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September 21, 2017

So Many Issues

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:40 am

…Of course, the downside of a beatdown like Pitt was given against Oklahoma State; is that with so many problems, where do you begin?

The defense does get Jordan Whitehead back, but that hardly addresses the issues for the defense. Which, in my view, starts up front.

The Cowwboys may have piled up the passing yards, but I really didn’t think the secondary was too bad. The inability to tackle, to not get the pressure up front. Oh, the missed chances. When you keep missing chances to get off the field on 3d down.

“It was good in that very moment,” Weaver said of bringing down NFL-bound quarterback Mason Rudolph in the backfield, “but throughout the whole game, we just didn’t finish plays. If you get the win, those plays are better Sunday morning.”

Yes, it’s not lost on Weaver that his sack that nearly resulted in a safety was only the third this season for Pitt’s defense. It came so early in the game that one might’ve thought the defensive line was in for a breakout day. As it turned out, that was the only sack, and it turned into a nightmare for everyone from the front four to the secondary.

That much became painfully clear on Oklahoma State’s next drive, when on third-and-11 Rudolph evaded a near-sack by Weaver, then fellow redshirt freshman Keyshon Camp, then defensive tackle Amir Watts, and stepped up to throw a dart to Marcell Ateman, who broke yet another tackle attempt by safety Dennis Briggs and sped into the end zone for a 21-0 lead.

The play kept getting extended, and OSU’s wide receivers are simply too big and too good to be covered by Pitt’s secondary (or many other teams) that long. The secondary got beat a bit, but the problems keep stemming from up-front and linebackers who struggled to handle pass coverage.

On Pat Narduzzi’s Monday press conference, he lamented the failures of fundamentals by the defense.

But you know, as I’ve said really the last three weeks, this is a young football team that has not paid attention to details like they need to. And there’s always blame to put on the coaches, like I said Saturday, of things we could have done better; what if you do this.

But when you look at it, you know, it’s almost at times where the young guys just — because they’re in that first-time situation, like option this week is going to be the first time they see some of that, so it’s a whole new ballgame. But you’re seeing some RPOs coming at you, which everybody hears about RPOs, but then when you see them, last year it was RPOs for your corners, this year it’s RPOs for the safeties, picking on the youth back there and inexperience.

But guys just panic with their technique. That’s the one thing that we try to teach our guys you have to fall back to is your fundamentals. At times we don’t do that. We kind of go — you go rogue a little bit, and you can’t do that.

You can’t miss tackles. You’ve got to read your keys. Like I said, some guys — and even some guys that aren’t so young didn’t read their keys. It’s like — and weren’t helping. You wonder where it came from. What are you doing? What are you being coached to do? I tell our coaches, hey, what you see is what you coach, so obviously it’s not sinking in; how do we get it to sink in? Do we need a sledgehammer; what do we do?

The coaching. Yes, that is a big question. Now, embattled, Defensive Coordinator Josh Conklin seems to be struggling to find an answer. Or at least one that is coherent.

“…But to answer your question, it’s everybody. It’s the secondary, it’s linebackers getting re-routes, it’s the defensive linemen getting pressure when they can get pressure. To me, in that game, what really hurt us — and I told the defense this — is we got them in some third-down situations, and it just shows you the importance of that. That’s one of our five key things, is third down, and we had been good in third down. When you don’t get off the field and you give a high-powered offense the ability to continue to drive, you’re gonna have problems. We stressed that going into the game, and we didn’t do it. You gotta get the ball back to your offense and give them more possessions, and that’s, to me, what really hurt us — especially in the first part of that game.”

I’ve read through the transcript a few times, and it is a great example of a coach saying nothing that actually addresses what he is doing.

Yes, the defense is younger up front. Supposedly more depth and less drop-off, though. And even as Narduzzi and Conklin stress that youth is no excuse, they keep bringing up the youth of the defense. A bit of making the excuse while saying it is no excuse.

A defense that keeps making mistakes. That doesn’t have good technique. That is really bad at making tackles. And now, they have to go up against Georgia Tech and their triple option? That’s a bit of a concern.


I know theyre young but it’s the same problems as last year It’s the defensive system…we do not have the athletes to play it. Why is he so fucking stupid or stubborn to see it

Comment by Kvah 09.21.17 @ 9:14 am

The defense all starts up front. I don’t think the secondary played that bad against several people who will be playing on Sunday next year. If you don’t pressure the quarterback, any defensive back gets beat. There are more issues than that but that’s where it starts.

Comment by AnotherClancyrebound 09.21.17 @ 9:22 am

Haven’t been here in awhile. Glad to see your commentary Chas. I hope all is well with you.

This will an interesting week. I have to believe DiNucci is getting the start and there has been alot of wrinkles installed to take advantage of his mobility. Gamesmanship is taking place in the media to keep Tech preparing for both QBs is my guess. Whitehead back will help. Hopefully our LBs have a big day or we may have six possessions the whole game. If PSU can overcome that game against MI last year, we can do it too. HTP!

Comment by FG 09.21.17 @ 11:02 am

Starting next year, youth won’t be an issue. Over the next two years, the entire roster will be turned over from when Duzz came onboard. A team full of players who have only been indoctrinated on this coaching staff and their defensive philosophies.

I’ve said it before, but patience is required. Pitt fans hate that word (see the last 35 years of waiting … and still ticking) but it’s the reality every time a coach is fired (Wanny), leaves (Fraud), or abandons a program (Chryst). Year 3 was the worst defense Duzz put on the field at MSU. 110/115 in pass defense … in the Big 10.

5 years to build a foundation, 5 more years to build trust with the fan base … 10 years total …

As attendance rises over that 2nd 5 years then, and only then, will the money start rolling in to truly build a national power.

We’re in year 3. If Duzz leaves at any point during that 10 year period, the process starts over. That’s just the reality of the situation. If he leaves after that 10 year window, with the money coming in and trust built up with the fan base and boosters, Pitt could potentially survive his departure.

That’s where Pitt is in the landscape of college football. Pitt does not have the money because the fan base does not trust giving their money or time to the program. Pitt has to earn their trust back … and it will take time. 10 years of rubbing elbows with boosters and building that trust for larger donations. 10 years of nurturing the fan base and building that trust for attendance. 10 years of putting a consistent product on the field to make Pitt a household name. 10 years of proving itself to the WPIAL coaches and players. 10 years to build that wall around PGH.

If Duzz is not the right guy, we reset when he voluntarily or involuntarily leaves. Pitt needs a decade of sustained success to start bringing the money necessary to compete at an elite level year over year. 7 years to go … but really only two before we start seeing what Duzz has created and we fully realize his plan. Hopefully, his blueprint is fully realized. Then he’ll have to maintain it over the next 5 years.

Building a program up from where Pitt currently stands is very hard (baby steps). PSU crashed and burned but they always had that cult of followers to insulate them. Pitt does not have that. Pitt could have at one point but the administration decided to de-emphasize football in the mid-80’s. Pitt’s reputation and standing is self-inflicted. You create your own luck and that’s why, well, Pitt hasn’t had any.

The complaints about the defense are not undeserved. The scrutiny on Duzz in year three is earned. For Pitt to be a good program you have to hold the coach accountable. There is nothing wrong with that. It comes with the territory. It’s hard to believe in it or trust it.

It’s also in our best interest that he succeeds. Where Pitt currently ranks on defense is not unprecedented with a Narduzzi defense (see above – 110/115).

I don’t think it’s time to panic. Next year is when it will start to become concerning and year 5 will be the make or break season.

Do we want flash in the pan seasons like last year or do we want a true football program that has a chance every year?

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 09.21.17 @ 2:02 pm

Tossing Thabeets, very good synopsis, enough to stay the course for awhile at least.
You are so correct about the 80’s, they had the college football worlds attention and could have built a dynasty. While schools were increasing pay to keep coaches, providing better facilities and building stadiums, Pitt did very little to build upon their success. Poor to little leadership when it came to sports.

Comment by Pitt Dreamer 09.21.17 @ 4:04 pm

We all know PN is using the Mich. St blueprint to build the Pitt program. Under the MSU formula while PN was there year 3 was the low point (6-6)before MSU began winning 10 games a year.
Keep the faith in PN ,good is coming, lets get through year 3 at Pitt. Any thing better than 6-6 puts PN ahead of the MSU blueprint.
I have one concern its Conklin, sure hope his learning curve has come full cycle and the defense will become a solid dependable unit.

Comment by Spindler's Spirit 09.21.17 @ 8:46 pm

Blaming it on “fundamentals” or the lack thereof… is REALLY blaming it on the Players.

Of course, it could NEVER be the Coaching!

This Narduzzi schtick is getting old… REALLY fast!!

Comment by PittofDreams 09.22.17 @ 12:01 am

Tossing — With regret, I totally agree. It sucks, but your summary is our reality.

Comment by ck 09.22.17 @ 6:01 am

To quote another Pittsburgh coach: it is what it is. 🙁

Comment by MariettaMike 09.22.17 @ 7:31 am

Tossing is right….Shit! I have to buy that guy a beer someday. I’m hoping the Narduzzi is the answer but we won’t know for sure for another year or two. I think that you guys calling for his head have to change your shorts…

That said, it’s hard to be a Pitt fan. I’ve see us through the best and the worst. Watching the Majors 1 era and the Sherrill years we were on top of the world.THen Foge and the miscreants that followed him put us through hell. Now we have a guys who on paper sure seems like he’ll get the job done. WE won’t recruit better until we get better and therein lies the Catch 22. My money’s on the Duzz…I think he’s recruiting well and his intensity is bound to wear off on the players and staff. HTP

Comment by The Hagen 09.22.17 @ 7:59 am

“10 years of putting a consistent product on the field to make Pitt a household name.”
We’re still at year zero on that one. Winning 8 games a year for multiple years consequentially is when I’ll start counting.
May those years come sooner than later.

Comment by Caw Miller 09.22.17 @ 10:23 am

Caw… it’s like ground hog day all over again

Comment by BigB 09.22.17 @ 10:37 am

Caw – not really … we’ve gone from 6 wins to 8 wins two years in a row. There will be some blips. As long as they bounce back quickly (next year), the timetable isn’t screwed up. This team could still win 8 games. The ACC is not that formidable … until VT/Miami.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 09.22.17 @ 12:19 pm

This GA Tech game will tell me a lot. I’m hoping the defense can somehow find a way to limit the damage because this team will score on you. Maybe Ben as the new QB will bring a spark. Plus Aston returns. I still expect a loss but hoping I’m wrong. This is the first game all year that will matter thus far.

Comment by Tx panther 09.22.17 @ 1:33 pm

This team doesn’t have a snow balls chance in he** to win 8 games. If they win 4 or 5 with the players he is playing today it will be a miracle.

Comment by pa1702 09.23.17 @ 2:39 am

Lol – nope .. .not winning 8 games.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 09.23.17 @ 3:34 pm

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