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November 19, 2013

You can have the best facilities. A world-class training staff. Everything you need or could possibly want. And injuries will still happen. Just ask Florida this year. Or just go back to the 2011 season.

Pitt had a couple early bye weeks in the first half of the season and has now played six straight games. It can’t be terribly surprising that injuries are starting to happen with what seems increasing frequency.

Cornerbacks Trenton Coles and Titus Howard were the latest to join that group this week, as Pitt has suffered through a rash of injuries over the past few weeks, costing them a number of starters and key contributors.

In addition to the two cornerbacks, starting left guard Cory King (hamstring) and left tackle Adam Bisnowaty (back) also missed a 34-27 loss Saturday against North Carolina. Backup tight end Scott Orndoff has missed the past two games and appeared on the field for warm-ups Saturday with a sizable brace on his left leg. Defensive end Ejuan Price has missed the past four games with a back injury.

Add in (hopefully) a minor ankle to Devin Street and knee injury to Tom Savage and everyone begins to wonder.

Chryst said Monday he wasn’t sure if there was a common theme among the injured players.

“You’re concerned about them and you don’t know what drove those,” he said. “They could’ve just happened. You want to know if it’s something we’re doing here and you go through it and try to answer it. “

I have some serious questions and doubts about Strength and Conditioning Coach Todd Rice. Hell, up until the past couple of games, where Pitt finally was playing better in the second half rather than the first, I was really questioning if the S&C program was lacking in building any stamina with the team. In no way, though, would I consider blaming his program for the various injuries.

Coles and Howard are out because of head injuries. Bisnowaty and Price had back injuries that you can never predict where, when or for how long they will last. Street and Savage were hurt on the field. Not really seeing much of a pattern.

Plus, while there are injuries, it isn’t a voluminous pile. It is merely amplified by happening in a small space and the overall lack of depth on the team. Especially on the O-line.

The O-line where the reduced depth means players having to be doing more. Less chance to help a younger player that is just starting at this level. That seems to be a major factor in why Dorian Johnson has struggled so badly the last couple of games. He’s not just filling in for an injured player — left tackle Bisnowaty. The left guard — King — is also out.

To me, that has as much to do with why Coach Chryst had to pull him to play senior Juantez Hollins. Hollins obviously doesn’t have the potential. He’s clearly remained in the doghouse. But he is experienced and can be trusted out there a little more at this point.

“At the time, I thought (Hollins) would give us a little better chance than what we were doing at the time,” Chryst said. “Dorian did some very good things, in many ways played better than Georgia Tech. I thought he made some progress from start one to start two.”

Lingering more after the loss was not the injuries, but two punt returns for touchdowns by UNC. The fact that Pitt does not designate a special teams coach on the staff has raised questions. That goes to the decisionmaking by Coach Chryst on how he organizes his staff and priorities.

That has Coach Chryst a tad defensive. In both his choices and protecting whatever coach was responsible for overseeing punt coverage.

Pitt doesn’t have a coach whose sole responsibility is special teams, but coach Paul Chryst said he will accept the blame for North Carolina’s two touchdowns on punt returns. “We have an individual coach in charge of each phase and, ultimately, I’m responsible for them all,” he said. “If (people) want to blame someone, they can blame me.” Pitt allowed North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer to average 42 yards on three returns, including the two decisive scores.

That’s neat of Coach Chryst to accept the blame. But, um, that really doesn’t answer the question of who the hell is the coach that has been handling punt coverage? Dammit, we need someone to blame.

wbb, forgot about Cook and I can’t believe Murphy has eligibility left, seems like he’s been here forever. He made some plays this year, but I remember when he was considered a future superstar to follow Romeus and Sheard.

Comment by gc 11.20.13 @ 8:28 am

Murphy, along with the other Red Shirt Juniors are the last bunch recruited by DW, although they never got to play for him.

Wow, have they been through a lot.

Comment by gc 11.20.13 @ 8:43 am

Guys – The weather in Boise is nice. You won’t need long johns….Hell of a lot better than Burg in Winter… I was there a few weeks back. On the turf and all.

Comment by Upittbaseball 11.20.13 @ 9:03 am

Have you noticed how much time the eternal optimists want? It’s always two more years, next season, in four years…that’s the kind of talk a program stuck in the muck generates.

Gee in four years Pitt will win….9 games?

Comment by TonyinHouston 11.20.13 @ 9:04 am

@gc, even though I’ve developed the profile as a Pitt Koolaid abuser over the years here on the Pitt Blather, I honestly just try to analyse and comment on the situations as realistically as possible from my perspective. I’ve been following the Panthers forever and therefore was quite aware that last week was just ripe for a Pitt letdown game, especially since UNC didn’t match up well against the Panthers and they have a lot of F A S T guys on their squad (like their punt returner).

This week, Syracuse is just the type team that we should be able to rebound on to capture our bowl eligibility game. Syracuse’s injury report will be a long list, come Thursday ACC’s disclosure, with a bunch of guys out or questionable for the game. The Orange secondary looks the most negatively impacted by the recent spat of injuries from the FSU game.

Like I said above, I think that the team that captures the momentum early and holds on to it will be the victor. Syracuse has to have a pretty beat up mindset regarding playing from behind, since they have had so many blowouts against them already. Unlike some others who think that the Orange could rebound from the FSU game, I feel that the FSU 59-3 beatdown did nothing but further damage their team psyche, since that wasn’t the first game where they just got taken out back to the woodshed for a good old fashion a$$ whoopin.

Pitt on the other hand, let another close one get away and should be feeling like they really have something to prove this week regarding their ability to close out a game in their favor if they decide to play 60 of good football, for a change. So if Pitt comes out strong from the start, I see this one being a win going away for the Panthers.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.20.13 @ 9:09 am

Soto has shown very little, so I do not see what the interest is in him. I cringe when he goes in – as soon as he hit the field against Duke they gashed us, and the NC QB walked past him to the end zone last week. He should have been redshirted.

Not sure why PC chooses to keep things a mystery when injuries occur – it is what is – I have heard Price may be back in a week or he may have a career ending injury.

The problem with the defense is coaching. We played faster and more aggressively last year under Huxtabell. House is too young, and a journeyman, our of retirement guy like Palermo does not impress me. Together they are confused and run around yelling, I can’t imagine how unimpressive they are on the recruiting trail or when recruits ask themselves if they want to be a part of this.

In perspective, the defense does not rise to the top of the problem list, that goes to HCPC who in his goal of establishing an old-school, drive them off the ball offense has sacrificed his first several years of potential success asking the O-Line to do things they can’t. In spite of the scheme, it is obvious we need a new Oline coach, also for recruiting as well.

Yes, Engram needs to stay. He not only has produced a consistent performing group but is a good recruiter.

The S&C coach Rice is a joke. The program will not progress until we upgrade.

Comment by PittMan 11.20.13 @ 9:11 am

upbb, but you have to play on a blue field! It actually hurts my eyes when I watch games from Boise

Comment by wbb 11.20.13 @ 9:23 am

Dr. Tom, I always appreciate your posts and hope you know I am just kidding, sometimes the written word doesn’t convey your intentions the way you hope.

As a long suffering Pitt Fan, I have conditioned myself to hope for the best but expect the worst.

I am not smart enough to make game predictions and when I do they are a joke, both literally and figuratively.

I hope you are right but lately other than ND we seem to be able to play just well enough to lose.

It would have been nice to reverse the halfs last week. Chances are NC would not have come back the way we did.

Comment by gc 11.20.13 @ 9:26 am

Tony, what’s the alternative, just accept that we are going to stink forever? If that is the case, I would find a new hobby.

Comment by gc 11.20.13 @ 9:29 am

@ TonyinHouston, I guarentee in four years Pitt will win nine games. They will win at least two in 2014, three in 2015, three in 2016, and at least one in 2017 with their new Coach. Now how’s that for being an optimist! LOL!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.20.13 @ 9:30 am

wbb, I agree, I have never watched more than 5 minutes on that blue field.

Comment by gc 11.20.13 @ 9:31 am

PittMan, note that last year, when we did face some speed (Cincy, Louisville and Ole Miss), our defense didn’t do very well at all

Comment by wbb 11.20.13 @ 9:35 am

@gc, Each season we usually get one game that is a win out of nowhere and another win by just finally getting our $hit together and playing a complete game on both sides of the ball. That second type performance is usually just a “flash in the pan” appearance to entice us loyal Pitt fans into thinking that there is hope for the future though.

We already got our win “out of nowhere” IMO, ND should have beat us, luckly we won the turnover battle, but I’m still waiting for the complete game. I think Saturday may be that second type performance that we’ve been waiting for.

The Panthers have their backs up against the wall regarding their goal of becoming bowl eligible. Miami will be a much steeper hill to climb than Syracuse will be, even with the Miami game being at home and as badly as they’ve played recently. The Hurricaines are that fast, talented type team that likes to eat Pitt’s lunch so I think most everybody in the Panther organization realizes that if we don’t beat Syracuse that everybody will be spending the holidays at home.

Pitt does better when they’re put in such a “do or die” situation. I’m not sure why, I guess it helps them focus and motivates them when it is a must win situation.

I’m not a big one in making predictions myself either but I feel that a solid overall performance is still waiting to be had by this squad and I’m picking Syracuse as the game that Pitt finally opens a can of whoopa$$ on.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.20.13 @ 11:58 am

I am still skeptical of how motivated this team is. I think they play hard at times, but also show times of just being flat out tired.

Not sure the thought of three more weeks of practice is a great reward.

If PC doesn’t excite you during an interview, I don’t think it gets better for the players on the field.

Can’t compare past trends or games to get a read on this year. I thought last year was a perfect opportunity to wipe the field with Cuse and we ended up stinking.

Comment by PittMan 11.20.13 @ 12:10 pm

@TonyinHouston 11.20.13 @ 9:04 am Since you’re in Houston you’re probably pretty familiar with Baylors success, it took Briles 6 years to get them up to snuff. It took Cutclifee 6 years at Duke too. Pitt was in bad, bad, shape when Chryst took over. A lot of people like to lie to themselves about the shape of our program but it bad. It’ll take him 4 years to get Pitt where it needs to be in the 8-10 wins range.

@PittofDreams 11.20.13 @ 8:14 am On the contrary, genuine LBs are very rare and are certainly not a strength on our roster. I would be surprised if we don’t use the Nickel as our base defense going forward. This makes the most sense for Pitt based on the talent and speed of our young DB core – especially the freshmen and RS freshmen and the fact that so many teams are going to the spread. If we want to shutdown the spread teams and utilize the speed we’ve got, Nickel isthe way to go.

Comment by PittHW 11.20.13 @ 12:24 pm

I’ll be intrested in seeing how Old Dominion University (ODU) plays against their last opponent, UNC, this weekend. The Monarchs have quitely marched to a 8-3 season thus far while transitioning into FBS football. These guys play solid football, even though they are both undermanned and undersized. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t give UNC a run for their money on Saturday.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.20.13 @ 3:06 pm

I hope UNC loses to Dook and ODU.

Comment by PittHW 11.20.13 @ 3:09 pm

I could see UNC losing to Duke, who’s 8-2, but they’ll walk over ODU.

Come on Doc, 7 of ODU’s wins are against FCS schools. Idaho, who might be the worst FBS team along with New Mexico State, is their only FBS win.

Comment by EMel 11.20.13 @ 4:15 pm

That honor will be at stake next week, when
Idaho(1-10) visits New Mexico State (1-10). Plenty of tickets are available.

They’re both 1-9 but I already gave them their 10th defeats by default.

Idaho plays rent-a-win victim for Fla. State this week(that game could be 100-0) while the Aggies also visit Florida for a loss at FAU. As FAU still has bowl hopes.

Comment by EMel 11.20.13 @ 4:25 pm

Reed, if Price returns he should be moved to Outside Linebacker, his natural position. He would probably enjoy that as well. The reason there is not more production from the front seven is the coach. This read and react crap is for teams that keep things simple and aren’t afraid to let their players play.

Comment by PittMan 11.20.13 @ 4:26 pm

EMel I said I was just “interested” in ODU’s match up with UNC, it’s a big deal down Norfolk, Hampton Roads, Newport News area having ODU stepping up into the USA Conference. They don’t have any “real” college football down there in SE Virginia so ODU will have their supporters just because they’re the only game in town.

I love their coach’s enthusiasm and I think the program will take off soon when they can up their recruiting to 85 scholarships. Of course they may never be able to ascend to the level of a powerhouse like the University of Pittsburgh’s program, but just sayin.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.20.13 @ 5:03 pm

Doc, I thought they were all VA Tech fans down there. I know the Gobblers(hokies) recruit that area heavily.

Gobble Gobble

Comment by EMel 11.20.13 @ 5:41 pm

In my mind, PITT will always be circa 1975-1983.

An annual powerhouse indeed !

When I get that Time Machine finished, I’ll give you a lift ! lol

Comment by EMel 11.20.13 @ 5:43 pm

EMel, Virginia is one big a$$ state, it’s like a 5 hour drive from Norfolk to Blacksburg, so even though there may be plenty of VT fans out there in Norfolk, most of them ain’t going to go see VT play every home game, that’s why ODU is the only game in town when it comes to college football. There’s not even any pro team to go see that isn’t a four hour drive!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.20.13 @ 5:58 pm

Yea I use to live close to Northern Virginia.

So are you ‘yah or nay’ on the Redskins changing their name. Seems to be the PC thing to do ! lol

Comment by EMel 11.20.13 @ 6:19 pm

Shai McKenzie has narrowed his list of schools to Pitt, VT, & GT. He will announce his decision on Dec. 21

Comment by Nick 11.20.13 @ 6:58 pm

so Shai will either be playing for or against Pitt

Comment by wbb 11.20.13 @ 7:05 pm

You wrote a comment recently that Pederson would be around for at least five years (the at least part is chilling, actually)and intimated Stevie was in the mix of something he shouldn’t know and would therefore be kept around as silence security)..
so what realistically can be done to get rid of

Chryst may not be the best but would you be willing to trust Pederson to hire yet another football coach? What’s the point if recruiting budgets are stingy and assistants are underpaid, at least in comparison to the most current successful programs?

Pederson’s longevity actually enhances Dixon’s worth because, once again, do you trust Pederson to find a better coach than Dixon?

Comment by TonyinHouston 11.20.13 @ 9:01 pm

Virginia takes so long to drive thru because you get thousand dollar speeding tickets for going 5 miles over the speed limit on their highways. LOL @ Virginians.

McKenzie is a red shirt next year regardless of where he goes. Depth chart is better at VTech, but he would have more support at Pitt. GTECH doesn’t make sense at all. I don’t think the nfl is too receptive for rb’s out of a quirky offense. Same with the spread offense in college and OL.

The programs at the top of the heap (Alabama, FSU kind of, and OSU), run pro style offenses. Gimmick offenses are not helpful to some kids because it is the gimmick responsible for big yards, versus the talent. Just my opinion.

I think Pitt beats up Syracuse with a bunch of quick hitters and some screenie ology…..

Comment by dhuffdaddy 11.21.13 @ 12:26 am

right dhuff about driving thru VA.

Actually North Carolina is substantially larger than VA. And PA is larger too.

VA is only the 35th or 36th largest (sq.miles) state of 50 in the Union.

And I believe I’ve just about driven every inch of ALL 3 of them. Oy Vey !

Comment by EMel 11.21.13 @ 1:00 am

I try, at all costs, to avoid watching any game involving Ohio Fake & Pedo State.

I was under the impression, Suburban Urban was hired to bring his Utah/Florida spread to the Big Joke.

Or will not the bucknut faithful go for that.

You know…still stuck in…3 yards and a cloud of dust.

Comment by EMel 11.21.13 @ 1:04 am


Sorry to bust your bubble… but Pitt does have more ABLE Linebackers than D-Ends.

And that’s not saying much.

Comment by PittofDreams 11.21.13 @ 6:32 am

@ EMel, I’m “nay” for the Redskins changing their name. No offense was intended when the team was created so many years ago and although I can appreciate the inference that it can be viewed as derogatory to a segment of our population, I’m of the mindset if there is no intent then there is no offense.

If it is determined that the PC thing to do is to change the name, then my pick is the Washington Warriors, and change NOTHING but the name. Keep all of the logos, colors etc.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.21.13 @ 8:42 am

Tony – The source stated that he has a written deal with Nordy and Board that Nordy has in effect that gives him protection from a firing for 5 years. This is in addition to an extension they signed.

Comment by Upittbaseball 11.21.13 @ 8:46 am

Emel I agree. Urban Liar is the biggest fraud in college football. He’s like a cat with nine lives because of the media and what they let him get away with. He plays that cream puff schedule and will probably get into the NC because of it.

He gets away with that offense because the Little10 is so bad he can literally line up and plow them over.

Dhuffdaddy what makes you think we have “quick hitters” and “screens” in our playbook? I’ve seen some wideout screens but our O line is not athletic enough to get out on a screen, and I’ve not seen one called. Quick hitters? You are right that’s what we need but our RB’s get the ball and have to run 7 yards to get to the LOS, which is why we are pitiful on 3rd down conversions.

Comment by PittMan 11.21.13 @ 8:59 am

@gc, agreed. WBB and I talked about that blue field several years ago.

Combined over the years, I haven’t watched a total of more than a minute of the blue field.

Goes right off when I see it. Nothing against Boise St. either, I rather like them.

I’m very much a traditionalist when it comes to college football, however, that’s not the reason.

I physically can’t watch it. My eyes. I’ve tried several times, lasted about a play or two.

Comment by Dan 11.21.13 @ 10:22 am

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