND.

ND beat ASU.

By beating ND, ASU looks even worse than they are… I don’t think I have to point out the reasons why this is needed.

Comment by Benzene 11.08.13 @ 4:07 pm


Sav. State’s 2 tallest players are 6’9″.
However both are stringbeans at only 215 lbs.

Z should have a field day, Y too !

Comment by EMel 11.08.13 @ 4:09 pm

There is no way Pitt will win tomorrow evening. None! I wish there was and I will be there rooting with all my heart and soul but there is none. If I was betting on this game, I would bet my daughter’s college money and my mortgate on ND what ever the spread (much like I said agaisnt FSU) They will own us on both lines of scrimmage and like someone said, we will make Rees look like like Johnny U. with our High School Defense in the secondary.

In other news, I actually think Pitt’s Band may be as good as ND’s this year.

Comment by Dan 72 11.08.13 @ 4:09 pm

If the O-line is a little healthier, I think we win this game — might be close but I see either Conner or Bennett having a day. ND got pushed around by Michigan and UM isn’t all that great this year.

Comment by Matt N. 11.08.13 @ 4:23 pm

I like the way Bennett looked last week, even with the loss — he seems to have regained his quicks and cutting ability.

Comment by Matt N. 11.08.13 @ 4:24 pm

The trib is reporting that both King and Biz (and Gordon) will be back in the starting line up so hopefully the O-line has their best game of the year. We’re gonna need it. Gotta get a push on the runs and better protection on passes or this will get out of hand.

Comment by PittHW 11.08.13 @ 4:41 pm

Pitt needs to jump out early and put pressure on Rees and ND. This game very important for recruiting.

Comment by Frank MD 11.08.13 @ 5:32 pm

I miss not seeing the Bands on TV at halftime.
(and of course the flag girls, dance squads, etc.)

It’s a shame these talented kids put in a lot of time and effort and all we get at halftime these days is incessant talking heads telling us what we just saw in the 1rst half(like we need that). And of course their incessant banter on the fav’d teams, the usual suspects as it were.

I guess they couldn’t squeeze in enough commercials by showing the bands either. That’s always a factor of course, the amt of commercials is mind boggling in some of these games. They must hate Bashful for not using his timeouts ! lol

Comment by EMel 11.08.13 @ 6:22 pm

Zanna serving a one-game suspension tonight for violating team rules.

Comment by Mailman 11.08.13 @ 6:39 pm

Is game on TV, radio, web ?

Comment by Frank MD 11.08.13 @ 7:09 pm

espn.3 on computer

Comment by Frank MD 11.08.13 @ 7:13 pm

Pitt recruit Elijah Zeise separated shoulder in playoff game tonight. Not believed to be too serious. Was having a heck of a game before the injury.

Comment by Nick 11.08.13 @ 9:47 pm

I’ve never had the detest for ND that I have for Ped St., until the daughter of my second-in-command at work matriculated there. Now all I hear about is ND this, ND that from a person who didn’t even know the shape of a football until two years ago. I need a Pitt win for some bragging rights and silence from the office next to me.

I’m a half-empty Pitt fan most of the time, but for some reason I have a good feeling about this game. No reason but recent history, but I think Pitt pulls this one out.

I will be there in full 4-hour tailgate mode, ready to exorcise some Brian Kelly demons.

Comment by Iron Duke 11.08.13 @ 10:22 pm

Kovacevic puts Pitt on-campus FB stadium talk to rest…

link to

Comment by Jackagain 11.08.13 @ 10:38 pm

Can’t say I dislike ND though I like to see Pitt get a break and beat the Irish. Go Pitt from Rome, Italy! :-)

Comment by MariettaMike 11.09.13 @ 2:21 am

In Rome so I’ll be on the Blog at 4:00 am. Keep me posted. Thanks!

Comment by MariettaMike 11.09.13 @ 2:24 am

Ron English was fired as head coach at E. Michigan. Prior to that gig he was DC at Michigan and Louisville. PC should be on the phones to get him here even if it is for a year or two.

Comment by joel 11.09.13 @ 9:18 am

If we had an AD that was a little forward thinking – what a great night to break out the throw-backs with the script!!

Comment by markp 11.09.13 @ 9:57 am

The only time I root for Notre Dame is when they play Pedo St. Unfortunately, I see tonight being another ugly result. Our offense (i.e., Wanny Ver. 2.0) will continue trying to run into 8 man fronts; pass protection will be lousy and Savage will be eating dirt most of the time. On defense, the LBs & DBs will be playing way off and missing assignments. This from a defense returning 8 starters. Until DC House passes remedial defense 001, this won’t change. Be prepared for the scripted mantra, “We need to do a better job of coaching them up.” after this one. Gosh I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see it.

Comment by IowaPanther 11.09.13 @ 10:01 am

With penn state long gone and WVU riding off into the sunset also, Notre Dame is the only school left on Pitt’s schedule to hate!

Lets hope that all the pent up frustrations of Pitt’s last two games gets barfed right out on ND’s laps tonight, that would be just the catharsis that Pitt needs to feel a lot better about themselves at this point in the season.

It will be a great atmosphere tonight for a college football game. Nice and cold, packed stadium and playing our only opponent left to hate. Sounds like the perfect situation for a timely upset to me. We’ll be there in person to witness the outcome, whatever transpires.

Come on Coach Chryst and Co. put together a solid gameplan that demonstrates that you’ve finally pulled your heads out of your collective a$$es and have seen the light enough to compose a strategy that is capable of knocking off the Irish.

Hail to Pitt! Beat the Irish!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.09.13 @ 10:20 am

If you are a casual fan and you walk by Navy, GT, ND and Pitt playing you would have zero idea who any of the teams are. You see those colors and yiu think ND and Navy. Worst unis in NCAA but what do you expect from him.

Comment by Upittbaseball 11.09.13 @ 11:14 am

@upitt — from him, who? What is wrong with Pitt’s uniforms? I though Donald looked quite nice in Pitt’s road colors.

Comment by MariettaMike 11.09.13 @ 12:22 pm

Ped State is losing 10-0…it’s beautiful day already.

link to

Comment by Jackagain 11.09.13 @ 12:28 pm

@MariettaMike. You should be able to see the game at one or more of these sites:

link to

link to

link to

No need to download any player at any of these sites, especially

Comment by Jackagain 11.09.13 @ 12:31 pm

Wake losing to FSU by 35 (including 2 defensive scores) and it’s early in the second quarter. Maybe we’re not that bad.

Comment by Pitt Dad 11.09.13 @ 1:06 pm

Dr Tom, You are dead on right about the hate factor. This sucks , it’s kind of like when UConn’s Calhoun retired in hoops.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.09.13 @ 2:21 pm

[…] stretches of time but it came back in the second half and you can see the results. I said in my Know Your Enemy column “If the offense wants to score (without short fields caused by turnovers or special teams) […]

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