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October 18, 2014

(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.)

We met the Virginia Tech Hokies on the turf at Heinz Field on a rare nationally televised Thursday night game and came away with a very satisfying 21-16 win.  It was a close game and one that even to most optimistic of PITT fans had to doubts about as the 4th quarter unfolded.  The win puts us at 4-3 on the season with a 2-1 ACC conference record that is just about what we figured we’d have at this point of the season.  It is safe to say that we needed to start the second half of the season with a conference win if we want to have any chance at a Coastal Division championship.

POSITIVES

1.  Our defense, again. When you hold a team, any team, to 26 yards rushing on 21 carries (1.2 ypc) and 2 of 14 on 3rd and 4th down conversion tries you are playing excellent defense.  That is the kind of stout play that results in low scores for the other team (16 points with three FGs) and a win.

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October 12, 2014

Monday Morning QB

(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.)

Now that we are in the middle of the 2014 schedule let’s take a moment to look at what we fans have liked or disliked about the staff, team and players after six games have been played.  We stand at 3-3 with a 1-1 record in ACC conference play.  Last week we lost a close one to Virginia Cavaliers on their home field and this coming Thursday evening we play the Virginia Tech Hokies at Heinz Field.  It is safe to say that we need to start the second half of the season with a conference win if we want to have any chance at a Coastal Division championship.

POSITIVES

1.  Our defense. Yes, we have given up some big plays and yes, we have allowed the other team to score more points than us in three games but there were a lot of factors that went into that.  One factor that stood out and pretty much crippled us in our recent three games losing streak was our crap offense (see “Negatives #1″ below).

But we are holding our own on defense this season and while it doesn’t seem like it at times it’s true.  Granted we stumbled a bit against Akron when we let a team not know for its run game tear up the field but that was mainly due to a couple of long runs through pretty poor arm tackle and angle taking attempts.

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October 6, 2014

Monday Morning QB

(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.)

These MMQB articles are getting harder and harder to write given the inconsistencies of our coaching staff’s decisions, our team’s efforts and our individual player’s success’ and failures, even from play to play sometimes.  I’m still not sure exactly what caliber of PITT football team we have this season.   I’ll put down some more personal opinions at the end of this article.

POSITIVES

1.  Todd Thomas’ play at OLB on defense. He came rigged to play last night and ended up with 12 total tackles; seven unassisted, five assisted with one tackle for loss, most of which seemed to come in crucial situations. He was all over the field and at least two of his tackles stopped important 3rd down conversion attempts.  There is a lot of fan discussion this morning about how DC House is substituting for Thomas in certain situations, most specifically passing downs and against the spread formations we have seen in some past games.

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October 3, 2014

Pitt Lands Jordan Whitehead

Filed under: Chryst,Football,Recruiting — Justin @ 1:53 pm

Pitt just landed what is at worst the second biggest commitment of the Chryst era in Jordan Whitehead. The four star cornerback from Central Valley (Monaca) chose Pitt over Ohio State, Penn State, and West Virginia. Whitehead is rumored to will be enrolling in January and could push for a starting position as a freshman. Also important is that Whitehead ends the run of bad luck in Beaver County for Pitt.

Celebrate the victory today and hope for another tomorrow, Pitt fans.

*Quick edit, the early enroll isn’t a rumor now, it’s confirmed.

September 29, 2014

Quicksand

Filed under: ACC,Athletic Department,Chryst,Embarrassing,Football — Justin @ 9:44 am

There’s a scene in Oscar-snubbed film “The Replacements” where Coach McGinty (played by Gene Hackman) asks his NFL replacement players what they’re most afraid of. After some typical responses, QB Shane Falco (played by the enigmatic Keanu Reeves) hits the nail on the head:

Quicksand (more…)

September 28, 2014

Monday Morning QB

(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.)

I tried to tell myself to wait until Monday to do this edition of this series but for a few personal (travel) reasons I just can’t put it off.  This will be short but not sweet as there aren’t many positives to talk about at all. We had our asses handed to us by the freakin’ Akron Zips of the MAC conference! That says it all really.   I’ll put down some more personal opinions at the end of this article.

POSITIVES

1.  Our kicking game continues to do well. Punter Ryan Winslow was tasked with punting seven times due to the ineptitude of our offense and had a 42.1 ypp average. His longest was 49 yards; he put two punts inside Akron’s 20 yard line, had one touchback and two fair catches.  That leaves another positive in that two of his punts were returned for a total of 10 yards, which means our Punting Team covered well.  Our own punt return team didn’t fare so well and looked like the Two Stooges at one point.  This one play is burned forever into my eyeballs.

Chris Blewitt stayed his good kicking self as he went 1/1 on a 34 yard FG and kicked off three times for three touchbacks. When a kicker can limit the opponent’s starting field position to their own 25 yards line that’s playing well.  So far on the season Blewitt is 7/7 for 21 points and has completed 19 of 20 PATs for a total of 40 points.

2.  Hmmm, let’s see.  Ok – RB Rachid Ibrahim continues to shine in his very limited role. He had three catches out of the backfield for 40 yards, a 13 yarder which was and a 26 yarder, both for 1st downs and all YAC, and one rushing attempt for 10 yards.  His abilities to run with the ball are as good as Boyd’s so use Ibrahim more and don’t rely on Conner up the middle so much.

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September 23, 2014

(Note:  For some time I’ve been wanting to do a separate piece on Chad Voytik, his recruitment and what he was like in the camps and practices leading up to his winning the starting job.  This is that article and I’ll remind readers that if what I write isn’t a solid fact like a statistic or a direct quote then it is my opinion.   That said, here are Voytik’s current statistics:  He has started all four games and has a 3-1 record; He’s passed 48 completions in 79 attempts (60.8%) for 534 total yards and 133.5 ypg along with 5 TDs & 3 INTs for a 130.83 QB efficiency rating.)

 Now is the time, with four games into the 2014 regular season behind us, that we should take a minute to review the question marks we had going into this year and we all felt that QB play was the biggest of those.  Let’s look at the background and history that brought Voytik to his starting position at PITT and while we do that let’s also remember that Voytik has been in the program for over two years and is a first year starter at QB.

After attending some of the 2012 spring practices, and watching Voytik in practices and scrimmages since then, I’ve paid close attention to his play and skills because it wasn’t too hard to figure out that he would be our starting QB  sooner or later.  Sunseri was going into his last season at PITT back in ’12 and we had Trey Anderson as the only other valid QB on the roster for ’13.  Tom Savage wasn’t on PITT’s radar screen yet so the field was open for Voytik to fleet to being a rsFR starter in ‘13.

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September 22, 2014

Monday Morning QB

(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.)

Coming down off a loss after three straight wins sucks of course and we have at least eight more games to play, but the feeling after the Iowa loss two days ago ain’t a happy one.  We can point to a 3-1 record as decent and it is, but we also know that there are certain issues in this loss that will continue reverberate unless quickly corrected by the staff and individual players.

POSITIVES

1.  I’ll come right out and say that I really should start this section off as the “Negatives” because that’s what I tend to remember most.  However, we had some real positive play out there and while it wasn’t enough to win it should be recognized.

I need to acknowledge Chad Voytik’s play on Saturday.  The ironic thing is that I’ll do that in both sections of this post.  But the positives outweighed the negatives and there were some things we saw that (hopefully) portend other positives down the road.  Let’s look at the stats first: 19-30-1 for 250 yards (65%) with an average of 8.6 ypa and zero TDs.  That looks very efficient and heads and shoulders above his previous three games.  Aside from his zero TDs that is acceptable.

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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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