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September 18, 2014

Iowa Keys to the Game

Filed under: Chryst,Football,Opponent(s),Players,Playoffs — Justin @ 9:45 am

With the Iowa Hawkeyes coming to town, Pitt has a chance to put another nail in the B1G coffin. So far this season the B1G is 1-10 against other Power 5 (PAC-12, SEC, ACC, and Big 12) conferences and there are four more opportunities this weekend to keep the downward trend moving. Headed into the season, Iowa was viewed as a dark horse B1G champ and playoff contender, but early season struggles have put a damper on that. However, this could be the type of game that helps Iowa gain confidence after an ugly loss to rival Iowa State last weekend. If the rest of the B1G continues to suck, Iowa could be the Mountaineer fan with the most teeth and still pull it off. (more…)

September 17, 2014

Onward With Iowa

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:13 am

The AIRBHG (Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God) has not yet struck this year, but last year he did so to a RB that some Iowans liken to James Conner.

“I’m not worried about how much he wants it as much as what we need and if he’s doing something with it,” Panthers coach Paul Chryst said last week. “I’ve worked with a lot of backs. We feel like we’ve got a pretty good gauge for workloads.”

Sound familiar, Iowa fans?

When the Hawkeyes visit Pittsburgh for Saturday’s 11 a.m. contest at Heinz Field, you might notice something familiar about the opposing offense.

A year ago, Mark Weisman ran the ball 85 times in Iowa’s first three games for a total of 425 yards (an average of 5.0 yards per carry).

He helped the Hawkeyes rebound from a 4-8 finish in 2012 to an 8-4 regular season in 2013, but the heavy workload took a toll. Injuries mounted and Weisman fell 25 yards short of the 1,000 plateau.

The 6-foot, 240-pound Weisman ran 60 times in Iowa’s final three games for a total of 198 yards (an average of 3.3 per carry).

Conner has run 80 times for 543 yards while helping Pittsburgh to its first 3-0 start in five years.

Is AIRBHG communicable? There is no known cure, but it is not been established that contact with Iowa infects others.

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September 16, 2014

You would think that at the one quarter point in the season we’d have a solid idea of how good the team is and how well the primary players are producing.  It seems not to be the case this season for PITT.  Granted we are 3-0 going into Saturday’s noon game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Heinz Field but really doesn’t feel like 3-0 given who the wins were over.

Delaware and FIU are both teams that PITT should beat handily even if the PITT team isn’t that great and in essence we did that, so for an optimist that is OK.  Beating Boston College up in Boston is on a different degree of difficulty level and the Boston College Catholics, err…I mean Golden Eagles, pretty much looked like a lost team out there for the majority of the game.  But they did have a couple of big plays early for scores and recovered an onside kick at the end of the game so at least there was some tension during that game.

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September 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Halves: Chad Voytik

Filed under: ACC,Chryst,Football,Players — Justin @ 2:03 pm

Last week, some hack wrote about Pitt’s success in the red zone and the result against FIU was two turnovers in the first two red zone possessions. As recommended by readers, this week something negative shall be written.

Trey Anderson came in for a series in the early fourth quarter in a situation that once against perturbed Pitt fans. If you listen to Paul Chryst’s press conference, it won’t take a mind reader to see why: Chryst was not happy with Voytik’s play and pulled him for a series to calm his nerves. A quick second look at the game and it’s obvious Voytik was not finding open receivers and he would not let plays progress properly as the game wore on. In fact, there was a fine line between good Chad and bad Chad: the touchdown pass to Boyd late in the second quarter. (more…)

(This is a weekly series of articles entitled “Monday Morning Quarterback”.   I will try to post them two days after the football games are played so as to have our wilder emotions under control by then.  It will be my take on the positives and the negatives we saw happen and a chance for commenters to agree or disagree and to add their own thoughts.)

PITT travelled down to hot and humid Miami to play the Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers on Saturday and, after some worry-making moments, came out with a win by the score of 42-25. PITT fans, the media and maybe even the players themselves for a bit, went into the day feeling as if this was going to be a cakewalk but it wasn’t.  FIU played a pretty tough game given their lower stature in the FBS division.

POSITIVES

What first comes to mind is that our defense did a good job for the third straight game.  Don’t let the 25 points FIU had fool you, one TD was a long and freaky tipped ball reception that took FIU down to our three yard line and another two points were on a safety.  Other than that we kept FIU from scoring another TD for 40:40 minutes of game time when they scored with 5:49 left to play.  That is some solid defense.

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September 14, 2014

“The Glass is Half Full”

Well, yesterday we saw some things in a PITT football game that I’ve never seen in my lifetime, including one lightning delay of 50 minutes, two 1st quarter fumbles inside the opponents red zone by the same PITT star RB and three combined team safeties resulting in six points.

Two of those things help PITT to dig a hole against FIU that they had to scramble around to get out of. But they did and came out with a 42-19 win which, on the face of it, isn’t that impressive given the opponent’s perceived lack of talent.

But then if you look closer as the game unfolded you see that it was a game that, after that rocky start, PITT had a good handle on. I’ll also disagree that the kids weren’t up for the game or were ‘sleepwalking’ as some say.

Let’s look at what transpired in the 1st quarter.

On PITT’s second series of the game, after the teams swapped punts, we started our own 20 yard line and moved the ball via the air and the ground 74 yards in eight plays, which is 9.3 ypp. Each play gained positive yardage and it was only the Conner fumble at the FIU 6 yard line that stopped us from scoring.  Is that a crappy start to the game?  I don’t think so, the offense clicked very well.

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September 12, 2014

(Note: This is a follow up article to the topic of discussion we all have been having about James Conner playing on defense)

Scarf  In a separate post’s comment section  our long-time commenter Wbb and I have been bandying back and forth about the coaching staff’s experiment of planning to play SO James Conner at Defensive End at certain times this season.   This has been an interesting and contested topic of conversation since the 2014 Spring Practices when the move was semi-formalized and talked about publicly.  We PITT fans will remember that Conner played a few downs on defense during the Bowling Green bowl game where he got in but had no tackles.  Let’s look at where the staff stands on that now and what we might see in the future.

In a nutshell the staff’s intent of having Conner play DE was to insert him on defense during situation specific needs, mostly 3rd down passing plays, where he could use his size (6’2″ & 250 lbs), his speed (4.4) and his strength to rush the QB.  This isn’t that farfetched as Conner played DE very well while at McDowell High School in Erie, PA.  Supposedly he was recruited by PITT to play that DE position, although I don’t believe that.  Just because a recruiting site labels a player “DE” doesn’t mean that’s what he is.

The fact that Conner ran for 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns on 155 carries, an impressive 10.8 yards per carry, his senior year at McDowell was the factor in Chryst’s decision to place Connor at RB as soon as Conner set foot on campus and to keep him there in the backfield all of last season.   Personally, I think Conner was always targeted to be Chryst’s ‘Big Back’, like those he had at Wisconsin, all along.

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September 11, 2014

Looking Ahead

Filed under: ACC,Chryst,Football,Opponent(s) — Justin @ 10:49 am

Pitt is headed south for a matchup with the Golden Panthers of Florida International and as Chas mentioned earlier, there’s not a lot of important information to discuss. FIU is a team in rough shape; they’re one of the worst teams in FBS and have a true freshman starting at QB. To be blunt, if Pitt isn’t comfortably ahead in the 4th quarter it is cause for concern. The goals for the game are 1) health 2) comfortable win and 3) get backups good in-game experience. Anything beyond that is a bonus. Another statistically great game from James Conner would be a boon to his Heisman whispers.

With that said, it feels a bit prudent to look ahead a little. Pitt’s next two BCS opponents, Iowa and Virginia, have key games this week. Iowa plays in-state rival Iowa State and Virginia faces off against the newest ACC member, Louisville (Louavuhl). Thus far, Iowa appears to be a team that is trending lower than expectations and Virginia is exceeding them. (more…)

September 8, 2014

Red Zone Efficiency and Voytik

Filed under: Chryst,Football,Players — Justin @ 4:00 pm

One of the most impressive parts of the offense thus far has been red zone efficiency. Through two games, the offense has scored a touchdown on all 12 red zone possessions. Pete Roussel of 247 pointed out that this is not a trend unique to Pitt just this season. Paul Chryst offenses have been remarkably efficient in the red zone. (more…)

September 6, 2014

First off, what a fun game to watch!  Things clicked on both offense and defense and mistakes were kept to a minimum.  That is the recipe for winning football games and that is just what we have seen in our two games so far. The fact that last night it happened against a higher caliber team than last week’s opponent is cause for a bit of relief also.

ON OFFENSE

Right off the top of my head I have to acknowledge the fantastic job the offensive line played last night.  They opened up space at the line of scrimmage for Conner to get through so that he could bull his way around in the second level. They protected Voytik very well giving up zero sacks and gave the young QB some time to make decisions on passing plays.

Since an offense is really only made up of two things, running and passing, that good work they did was critical.  Plus they did it with injuries and shuffling of players.  The fact that in their third year Chryst and Hueber have big, talented bodies to plug-n-play on the line shows me all I need to know about Chryst’s OL recruiting.   In just two full recruiting seasons he’s brought in more OL talent than I can remember in a long time.

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September 5, 2014

Boston Beatdown

Filed under: ACC,Chryst,Football — Justin @ 10:27 pm

A quick stat for yinz that I just tweeted.: last season Pitt averaged 23 points per game on the road. That total INCLUDES the 58 points from the Duke game. If the Duke score is removed, Pitt only scored a total of 57 points on the road last season, a mere 14.25 points per game. Pitt’s offense was not perfect. Voytik had a bad turnover, there were some early pass protection issues, and the defense let Tyler Murphy run wild on the first drive.

The football team opted to do the exact opposite of the fan base: not panic. (more…)

Anyone watch Pitt the Packers-Seahawks last night? Man, I can’t believe they would risk their biggest playmaker — Tyler Boyd Percy Harvin — on punt kick returns. What were they thinking using a weapon like that in such a risky place? He can run the ball, he’s a receiver. A vital part of their offense and they risk him on special teams. Why, it’s almost like they want to try and use a versatile and talented player in multiple situations to help the team.

There will be an open thread for the game tonight. I’ll be on Twitter as usual. Probably Justin, but you never know when it comes to games and coping with toddlers.

Remember, Pitt isn’t the only one that needs to raise its game after a patsy first game. UMass is a recent leap to D-1, and was picked for dead last in the MAC. They weren’t exactly a real challenge for BC.

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September 4, 2014

Tomorrow our PITT Panther football team travels up to one of the great US cities, Boston, to play the Golden Eagles of Boston College.  BC is an old rival of ours from the Big East days and our matches with them have always been pretty close games.  They compiled a 7-6 record last year (4-4 ACC) and then ended that season in fine fashion by going 4-1 with bigger victories over Virginia Tech, NC State and Maryland before losing a close one up in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse.

As we all know by this point we are coming of a convincing 62-0 drubbing of Delaware that, for me at least, didn’t answer too many of my preseason questions about the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

We last played BC in their home place,  Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, where they play their ballgames, in 2003 and won by 11 points 24-13 and surrounding that ’03 season we won two games against them, both close overtime games, at Heinz Field.   However and overall Chestnut Hill has not been good for us as we have lost games there at a 1 win – 5 loss clip. Ugh.

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August 31, 2014

My Checklist by Paul Chryst

  1. Good, solid play by new QB
  2. No turnovers by said QB
  3. Offensive Line pass blocking
  4. Offensive line run blocking
  5. Positive yardage on every play by running backs
  6. Crisp routes and safe passes
  7. TE involvement
  8. Defensive Line pressure
  9. Linebackers to the ball
  10. Defensive back’s more aggressive play
  11. Deep kickoffs for touchbacks
  12. 2nd and 3rd string playing time
  13. Keep Boyd in on all punts returns regardless of the score  (Memo to self: What was I thinking?)

I took some time before writing this article so that fans could come down from the Saturday imbibing (myself included) and the euphoria associated with a 62-0 score in favor of us good guys.  It was a beautiful day for football, albeit stifling hot, the crowd was enthusiastic and the staff and players were more than ready to start the season.  And so they did in fine fashion with impressive performances across the offensive and defensive boards.  The units did well, the individual players, especially Voytik, Conner, Boyd, Galambos, Mitchell and Durham, did well and the staff used the lopsided score to get almost everyone who has an outside shot of having to play at some point this season some experience.

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August 29, 2014

One More Day

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Media,Players — Reed @ 7:55 am

We get to see the Panthers 2014 version play their first game tomorrow and I’m sure you guys are excited as I am.  Last night I sat in the car while my wife was shopping and I tried to gather all the info I know and all the opinions I have and come out with some sort of handle on what the PITT team will be like this year.

Not an easy thing to do.  You guys have read what I’ve observed and thought about the different segments of the football program and the team itself over the last six weeks.  You’ll formulated your own opinions and will watch each week unfold to see if PITT was “we were what we thought we were’.   That’s what is so much fun about football at this level.  Things change so drastically not only season to season but week to week.

So, this morning I wake up and read Jerry DiPaloa’s opinion piece on the team in his  Pitt Locker Room Blog and I thought – that’s putting a finger on it.  DiPaola is an interesting guy.  He’s not a rah-rah PITT booster but has an edge of cynicism to him when discussing the team so when I read his thoughts this morning I was surprised at how optimistic he is.

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