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November 13, 2013

Know Your Enemy: Tarheels

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Justin @ 2:13 pm

The UNC Tarheels are heading to Pittsburgh in a matchup between two teams desperate for a win. Both need a win to continue to change the perception of their season; UNC wants to prove they’re better than their 1-5 start and Pitt is eager to grow off of the Notre Dame upset that may have been a season-changer. UNC is hot; they’ve won three straight games by an average of 21 points. Pitt has lost two of their last three, but last week’s upset suggests they may be ready to put their mid-season struggles behind them. It’s safe to say UNC and Pitt have reasons to be optimistic headed into Saturday’s contest.

On offense, UNC is heavily QB oriented with athletic sophomore Marquise Williams at the helm. Senior QB Bryn Renner is out for the rest of the season, but the offense didn’t miss a beat against Virginia with 415 total yards and 31 points (14 were scored by an interception and punt return). Williams is a prototypical mobile QB; he’ll run a lot but will struggle with accuracy and footwork (only 58% completion). He makes up for that with big plays. He’s averaging 13.1 yards per completion which is nearly two yards better than Renner.

When Williams goes to the air he has two great options. TE Eric Ebron is one of the best TEs in the country and may go to the NFL early after this season. He’s capable of putting up huge numbers against good opposition; he had 8 receptions for 199 yards and a score against Miami in a close loss. Ebron can cover the whole field and presents a matchup nightmare like any talented TE. At WR, sophomore Quinshad Davis is quietly emerging as one of the top playmakers in the ACC. He’s tied with FSU’s Rashad Greene for the top spot in receiving touchdowns (8). At 14.6 yards per reception, he’s not just catching screen passes either.

The running game, however, leaves a lot to be desired. UNC is using a four RB rotation, which should tell you right away something is amiss. Those four have combined for 203 carries, only 873 yards, and 5 touchdowns. For perspective, James Conner and Isaac Bennett have combined for 211 carries, 1020 yards and 11 touchdowns. They’re 106th in the country in rushing offense, which is a pathetic number when you have a mobile QB with 247 yards on the ground. Pitt’s numbers are comparable, but the huge amount of sack yardage, which the NCAA oddly considers rushing yards, drops the total dramatically. UNC did get the running game going against Virginia last week, but UVA appears to be a team who has completely given up on their season with seven straight losses.

It may not be entirely the fault of the RBs though. Their OL leaves a lot to be desired in pass protection as well. They’re allowing an average of 2.4 sacks per game, good for 90th out of 125 teams. 106th in rushing yards and 90th in sacks per game? Their OL may be as bad as Pitt’s has been. Like Pitt, their OL is young and still in progress. However, LT James Hurst has NFL potential.

The one thing Pitt’s defense has to be ready for is a trick play. UNC has run a WR or RB pass type play four times this season. The result? Four completions for 143 yards and three touchdowns. If UNC gets down early, they’ll open up the playbook to try and catch Pitt napping. With a mobile QB and numerous players who can complete a pass, those types of things are always a concern.

If this offense is going to work, Marquise Williams (I like typing Marquise for some reason) has to find ways to get the ball to Ebron and Davis or else their offense is doomed. They can’t run the ball and they don’t have much in the way of playmakers outside of those three. Williams has thrown an interception in both starts (4 total on the season). If the defense can fluster him and keep him contained, the Tarheels will struggle to score. If he has time and space, he has the ability to make big plays. Pressure and containment from the DL will be a huge factor and expect Aaron Donald to take advantage of an inexperienced right side of the OL.

I normally recommend a QB spy against mobile QBs, but an incredible TE like Ebron requires extra help. A 1 on 1 with a LB or S is a matchup he wins 99% of the time. If you pull a guy from coverage, that’s the guy who should be helping with Ebron. I think we’ll see a bit more zone coverage this week along with more five or six man rushes. Since the DEs are struggling to pass rush, have them play a little containment on the outside and pressure up the middle. Force Marquise Williams into quick decisions.

On defense, UNC’s 4-2-5 is rather mediocre. They’re 71st in total yards (89th rushing, 32nd passing) but better at only 54th in points (25.2 ppg). They’re sacking the QB less than twice per game and average about the same in takeaways; both of which rank on the low side of the middle of the pack. Pitt has seen the 4-2-5 already this season from Duke and it’d be a dream come true to see similar results. UNC’s is slightly different in that on top of the hybrid S/LB, they have a hybrid DE/LB who will play off in more of a 3-3-5 look at times. It’s useful because you can move him to either side to take advantage of mismatches. 

There’s a reason UNC is 89th in rushing yards allowed: one less full blown LB means there’s one less big guy in the front seven. The 4-2-5 is more common in college football lately due to the usage of spread offenses; teams are afraid of speed on the outside, so they sacrifice strength on the inside. Establishing the run will be the key to scoring. When ECU dropped 55 points on this offense earlier in the season, they did so with 200+ rushing yards on the ground. Miami, South Carolina, Boston College, and Georgia Tech all ran the ball down the Tarheels’ throat for 200+ yards as well. Three of their past four opponents had 200+ rushing yards.

The key to UNC’s recent defensive improvement has been in the passing game. In the past three games, they’ve only allowed 391 yards through the air (130 per game) along with four interceptions, five sacks, and only one touchdown  (which was in junk time by UVA’s backup QB). It hasn’t exactly hurt that BC and UVA are two of the worst passing offenses in the ACC, but results are results.

This shows how critical it will be for Tom Savage to continue to play disciplined and find the open receiver. The offense must establish the run, avoid turnovers and big mistakes, then take their shots. The running game was barely good enough against ND to force them to respect it. Once it was there, deep shots were available. Get the hybrid S/LB creeping up to the line of scrimmage and the offense’s job will get a lot easier.

There are two other important factors regarding the game. First will be penalties. UNC is 114th in the nation in penalties per game. Even in an easy victory like last week against UVA, they had 13 penalties for 102 yards. A bunch of them were stupid penalties like illegal formation and false start. UNC puts Pitt to shame when it comes to shooting themselves in the foot. Second is home field advantage. Pitt has won every game but against FSU at home. UNC is 1-3 on the road. Pitt’s offense plays a lot better at Heinz Field.

I think Pitt will scratch and claw to a close victory, 27-24. The offense likes home field and pulls off the win thanks to a huge game from James Conner, who takes advantage of the 4-2-5.





And yes, I know it’s Tar Heels. I don’t care.

Comment by Justin 11.13.13 @ 2:14 pm

I haven’t watched UNC much this year, but when I did I noted that they play very fast. The players fly around the ball. Even in the midst of their losing streak the UNC players were streaks rushing around on offense and defense. I don’t know how Pitt will match up because we have a reputation for being slow. I hope we can pull a Stanford over Oregon type of game.

Comment by Caw Miller 11.13.13 @ 2:25 pm

Caw, I was thinking the same thing .. the power run game straight ahead, and mix with some play action.

Comment by wbb 11.13.13 @ 2:37 pm

Not sure the bubble screens that HCPC likes to call will work vs the Heels

Comment by wbb 11.13.13 @ 2:44 pm

Not to take the anything away from the football game, but can someone explain to me Mostella’s deal? Is he going to play this season? Is he even on campus?

Comment by Snacks 11.13.13 @ 2:47 pm

Excellent breakdown. I watched UNCs last two games and one earlier this season as well. I completely agree with everything you said. Running the ball effectively, not throwing interceptions, and avoiding the trick play will decide it.

I look for us to use Parrish at FB as means of helping Conner/Bennett get through the Dline and get to the second level defenders. Parrish has done a good job as lead blocker all year. Savage has to continue to protect the ball. I believe UNC scored 2 TDs on interceptions last week, not one, but I could be wrong. Either way, they’ve needed interceptions to get points and stops. Our offense running the ball and avoiding turnovers will also keep their offense off the field.

Defensively we need to find a way to manage those 3 guys, which won’t be an easy task. AD will help a lot when it comes to Marquis (you’re right, it’s fun to type). Most importantly as you note, we can’t get burned on a trick play.

I’d add one thing though, their kicker hasn’t been great lately. He’s missed 2 fieldgoals and an extra point in the last two games. Finding a way to cotnain them on kick returns, will be important. We can’t let them score or get especially good field position.

I expect us to win though, 28-21 type game like last saturday.

Comment by PittHW 11.13.13 @ 3:14 pm

It seems asking about Mostella is a weekly event here.

The answer remains that nobody knows for sure, probably not even JD. He did not pass NCAA clearinghouse, and at the earliest, he will be enrolled in the upcoming semester. However, from what I have read, it’s becoming more and more likely that it will be next year.

Comment by wbb 11.13.13 @ 3:15 pm

@Comment by Snacks 11.13.13 @ 2:47 pm

Academics… has not qualified.

The lower his GPA is, the higher is test scores need to be. It’s pretty straight forward.

link to fs.ncaa.org

Comment by BostonsCommon 11.13.13 @ 3:42 pm

Just be happy Gio is playing for the Bengals…

Comment by Upittbaseball 11.13.13 @ 4:16 pm

I’ve seen this Eric Ebron, their TE, play several times. He’s 6-4, like 250lbs. Best TE I’ve seen in college since Kellen Winslow. I don’t know who’s going to be attempting to cover him, as he’s too big for a Safety and too fast for a LB.

Only guy I think we have who can come close to matching up is Todd Thomas.

Have Thomas cover him regardless of what side of the line he lines up on. Don’t know if we have any zone schemes that would allow for that.

Maybe Justin does .

Comment by EMel 11.13.13 @ 4:41 pm

@wbb, I am very interested in where you read it would be next year on Mostella?

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.13.13 @ 4:47 pm

I am all for students actually getting an education and would hope that if Mostella eventually makes it to Pitt that he get the full benefit of a good education for his athletic commitment. Still I don’t think it is very fair that Kentucky gets to roll kids in a half dozen at a clip and rolls ‘em back out to the NBA without ever having to complete a full year in the classroom. This system is being yanked to the extreme. I’m glad we aren’t a 1 and done factory even if it means letting teams like that have a big advantage. Winning is great but I much prefer Pitt kids being actual students who matriculate.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.13.13 @ 5:02 pm

I think the best way to beat a TE like Ebron is to accept that he’s going to catch the ball and make plays, you just can’t let him dominate. He’ll get 4-6 catches for 50-100 yards. The key is to keep him closer to that 50. You can’t shut down great players, you contain them.

Comment by Justin 11.13.13 @ 5:06 pm

I also noticed that North Carolina has a star player who is likely to play after being arrested with drugs in the car he was driving without a license. To make matters worse the car was rented to a convicted felon at the time. I would hope if that were to happen here we would have enough sense to end our relationship with such a player. Winning is important but what is the thrill if you can’t at least appear to be a place where we want our children to go to school. It looks pretty obvious what’s important in Chapel Hill.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.13.13 @ 5:11 pm

Was listening to the Larry Fedora Radio show last nite. Which I do pretty much every Tuesday nite.
ikr. lol

This guy as Justin mentioned, loves his trick plays.
Expect to see a WR (more likely) or a RB, off a pitch or a reverse, throw a bomb to a streaking Ebron or WR as they’re going to try to suck the deep Safety help, up closer to the LOS. Similar to what ND did in their 80 yd TD throw.

Somebody even asked him from the audience at the Top of the Hill, where the radio show is broadcast from. what his favorite trick plays were. Fedora just laughed and said that was ‘secret info’ in so many words.

From a UNC perspective, here’s how they graded their last game against common opponent, the Cavaliers of Virginia.

link to keepingitheel.com

Comment by EMel 11.13.13 @ 5:25 pm

@ Justin

After reading that article I linked, apparently Ebron & Williams(the 2nd string QB) aren’t exactly on the same page as of yet. Renner & Ebron were.

Let’s hope that continues on Saturday.

Comment by EMel 11.13.13 @ 5:38 pm

I hate to rain on the newly organized Pitt parade spontaneously created after the fantastic win over Notre Dame but if Pitt doesn’t have a letdown against North Carolina, I will be completely surprised!

As already mentioned, NC plays FAST and has the potential to be a good football team. Pitt does not match up well against them.

We talked about “measuring stick” games earlier in the season, this is another one of those games. This game will demonstrate whether this young team has the mental fortitude to overcome it’s own good fortunes. If we win, it will be because the coaching staff and the older players/leaders of this team have gotten through to the younger players that you have to fight for every single win!

It doesn’t matter if it is against Duke or Miami, if you expect to waltz into the game and expect to just have the other team lay down for you then YOU LOSE!

Unfortunately I think that Pitt will learn that hard life lesson on Saturday. I hope that I’m wrong.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.13.13 @ 5:42 pm

Dont underestimate UNC’s ability to shoot its in the foot though, Dr. Tom. We may play to lose, but UNC might not less us. They’re one of the most highly penalized team in the FBS.

I also just don’t think they can beat us unless we turn the ball over. Savage has been very good of late in that category.

Comment by PittHW 11.13.13 @ 5:51 pm

For our historically minded bloggers. I like this one the best.

Tarheel:

One such legend claims it to be a nickname given during the U.S. Civil War, because of the state’s importance on the Confederate side, and the fact that the troops “stuck to their ranks like they had tar on their heels”.[2]

The term “Tar Heel” gained popularity during the Civil War.[3]

Sidenote: The last major Confederate Army (90,000 strong) , The Army of Tennessee, under General Joseph Johnston surrendered in Durham North Carolina, AFTER Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox 3 weeks earlier.
Ironically, General Johnston had been the overall Confederate commander in the war’s first battle in 1861, First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas) Johnston, post-war, eventually became a US Congressman and then Commissioner of Railroads in the Grover Cleveland Administration.

Comment by EMel 11.13.13 @ 5:59 pm

Who are you and what have you done to Dr. Tom?

Although, I agree with you, I miss the old Rah Rah Dr. Tom.

I just think we are hoping that light bulbs have turned on and with it the tide.

Football is a game of momentum, we hope that we have it for two more games.

We had bad luck for two, good luck for one, is it too much to ask that our luck hold for at least one more game?

Never expected you to turn to the dark side. LOL

Comment by gc 11.13.13 @ 6:35 pm

Good historical tip EMel — good research.

Some of the prettiest girls I’ve known have been North Carolina gals or of Carolina extraction — despite that, lets deny them the happy ending Saturday…sorry ladies, but bless your hearts!

Comment by Matt N. 11.13.13 @ 6:38 pm

Ah, who am I kidding…if some blue-eyed brunette with a Carolina accent was quietly sniffing after a loss, what kind of western PA boy would I be not to comfort her?!

Comment by Matt N. 11.13.13 @ 6:43 pm

Former Schenley High grad Greg Blair makes AAC honor roll with a 10 tackle performance against SMU last week. How did we let him get away?

Comment by alcofan 11.13.13 @ 7:37 pm

spirit, I read about Mostella’s status on Dokish blog well over a month ago. He cited some web site as saying it looks like Mostella probably won’t be at Pitt until next fall, but he remains committed to the program

Comment by wbb 11.13.13 @ 7:45 pm

spiritofsection22 – I’ve been wondering about that one-and-done turnover at Calipari U. Don’t schools have to maintain a certain graduation rate or they start to lose scholarships?

Comment by KeyboardKev 11.13.13 @ 7:54 pm

KEV, You would think. These 1 and done guys could go on probation for the first semester and never go to class the second and still play. I bet you that is exactly what they do at Kentucky too. It caught up with Calhoun at UConn.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.13.13 @ 8:06 pm

wbb, Thanks, everything I read says this kid will be a major contributor. I think Dixon is a very good guard coach and with the right kids he might get us knocking on the door again. Did you see Wright last night? He has really stepped his game up.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.13.13 @ 8:11 pm

I’ve wondered about the 1 and done myself … obviously I don’t get the gist of how the NCAA measures/grades these things

Comment by wbb 11.13.13 @ 8:34 pm

Anyone else see Jameis Winston is locked in an 11 month investigation for sexual assault?

link to collegefootballtalk.nbcsports.com

Comment by tedsptman 11.13.13 @ 8:41 pm

That’s right Matt N

We must console these Southern beauties after we whip their butts on Sat. haha

Comment by EMel 11.13.13 @ 10:08 pm

OT….good article on Joe Walton here. I hope RMU wins out this year for him.

link to triblive.com

Comment by Jackagain 11.13.13 @ 11:16 pm

This game is starting to look like another Duke game to me. I don’t like the looks of this Marquise guy either….

link to triblive.com

Comment by Jackagain 11.13.13 @ 11:23 pm

BBall Scores of Note: ( & future opponents)

New Hampshire 84
Duquesne 81 (Dukes had a 4 pt halftime lead but folded down the stretch at Palumbo)

Bucknell 90 (use to date a Southern gal named Gaynell, ikr) (she was a hottie strawberry blond)
Pedo State 80 (Pedo State has the dubious distinction of being the 1st Big Joke team to lose a game, go figure) (a whopping 4600 bored souls were in attendance at Creepy Valley, counting little boys in the locker room/showers)

Old Dominion 77
Howard 57

Navy 98
Goucher 47 (Don’t ask)

Mercer 95
Reinhardt 53 (Col. Klink graduated from here)

Eastern Kentucky 114
Warren Wilson 45 (not to be confused with Warren’s older brother, Woodrow. Warren owned the largest KFC in Kentucky)

Texas-Arlington 111
Howard Paine 64 (Howard was Thomas’s lesser known brother, he wrote a smaller, less well known pamphlet called ‘No Common Sense’. While it was not well received in the 18th century, it’s making a revival in the 21rst century, since Obamacare has launched.

The scores & commentary you won’t see on ESPN.

Comment by EMel 11.13.13 @ 11:32 pm

@@@@@@@

To Emell: enjoyed the humor. Always read the morning
BB scores. Lots of obscure schools play hoops however
you referenced several new ones.

Net on This week’s game: UNC is a tough matchup; we need to run the ball for 200 yards and score while keeping their
skill guys off the field; sack the QB!

UNC likes to think they are an Ivy…..however lots of cheating
and fraud has happened in recent years. Such as summer school Afro-American studies course taught by a professor who was not even in the country and most of the students were BB players. FYI everyone who took the course passed. And you guys thought Uconn cheated?

Comment by JR 11.14.13 @ 6:29 am

when Ped State plays at the Pete next month, I hope the Zoo starts to yell “WE AREN’T .. PENN STATE”

Comment by wbb 11.14.13 @ 7:01 am

2948 pitt tickets available on Stubhub

454 psu tickets available vs purdue

You have to admit they have loyal fans

We need to learn some of their brainwashing techniques.

Comment by gc 11.14.13 @ 7:24 am

Pitt graduates too intelligent and too diverse to be brainwashed. LOL

Comment by gc 11.14.13 @ 7:26 am

I took a continuing ed program from their business department a few years ago. Brainwashing even a part of that. Spent at least a half hour on the virtues of PSU. Greatness of Paterno etc. Threw up in my mouth a little.

Comment by gc 11.14.13 @ 7:31 am

Just remember Blatherites – PSU people have nothing else to do in that Farm they call a School except go to the football games. Pittsburgh actually has culture and other distractions. They are not so loyal to their hoops team, are they?

Comment by RogerH 11.14.13 @ 8:42 am

@Emel Pretty girls. Whipping their butts. No comment.

@wbb Love it. WE AREN’T…PENN STATE

I still want the dance vid on the big screen at Heinz Field.

H2P Stick it to the Tarheels

Comment by pmdH2P 11.14.13 @ 8:48 am

@ gc, I’m still here my friend, just trying to “keep it real” while limiting the amount of Pitt Koolaid that I’ve consuming since Saturday.

I’m not on board about “game momentum” carrying over from week to week. Momentum is fleeting and appears and evaporates in an instant. A very good example of how we lose the ND game is that inexplicable play when Savage’s arm was hit and he fumbled right into the hands of a ND lineman and NO ONE recovers the fumble for like 3 seconds. Right there was a perfect example of Pitt getting really, really lucky! That was a returned fumble for a TD if any of the 3 or 4 ND players that were around that ball continue to ploay until they hear a whistle.

Those are the kind of circumstances that create a major shift in momentum, not something that happened a week ago in a totally different game. They get that score, Pitt loses!

Last week, Pitt matched up well against ND. The Vegas point spread showed that, plus Pitt always gets up for ND. Don’t get me wrong, momentum and playing with controlled emotion is essential to bring home a win, but those factors occur within the moment of the current contest, that’s why it’s called “MOMENT”UM.

Irrespective of what happens in the next three games, you can never take that ND win away from those Pitt players, job well done, but it is only one game! IMO, that game means little going forward. What are you going to do about the Tarheels is what I want to know, and like I’ve already mentioned earlier, I don’t think that Pitt matches up well against these guys.

UNC is fast, they play fast and their new starting QB is dangerous when he tucks the ball and runs. The key to a Pitt win won’t be what our offense does, although as others have agreed on, a solid Pitt running game will be a key if our offense is going to put up points on these guys. But the real key will be pressure on Williams. Aaron Donald will probably be double teamed all night, my question is who steps up to create pressure and containment on their mobile QB, BESIDES AD?

This contest is a perfect situation for a “trap game”, UNC is a good football team, a fast football team, a football team that could easily hand Pitt their fifth loss if we come into it unprepared and flat.

That was the only thing that I was previously exposing. This is still the same team that lost to Navy and Ga. Tech. Just because we were lucky enough to win against ND means NOTHING!

IF Pitt wins on Saturday, I will be overjoyed, this is just the type of game that a “young” team will drop the ball on if they decide to coast in their preparation for. If the Pitt defense does show up for this one and brings home a win, it demonstrates to me that this young team is in the process of burying the “Same Old Pitt” mentality. We’ll see soon enouogh.

As always, Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.14.13 @ 8:49 am

A few things…

I want to see deep attempts and completions against NC and I want to see Ibrahim get more touches, especially on passes out of the backfield.

If the NC defense is really as fast as advertised then counter it with sitting down Holtz and playing Garner in his place. I think we have underused Garner all season long anyway. He’s the type of player who can take a short crossing or hook route a long way after the reception.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Grigsby or Bradley on the field more on Saturday. Both are as fast or faster than Gonzalez and are quicker in reaction time off the snap IMO.

As mentioned above Parrish is turning out to be a very good FB to run behind and his pass blocking has gotten better each week. We haven’t used him much as a ball carrier/receiver but if you remember he was slated as an H-Back at first so he can move.

That might surprise and offset a fast rush if done a few times. I’d like to see him on a wheel route once or twice as we did with Hynoski sometimes. Parrish hasn’t lost yardage on a carry yet so I’d like to see him get three or four carries a game also.

Conner needs to understand exactly what his own strength is and team up with following Parrish on North-South rushing plays through the LOS. After Conner gets to that second level of defense then he is able to pick up extra yards with both his power and his surprising speed.

IMO we have to do a hell of a lot better on the ground and keep winning the Turnover battles for us to have shots at winning the last three games.

One last thing and this could be very big for 2014. WR Ronald Jones, (who I think is very good) will be eligible to play and his teaming up with Voytik could show some excellent results. Look at what he did in part time playing in 2011. He was injured for most of 2012.

link to espn.go.com

… just throwing it out for thoughts.

Comment by Reed 11.14.13 @ 9:01 am

It is easy to point to the Defense against a team like Carolina as the make or break point, but the key will be our offense taking advantage of a UNC defense that can be run on. We need to keep the ball, run clock and beat them down. We need to score TD’s in the red zone and not come up short with FG’s like we did against Navy. Keep their O off the field and out of sync.

I propose something else for pressure. Murphy and Durham have done a very good job of keeping contain this season. Almost too well, as they have apparently been coached to take an outside lane at all costs. They contain, but in doing so our coaches have more or less given up on mixing up the opponents OLine and taken them out of being able to go inside, chase the QB. We need to run some twists and X stunts with our LB’s and move Aaron D around in where he lines up. This is quite simple – if we line up with this bend but don’t break crap and have a coaching staff scared to death about a mobile QB we lose. Mark it down. I’d blitz his ass and keep coming and take some chances. If our coaches revert back to the 8 and 10 yard cushion we also lose. Hit them at the line occasionally and mix things up on an inexperienced QB.

Comment by PittMan 11.14.13 @ 9:17 am

Yes, a LETDOWN is a real possibility Saturday.

The question is “IF Pitt loses, is it really a “LETDOWN?”

Let me see, against Notre Dame, turnovers were THREE to ZERO in Pitt’s favor? A fumble in the RED ZONE, an interception in the END ZONE.

Yes, it is an understatement of SEISMIC PROPORTIONS to say “Luck did not go the way of the Irish.”

This Saturday, the question will once again be posed, “Exactly how good is Pitt?”

Now, the challenge is likely to be greater this Saturday given how unlikely it is that Pitt will find it so fortunate in the turnover game and the NC is widely considered to be better than its record. Even so, salvation at the foot of the TARHEEL is possible!

If it comes, it will come in the way of another TOTAL TEAM PERFORMANCE which in two seasons is becoming the trademark of a Paul Chryst coached team when things fall into place.

And wihtout question, there is no more important part of the team when things fall into place than those “BIG PALOOKAS” on the O-Line who… after weeks of hibernation… FINALLY had their official “Coming Out Party” last weekend.

The challenge becomes even greater when you consider the fact that those Tarheels the PALOOKAS will be blocking will not be the MONSTER SLUGS from South Bend that were pushed around last Saturday. These Tarheels… you might say… are pretty fleet of foot.

But, I am keeping the faith. If the pattern from last year holds true… a TOTAL TEAM PERFORMANCE under Chryst can be expected to be followed by another… as it did twice in 2012.

But “IF” the “LETDOWN” against NC comes to be… OH the VITRIOL that will once again spew forth from those who did not give these Panthers a chance against the Irish.

But never fear. Pitt does play Miami this year.

Comment by PittofDreams 11.14.13 @ 9:57 am

Motsella recently tweeted that he will be eligible to play next semester. I, however, wonder if they will redshirt him since he will have little time to practice with the team. Transitioning from playing against high school opponents to playing against Duke, UNC and Syracuse with a bunch of relatively unknown teammates is asking a lot out of an 18-year-old kid.

Comment by PatMac 11.14.13 @ 10:23 am

@Emel, The 4600 crowd at the Penn St game was attracted by a $1 hot dog promotion. My son is a senior there and went to take advantage of the bargain cuisine. Before we laugh too hard we might want to count heads at our own Sunday evening tilt at the Pete against mighty Howard. While all the seats are sold we will be lucky to break 5k fans in attendance. Maybe we should try the dollar dog discount to draw a crowd.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.14.13 @ 10:54 am

Reed,

I think we see what kind of back Conner can be on the goal line. When you only have to get 1-3 yards, dancing doesn’t help. He’s been immensely successful on those goal line carries because he’s only thinking about going full steam ahead.

Comment by Justin 11.14.13 @ 11:21 am

Just dug around. Of Conner’s 6 touchdowns, 4 of them were 3 yards or fewer: goal line carries. Of the other 2, one was 6 yards, still a shortish type carry. Conner is one heck of a short yardage back and will be a great companion to a game breaker like Chris James or Shai McKenzie.

Honestly, I’d like to see Conner as the #3 back and a DE. #3 back gets short yardage runs only (maybe 3-5 per game) so he won’t wear himself out on those runs.

With Ollison, Briggs, and hopefully James or McKenzie, we’ll add 3 new bodies to RB and hopefully James or McKenzie ends up a big time starter early on. Bennett graduates, then it’s James/McKenzie, Ollison/Briggs, Conner as the top 3. Move Ibrahim back to the secondary where we need more help.

Comment by Justin 11.14.13 @ 11:26 am

@SofS22, is the rumor true that in Happy Valley they call hot dogs “Sandusky Sausages”?

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.14.13 @ 11:36 am

@Dr Tom

We can only hope that Sandusky is getting his due in prison. Learning what it is like to be on the other side of the equation.

H2P Stick it to the Tarheels

Comment by pmdH2P 11.14.13 @ 11:45 am

@ Reed & PofD, very good points from both of you. Yes, the “VITRIOL” will return with renewed vigor when Pitt puts it’s next loss on the board, for sure. It always amazes me, the lack of posts this site gets the week following a win, but after a loss, the naysayers all crawl out from the woodwork to spout their opinions on why Pitt sucks this week. Very perplexing?

I’ve been accused this week of going to “the dark side” myself, but to the contrary, I’m just trying to get people to understand that we must keep an even keel throughout the entire season, no matter what just happened or what lays directly ahead. One win, even against those self rightous basterds from Notre Dame does not make a season, not by a long shot. This team has the potential to have won every game on it’s schedule. We even caught FSU at the perfect time to open the season, even though FSU proved, without a doubt, that Pitt was waaaaay overmatched by the likes of Winston&Co. But we could run the table in these last three games if everything falls perfectly into place for Pitt, but we could just as easily not win another game for the balance of the season ending our season on the day after Thanksgiving. There is still so much about this team and their potential that remains a mystery.

I like where Pitt is headed, but the good things that are transpiring with the program are not obvious or directly related, just yet, in our win loss record. I’d love to see a win on Saturday, I think that it would go a long way in demonstrating this young team’s mental focus, being able to move forward, concentrating on the task at hand, next foe, rather than reminiscing on the previous week’s come from behind underdog victory over the Domers. Call me pessimistic, but I’m just not feeling it this week, PLEASE, prove me wrong Panthers and beat the frickin tar out of those Heels!

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.14.13 @ 12:00 pm

Speaking of our favorite pedofile, I saw on a local (Erie) newscast that there’s a nitter who is on a mission to restore the jopa statue. Problem is no one will tell him where it is. They even asked the governor if he knew where the statue is. His reply: I’m not gonna get involved in that.

Made me smile.

Comment by dinosaur 71 11.14.13 @ 12:02 pm

@ pmdH2P, two thumbs up on that from me!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.14.13 @ 12:02 pm

@Reed 11.14.13 @ 9:01 am, you’re exactly right. Couldn’t agree more.

For those understandably concerned about the let down, I think the team realizes that with only 3 games left, and 2 being against Miami and another on the road, UNC at home is the key game. Getting bowl eligible right now, this week, is something that will make them sharp and help them focus. If this were earlier in the year I think we have a bigger concern but so close to the end with so few opportunities left, I like our chances. The coaches and players know the end is near.

I honestly don’t think UNC can beat us at home if we don’t throw an interception or fumble the ball and we don’t give up a special teams score. They score a lot of points on special teams and D. If we can avoid turnovers and play decent special teams D, UNC won’t score enough to beat us.

Comment by PittHW 11.14.13 @ 12:37 pm

That’s a lot of “ifs” PittHW! Those kind of self inflicted wounds are what has me worried for Pitt this week. No matter, I’ll still be there, once again in the stands, hollaring my butt off as usual.

Funny story, last week at the ND game was the first time that I can remember that nobody yelled my way during the game to “SIT THE HELL DOWN”! I even had one guy on the way out after the big win thank me for getting the crowd that was behind us, up off their butts to help raise the noise level during those pivitol plays late in the game. Imagine that?

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.14.13 @ 1:00 pm

I’m with PittofD … if we lose, I believe it will be more of a match-up issue than a letdown.

BTW, both back-up CBs (Howard and Coles) are out .. replaced by Pardner and Banks

I know I sound like a former coach but if we are able to run and control the clock, and not turn the ball over … we can win.

Comment by wbb 11.14.13 @ 1:22 pm

It was interesting this last weekend in that when we played ND two years ago there were lots of ND fans in my section (visitors side but the sunny side). This year not only were there less of them but there were empty seats. I am in row C and didn’t have to worry about folks standing in front of me and the folks behind me did’t complain about me standing either, they were all Pitt fans also!!!!!!!

Comment by EriePAnther 11.14.13 @ 1:23 pm

Conversely, I was in 5th deck on visitor’s side and surrounded by ND fans … amazing how quiet they were in 4th quarter.

Comment by wbb 11.14.13 @ 1:26 pm

I have a conference to attend in downtown Cleveland on Saturday at 3:30. (Who the hell does such a thing?) I plan on sneaking the game in but I think its only on ESPN Gameplan outside of PGH. Anyone know of a good sports bar in downtown Cleveland area? Hopefully I won’t get my ass kicked for wearing a Pitt polo.

Comment by AJ 11.14.13 @ 2:21 pm

AJ, West 6th .. in Warehouse district or East 6th .. near the baseball field, whatever they call it now. Places like Panini’s. Blind Pig and Bar Louie’s are located there that should carry the game

WUAB, an independent channel in Cleveland is part of the ACC network

Comment by wbb 11.14.13 @ 3:10 pm

Panini’s is actually on Huron Ave, 2 blocks up from Progressive Field .. a handful of bars in that area

Warehouse District is west side of downtown up towards the FB stadium

Comment by wbb 11.14.13 @ 3:16 pm

@AJ, While drinking in Cleveland you might not want to revisit Frankcan and Emel’s recent rants concerning Ohio St. My guess is the Buckeye faithful might not be quite as amenable to their perspective as us Blatherites.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.14.13 @ 3:37 pm

From the Tar Heels Blog on their UVA game: UNC was “flagged 13 times for 102 yards, and two more penalties were declined. Moreover, there were all types of penalties – holding, false starts, illegal formations, ineligible men downfield (caused by a mixed-up formation), interference penalties.”

Comment by PittHW 11.14.13 @ 3:37 pm

Damn. this is not the game we want our weak DBs out there …

“BTW, both back-up CBs (Howard and Coles) are out .. replaced by Pardner and Banks

Comment by PittHW 11.14.13 @ 3:42 pm

Well stated, Dr. Tom. If history has taught us anything about Pitt football, it is this kind of a trap game Pitt usually blows.

Comment by TonyinHouston 11.14.13 @ 3:44 pm

just checked Time-Warner lineip in my area – East Cleveland. 2 ACC games showing — VT Vs MD and BC vs someone?. Pitt-UNC not on …. however, a sports bar may have a satellite hookup to it.

OSU plays Ill at noon … keep away from those A-holes, trouble is most people there probably be Buck fans

Comment by wbb 11.14.13 @ 3:47 pm

Section 120 in the lower endzone toward the visitors side. ND fans everywhere in full obnoxious mode. The guys right behind me were the dumbest most uninformed football “fans” I have ever encountered. I thoroughly enjoyed chanting Go Home Irish as loud as possible as they sulked to the exits.

Comment by Nick 11.14.13 @ 3:53 pm

Thanks WBB and Spirit of Section 22. I never considered verbal abuse from Buckeyes fans haha, I thought I would get it from Browns fans under the assumption that because I went to Pitt, I’m a Steelers fan. I’m actually a Bills fan so between Pitt and the Bills, it’s been another rough year of football.

Comment by AJ 11.14.13 @ 3:53 pm

@AJ, For about the last 10 years I have found Browns fans to be very humble. So many consecutive sorry teams has taken its toll on their spirit. With the Steelers sucking so bad they are likely be reborn. You being a Bills fan however means you likely aren’t smart enough to try to stay under the radar. Your on your own. If WBB and I are going to get in a fight in Cleveland it won’t be to bail out a Bills fan.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.14.13 @ 4:21 pm

in 2016 the ACC bb will be in washington dc it is not NY but it is the next best thing better then
NC

Comment by Frankcan 11.14.13 @ 7:32 pm

Only a 4 hour drive.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.14.13 @ 7:43 pm

@ AJ

If you happen to be strolling past the Ritz Carlton in Cleve. their concierge will surely lead you in the right direction. Just go in and pretend you’re staying there. That is if you’re not !

Comment by EMel 11.14.13 @ 8:49 pm

Pardner has some experience at DB and played well in the nickle last season. Banks is a wildcard though.

@Justin – Conner has a 4.7 YPC average and fits the mold of the Big Back that Chryst loved while he was at UW. Conner is almost exactly the same size and has the same running style as John Clay was at Wisconsin – Clay had 3415 yards in three seasons as a starter weighing in at 6’1″ & 250. Conner is currently 6’2″ and 240 coming out of camp.

I believe that Chryst is intent on replicating his Wisconsin offenses with those big OL recruits we have already on board and coming in and he wants a Big Back and a more shifty speedster back in the backfield.

In essence I think we’ll see Conner get even more PT and carries at RB over the next few years with a better OL which I think will improve year to year. If anyone gets supplanted by a star recruit like Washington or James it will be Bennett, who graduates next season.

Comment by Reed 11.15.13 @ 8:11 am

Reed, from the Trib this morning:

Short bursts — Pitt’s longest runs from scrimmage in each game this season:

Opponent Yards Player

Florida State 20 Tyler Boyd

New Mexico 38 James Conner

Duke 40 Conner

Virginia 16 Rachid Ibrahim

Virginia Tech 12 Isaac Bennett

Old Dominion 31 Bennett

Navy 12 Bennett

Georgia Tech 7 Bennett

Notre Dame 11 Bennett
——————————————
Obviusly, Pitt does not have a homerun threat at RB. Yes, I know of Bennett’s speed, etc but it would certainly help if we can get a breakaway RB threat in this year’s recruiting class.

Comment by wbb 11.15.13 @ 8:53 am

wbb – yes I think every team wants that. Perhaps the latest recruit?

Comment by Reed 11.16.13 @ 5:08 am

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