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October 14, 2014

Even before the season started, this was a game many Pitt fans circled. Not simply because of it being a prime time Thursday night home game. Before the season started, it wasn’t hard to project Pitt at 5-1 or perhaps 6-0 heading into a showdown with a VT team that might have a similar record. I imagine many VT fans also circled this game considering their expectations and the history of Pitt screwing up their plans.

Now, this game is big for both teams, but not in the way envisioned. It’s more about surviving and salvaging at this point.

Joe from the Key Play and I did our annual exchange of questions ahead of the VT-Pitt game. You can find my responses to his questions on their site later here.

Penalties. And lots of them from VT this year. It doesn’t seem to stem from a particularly aggressive team, so much as lots of mistakes. This seems like a particularly sloppy VT team this year. Is that simply because I subjected myself to watching most of the VT-UNC game or is it something else? Is it more on the offense or defense?

1. Tech’s running an ambitious (perhaps overly) offensive scheme this season. Hokies offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler uses many different personnel groups, motions, formation shifts, etc… to gain matchup advantages. There are also a lot of first year players on offense. The result is Tech’s been flagged a bunch of times for illegal substitution and have committed a lot of penalties associated with inexperience.

As far as sloppiness goes, the defense has been nothing short of stellar, except in preventing the big play. [defensive coordinator Bud] Foster’s played with fire a few too many times with man coverage behind 6-, 7- and 8-man pressures. However, the aggression was the catalyst for upsetting Ohio State and racking up sacks.

Loeffler has a tendency to outthink himself, especially when it comes to trusting the run game, but if the last two games are any indication, he seems to have resolved that issue.

Shai McKenzie and Trey Edmunds are no longer available. What are you expecting from the offense at this point? Is there a running back you trust for every down or does it become much more situational? Do you want Michael Brewer throwing it up with greater frequency?

2. I don’t foresee Brewer chucking it down field more often, but Loeffler has relied on the short passing game in the absence of a consistent running attack. Juice Williams has been the Co-No. 1 tailback all season long, and there’s a slight chance he might play (ankle). If he doesn’t, I feel good about Joel Caleb. He’s a big, yet athletic, back that’s bided his time. J.C. Coleman has been given a lot of carries in previous years, but rarely produced big results. Unless he’s the only healthy body, Coleman shouldn’t get a bunch of snaps, but that’s just my opinion. In reality, I expect the coaches to go with a one-two punch of either Williams-Caleb if Williams is healthy, otherwise Coleman will factor in.

As much as Pitt is at a crossroads, what about VT? A loss doesn’t come close to killing bowl hopes, but it sure lowers the sights noticeably to mid-week ESPN filler bowl status. It feels like a must win for both teams on Thursday. Is that accurate?

3. It’s a must win for Virginia Tech because the team’s goal is to win the ACC Championship. A loss to a divisional foe really hurts Tech’s chances.

Last year VT — with good reason — went heavy on blitzes to take out the Pitt offense. Is that what you anticipate doing once more? Is there a particular aspect of the VT defense that will be the biggest headache for the Pitt offense?

4. I definitely expect Tech to stack the box. That’s just standard operating procedure for Foster against teams that roll with multiple tight end / H-Back combinations. And hell, this season he dialed it up and got aggressive against ECU. Chad Voytik isn’t anywhere as accurate or polished as Shane Carden, so I expect Foster will trust his defensive backs to play with little to no support behind them. There will be blitzes.

Defensive end Dadi Nicolas had a breakout game against Pitt last season, but d-end Ken Ekanem has been a terror thus far this season. I think Ekanem getting after Voytik, and Kendall Fuller locking down Tyler Boyd will be the biggest defensive headaches.

Forget the final score, I want to know your expectations on total punts in this game?

5. There will be more punts than fans at UVa’s spring game. (By the way, I am predicting a Pitt win, because Pitt, with whatever score is most irrational.)

[EDITOR NOTE: I’m putting total punts at about 12.]





more irrational .. from a VT fan, that is quite a statement!

WE may be mediocre but we may well be the most irrational team around — have to hang our hats on something.

Comment by wbb 10.14.14 @ 7:55 am

This season has been such a disappointment thus far, to protect yourself emotionally its getting hard to believe we can win. Once again our football team makes us all Charlie Browns – Lucy (SOP) makes us believe we can finally be successful and kick the ball but once again she pulls the ball just as we try to kick it! You know, if a phycologist were to advertise on the Blather he would probably make a killing!!!

Comment by pittman4ever 10.14.14 @ 8:14 am

I have been “charlie brown” since 1967

Comment by DocJLK 10.14.14 @ 8:29 am

30 straight years of 3 or more losses … yet just about every year we expect more.

Remember, the word fan came from fanatic.

Comment by wbb 10.14.14 @ 8:30 am

No way did I see PITT at this position going into VaTech.

Saw them beating Boston College and thought they had a chance against Virginia.

Never EVER saw them losing to Akron.

This is the “TP” Game for Pitt this year… as n Turning Point not Toilet Paper (at least we hope).

If Connor gets 200 and TWO TDs… PITT WINS. If not, the Game will once again be put on Voytik’s back.

Unless Voytik is finally up to the test, this could then be the TURNING POINT where Chryst becomes worried about the possibility of a Losing Season… throws LOYALTY out of the window… and makes the CHANGE AT QUARTERBACK.

If you haven’t noticed, VaTech’s Defense is GOOD against the Run. So, the deck could be stacked.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.14.14 @ 8:50 am

While the deck may be stacked against Conner getting 200… PITT does have a TRUMP CARD.

That would be #23.

Predictng a VERY BIG GAME for Tyler Boyd!

Comment by PittofDreams 10.14.14 @ 9:06 am

Agree on Conner not getting 200 yards in this game, mainly because we won’t need him to. I’m looking for a nice roatation of Conner, James, Bennett, and Ibrahim at the TB position.

Additionally, our TEs should be able to match up very well against their LBs who will be looking to create more pressure on the QB than trying to cover Holtz and Orndoff. Look for Voytik to have some huge holes running up the middle with pressure coming from the outside.

The key are Clemmings and Johnson/Biz. They need to keep the edge rushers in check.

Comment by VAPITTALUM 10.14.14 @ 9:49 am

Hey, if Chad Voytik starts going-insane, and hulks-out on opposing defenses after ‘the light-bulb’ comes on, I will most likely not complain.

Maybe Chad this is the week Chad ‘Levels-Up’.

And our defense really hopefully will get at least 2 interceptions against Michael Brewer. He has a decent arm, but he just throws ill advised balls.

Haha Brewer will probably throw two passes that ‘doink’ off the back of Lafayette Pitts’ helmet. Why won’t he ever turn around?!

Comment by PittEngineer 10.14.14 @ 10:38 am

I would like to see more crossing patterns with our TEs and WRs, along with quick wheel routes on the side that the blitz is coming from.

Comment by wbb 10.14.14 @ 10:40 am

wbb – Nice thought re slants, I used to think this too, but I realize now that Voytik will NOT throw over the middle. Don’t ask me why, whether it’s his size or his confidence, but this is one of the main reasons we’re so easy to defend.

Comment by 1618mt 10.14.14 @ 10:44 am

could be the amount of balls that he has had batted ot a bigger chance of interception.

Comment by wbb 10.14.14 @ 10:52 am

As a Hokies Alumni I crossed over from The Key Play to read the second side of this. And I must say, every season most Hokies fans biggest fear is playing Pitt. Doesn’t matter if we’re 8-0 and ranked #2, or struggling to find an identity like this season, you guys always rise to the occasion. Props to y’all. May the best team win and good luck!

Comment by LostHokie 10.14.14 @ 10:53 am

Haha -> wbb

I just saw your response at first about never throwing over-the-middle as :

“could be the amount of balls that he has….” and I was like, ‘ouch!’ buuuurrrnnn my goodness!

Then I read the rest of the comment, talk about out-of-context 🙂

Comment by PittEngineer 10.14.14 @ 11:52 am

I am seeing that the odds have just changed and we are now favored by 1 point. Does anyone know a reason?

H2P

Comment by pmdH2P 10.14.14 @ 12:00 pm

The only reason odds change is money coming in heavy on Pitt. What made that happen could be every thing from temporary insanity to Ebola!

Comment by Dan 72 10.14.14 @ 12:11 pm

I picked a fine time to quit betting!

Comment by wbb 10.14.14 @ 12:27 pm

@wbb – wrong week to quit a lot of things.

for your viewing pleasure, some highlights:

link to youtube.com

H2P!!!

Comment by Pitt Dad 10.14.14 @ 1:49 pm

I love this team and am a big time PC koolaid drinker but I am afraid we will see more of James Conner up the middle, getting stuffed, making Chad throw on third and long situations and getting blitzed and sacked time and time again. If that is the game plan then we are doomed.

I hate to be so negative but we have been burned so many times and the play calling has become too predictable. I am hoping the second half of the season is way way different than the first.
Hail to Pitt!!

Comment by Panther Fan in Hoopieland 10.14.14 @ 1:55 pm

From ESPN.com’s ACC Blog Upset Watch:

Virginia Tech (4-2, 1-1) at Pitt (3-3, 1-1), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. Line: Virginia Tech by 1. The Panthers have lost three straight and have called this a “must win” given the division stakes on the line. While on paper the matchups seem to favor Virginia Tech, the Hokies have not yet faced a runner like James Conner, whose size and athleticism makes him difficult to bring down. Plus, Virginia Tech is banged up at running back. The Hokies may end up starting J.C. Coleman, who began the year No. 4 on the depth chart. Will they still be able to run on a porous Pitt defense without their best backs? Note: Pitt has won the last three games between the teams in Pittsburgh.

link to espn.go.com

Comment by Pitt Dad 10.14.14 @ 2:54 pm

I thought Conner was playing DE against VT?

I’m still waiting for Conner to be in the wildcat, so I’ll hold off on the Kool Aid for another week.

Late (smart) money floods in for Pitt? We got this one in the bag.

Comment by 66Goat 10.14.14 @ 3:00 pm

@66Goat

I like the way you think. But, “in the bag” seems to be a slight overstatement.

I think that it is a winnable game. We need to show up ready to play and able to respond to what the Hokies throw at us.

H2P

Comment by pmdH2P 10.14.14 @ 3:12 pm

Reason betting line changed ….Tech missing #1 defensive player Luther Maddy. Just reported. Gamblers always know first.

Comment by Dan 72 10.14.14 @ 3:25 pm

Unless the coaches have successfully taught the O-line (etc) or they themselves managed to come up with a scheme to counter VA. Tech’s blitz package and/or pass rush.

Don’t see how on earth PITT wins.

But believe it or not Vegas does.

Pitt is actually the favorite as of now in this game.

Pitt -2

So I guess if Vegas thinks it might happen it could. Funnier things have happened.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:06 pm

Their other D-lineman killed us last year.

Dadi (as in Big Daddy) Nicolas.

Forget which side he lines up on. But he will be a nightmare for either Clemmings and even moreso for Biz.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:10 pm

ESPN still projecting PITT to go bowling.

Something called the Quick Lane Bowl.

No kidding.

link to espn.go.com

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:12 pm

I’m a dog owner, so here’s the analogy for like minded Blatherites. Have you ever witnessed that little Pomeranian, that is so cute and harmless, all of a sudden become that obssessed vicious killer beast when placed into a situation where there is no escape? All of a sudden that little sweet dog is all over the pit bull that has backed it into a corner. That, my friend is the epitome of SOP football. This game sets us up for who knows what????

I’m not drinking Pitt Koolaid here, I’m just saying that this is just the type of game the Pitt surprises those in the know about Pitt football. The planets align and a win comes out of nowhere. Then hope rebounds to be dashed back into reality yet again the very next week. I’ve been here before, even with an unexpected win over VT on Thursday, I’ll still be unsure of our where this team is headed over the next couple months. H2P?

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.14.14 @ 4:26 pm

I thought Quick Lane Bowl had something to do with the ball getting to the pins faster. Guess not. Here are some details:

link to en.wikipedia.org

Comment by Pitt Dad 10.14.14 @ 4:28 pm

haha wbb

It’s just a re-branded Pizza Bowl.

Wow if we get stuck in this thing like the BBVA Compass trilogy, think I’m gonna throw up.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:31 pm

PITT football….stuck in a Time Loop.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:33 pm

Emel – The “Quick Lane” MUST be the passing lane! That must mean that ESPN thinks Chad will be a great passer this week! We win in a lark!!!

Comment by Savannah Panther '70 10.14.14 @ 4:34 pm

Big 10 vs ACC.

We could in reality get a PITT/Creepy Valley State matchup.

Or Pitt vs. Michigan which would fill the stadium up.

Of course with 90% Michigan fans. 🙂

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:37 pm

right Savannah

Chad will throw for over 300 yards this week and 4 TD’s in Pitt’s win. As the ‘lightbulb’ finally comes on.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:39 pm

I’ll have what he’s drinking!!!

Comment by Savannah Panther '70 10.14.14 @ 4:42 pm

We need a ‘Quick Lane’ to the Top 10 ala Ole Miss & Miss State.

Before I’m 90.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:43 pm

Obviously with the conf’s now being able to pick who plays in the Quickie Bowl. (no pecking order)

And a 6 year deal with ACC/Big 10.

They can now plug a northern ACC school (PITT, BC, Cuse,L-ville) into that bowl game every year.

As nobody from the south would want to go to Detroit in the winter. (anytime actually)

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 4:49 pm

I was gonna say, you were implying that people from the north want to go to Detroit!! LOL

Comment by Dan 10.14.14 @ 4:56 pm

I hope Ole Miss and Miss St stay undefeated until the Egg Bowl!! What a game it would be!!!

Comment by Dan 10.14.14 @ 4:57 pm

I watched the entire VT – OSU game and was especially impressed by their coaching. I suspect their game plan for us will be similar to Akron’s. Hope we think out of the box.

Comment by Frank MD 10.14.14 @ 5:01 pm

Anyone going to the game from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton area?

Comment by Scott 10.14.14 @ 5:01 pm

Well, guys, ESPN has Penn State in the Quick Lane Bowl too, so we’re still on pace to play our country cousins – Quick Lane: Penn State

link to espn.go.com

Comment by PittHW 10.14.14 @ 5:12 pm

Well, well, well PittHW.

“We considered dumping Penn State from the projections as the Nittany Lions’ offensive woes up front could be unfixable this season. But James Franklin’s team needs only two wins to qualify for postseason play, and with games left against Indiana, Temple and Illinois, the Lions should get there. “

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 5:16 pm

Temple is 4-1 this year.

But they rarely ever beat the Pedo’s.

Think the last time was leather helmet age.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 5:18 pm

Nittany? You sh_ttin’ me???

Comment by Savannah Panther '70 10.14.14 @ 5:19 pm

1941….last Temple win. (3-31 overall)

I was spot on.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 5:22 pm

That would be epic if that happened. And frankly PSU is pretty bad this year too–at least on offense.

Christian Hackenberg, consensus 5 star QB…kinda isn’t good either. My goodness Bertke or Hornibrook one of you guys please help lift everyone’s spirits.

Oh, but to those talking about Mississippi or Mississippi State, if anyone lives down there, now those are some fans who have struggled with futility and disappointment. Honestly those schools are not exactly good examples of “quick turnarounds” lol.

And the O-line in a few years–When Bisnowaty, is a RS. Sr, Dorian Johnson is a SR, 40-year old Artie Rowell is still there and Alex Officer is a RS Junior–and some of these shiny O-line recruits are on that line….It’s going to be heaven for Pitt running backs.

And our 6-6 QB will be slinging ‘dimes’ all across the field.

Comment by PittEngineer 10.14.14 @ 5:38 pm

I am now the biggest Temple fan in the country. Go Owls (that’s them right?) ha. Personally, if we can’t go to the Pinstripe or Military Bowl (that’s the one in Annapolis I believe) then Detroit works well for me. But, frankly, I am very concerned about our bowl chances all together :/ 6-6 seems like the best case scenario for now.

Comment by PittHW 10.14.14 @ 5:41 pm

Defense–I don’t think Matt Galambos has a chance to be on the 1st team next year.

But how about Bam Bradley, Nicholas Grigsby, and Quintin Wirginis (true SO) as the starting 3…

D-line is Render and Mosley-Smith back, then hopefully another interior guy steps-up. Rori Blair puts on 15 more pounds of muscle and takes charge.

….Dunno about Luke Maclean, he just looks awful-slow and he totally lacks explosiveness off the ball unfortunately. I wouldn’t be shocked if they just tried to move him inside. Because pass-rush-wise he’s not going to go through an O-tackle, & unless he ties the other guy’s shoe-laces together he’s not getting around them either.

Comment by PittEngineer 10.14.14 @ 5:44 pm

right PittHW

Story goes that Temple was initially a nite school, henceforth the Owl.

But there is a tiny owl on the US Dollar bill as well.

Comment by Emel 10.14.14 @ 6:20 pm

You should have asked how many penalties would be called not punts.
Hope the sloppy play has been corrected in the off week.
Losing a game is bad enough, but losing because we are careless, intolerable!!!!
Lucy, hold the ball, I’m going to kick it this time. H2P

Comment by Tackle made by Hugh 10.14.14 @ 7:53 pm

OK the light just came on. PC is such a fox, it is a totally new mathematical progression. Remember in 2012 he hit us with alternating 2s. First 2 losses then 2 wins then 2 losses etc. Well he is now doing the reverse with 3s. 3 wins then 3 losses then 3 wins …

So obvious!

Comment by 9-2,8-4,11-1,11-1,11-1 10.14.14 @ 9:49 pm

well, at least we win the bowl this year

Comment by wbb 10.15.14 @ 6:17 am

“You should throw your soldiers into a position from which there is no retreat.” Sun Tzu
Odds are in our favor to win!
H2P

Comment by Caw Miller 10.15.14 @ 6:20 am

@PittEngineer, I think Emel and I touched on Ole Miss and Miss St. turnaround initially,

but I was just referencing it as just good college football to watch for the college football junkies on here the last couple comments.

How does Pitt turn things around??

I have no idea.

I do know that there are a few people getting paid BIG money to turn things around, and said they would and it can be done when they took the jobs.

One of them has been on the job now for
15 years or so.

Frankly, other than basketball, pretty much all the other womens and mens sports have sucked too.

Guy must have pictures.

I guess wrestling was good last year?

Comment by Dan 10.15.14 @ 9:02 am

Wrestling has been pretty good for the last 4 years or so. We should be a power in the ACC for years to come, although that is not like the B1G or B12.

Comment by wbb 10.15.14 @ 10:27 am

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