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November 29, 2016

On the heels of breaking into the AP Top 25 at #24, Pitt players and a coach picked up some nice accolades.

In something that has become a regular occurrence, Quadree Henderson picked up his 5th ACC Specialist of the Week honor (yes, it is really called “specialist”).

He earned his latest award by compiling a career-high 257 all-purpose yards against the Orange, averaging an incredible 21.4 yards per touch.

Henderson averaged 18.7 yards on three punt returns (56 yards), 24.5 on four kickoffs (98 yards) and an incredible 20.6 on five rushes (103 yards). He had a 66-yard touchdown burst off a jet sweep to give Pitt a 49-21 lead in the third quarter.

Henderson’s (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I. du Pont) performance helped the Panthers achieve their highest single-game point total since 1977. His five Specialist of the Week awards are the most by an ACC player this season. He was previously honored for his performances in the Penn State, Virginia, Miami and Duke contests.

A highly viable All-America candidate, Henderson has four returns for touchdowns this season, including a nation-leading three on kickoffs. He ranks second in the country in combined kick return yards (1,121), fifth in kickoff return average (31.1) and 11th in all-purpose yards per game (159.75).

I’m assuming the ACC has a Specialist of the Year honor, which Henderson is a shoe-in to get. Along with 1st Team All-ACC recognition.

Speaking of which

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November 22, 2016

The line on this game started at Pit -23.5. It has since risen to -24.5. I wonder how much of it is confidence in Pitt versus a lack of confidence in Syracuse.

Normally the Syracuse-Pitt “rivalry” game is a time for us to make fun of the ACC for declaring this the rivalry game. Point out how neither side really views the other with deep hate in football. That the series tends to shift one-sidedly for quite a while — and right now it is on Pitt’s side.

That’s still all true. But, at least the ACC went and moved it to the end of the season when there is a chance the game could means something in terms of wins and losses.

With that in mind, it isn’t a game that should produce the usual apathy and “meh” commentary. This is a game that could get Pitt to 8 regular season wins. Another nice step in year two under Pat Narduzzi, considering the strength of schedule took a noticeable jump compared to last year (and, yes, the frustrating closeness of some losses (and wins)).

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November 4, 2016

To be fair, he did address it, but declared the topic dead to him going forward.

There was a laughable attempt to link Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi to the vacant Purdue job early in the week. It wasn’t by the media. Their only reference to Purdue was that reportedly the powers that be at Purdue were looking to go big on the hire and willing to make a financial commitment.

Basically, boilerplate stuff from the Boilermakers.

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October 17, 2016

Upcoming Gauntlet

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Tactics — Chas @ 7:25 am

With the win over Virginia, Pitt sits at 5-2 and gets the much needed bye week.

Star defensive end Ejuan Price missed most of the second half after leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. He was tended to by the training staff, and never left the sideline, but did not re-enter the game.

Free safety Terrish Webb also left the game with an undisclosed injury before halftime and didn’t return, and linebacker Quinton Wirginis also appeared to get banged up on a punt return.

Pitt is off until Oct. 27, when Virginia Tech will travel to Heinz Field, marking first of three big opponents on the schedule. Miami and No. 4-ranked Clemson are up after the Hokies.

“It’s perfect timing,” said coach Pat Narduzzi, regarding the off week. “I wish it was two weeks instead of a week and a half, but we’ll take full advantage of it. Our trainers and doctors will do a great job with our kids and we’ll come back fresh.”

Narduzzi rarely comments on injuries, and gave no indication of the seriousness of any of those suffered at Virginia. He simply replied “yes” to a question about whether it was a testament to get such a strong finish by the defense after a day with so many injuries.

I get Narduzzi wanting a little more time. Especially with injuries on defense. Really, though, the bye week could not have been timed any better. With a Thursday night game as the next one, Pitt doesn’t have a short week to prepare, and gets the extra couple days to rest and prepare for going on the road.

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October 8, 2016

Blewitt=Yellow Jacket Slayer

Filed under: ACC,Football,Narduzzi — Justin @ 4:47 pm

Fourth and One from their own 34. A little over two minutes to go. Georgia Tech was barely contained on the ground all day long, but most of the big gains were pitches to the outside. The Yellow Jackets opted to just go for the yard and run inside. Tyrique Jarrett said NOPE. I myself thought Georgia Tech was going to score after the long touchdown to Orndoff. The defense has blown it or come close to doing so five games in a row. Leave it to the senior nose tackle, all 335 pounds of him, to put the offense in position to win. (more…)

October 4, 2016

The status of Jordan Whitehead is still an unknown. Not listed as injured, he did not play versus Marshall. He was dressed, but without a helmet. Head Coach Pat Narduzzi refused to say anything about why he didn’t play and remains vague as to whether Whitehead will play on this Saturday against Georgia Tech.

It got downright weird in the Monday presser.

Here are the questions posed to Narduzzi Monday on the subject, and his subsequent answers:

Question: Any update on Jordan with the depth chart change?

Narduzzi: “No. It’s nothing more than what I told you [Saturday]. We hope it’ll be soon.”

Question: “You said hope, you hope what?

Narduzzi: “You guys…”

Question: “Is he practicing with you guys this week?

Narduzzi: “You’ll see tomorrow morning. You guys know I’m not going to talk about it. I’m not talking about the injuries or anything else, about anybody.”

Question: “I respect your position on that Pat, but just wondering is whatever kept him out of the lineup Saturday…”

Narduzzi interrupts: “This seems like a hot topic?”

Question, again: “Has whatever kept him out of the lineup Saturday night been resolved?

Narduzzi: “It’s never resolved is it? It’s never resolved. We’re still working on it. Next.”

And that was it. There has been no information to indicate Whitehead is injured.

So is it an injury? Is it team discipline? Is there something else?

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September 29, 2016

Basketball Head Coach Kevin Stallings is a disciple of UNC Coach Roy Williams. So it is no surprise that Stallings wants his teams to be playing at a faster pace. That has long been a hallmark of Williams’ teams at Kansas and UNC.

Pitt will attempt to up the tempo this year, and the media got an early glimpse this week.

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September 27, 2016

The Loss That Lingers

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Narduzzi — Chas @ 7:13 am

It’s been pointed out here, and elsewhere that going into the season 2-2 at this point would be a reasonable expectation for this team and having two road games against 2 preseason top-25 teams. That is true. It still doesn’t make the losses — especially the last one — any less frustrating nor does it diminish the feeling that Pitt blew it.

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi’s Monday presser, generally conflicts between a coach that wants to move on to the next game and questions based on the last one — unless the next opponent is really good. With Marshall up next, you can imagine where most of the questions went.

The transcript is abridged and questions summarized, but there was still some interesting nuggets beyond hinted, minor, unspecified personnel changes and players likely to return from injury (LB Mike Capara and at some point, perhaps DB Damar Hamlin).

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September 26, 2016

I believe that the overwhelming majority of Pitt fans have no interest in even pretending that there is a case to be made to get rid of Head Coach Pat Narduzzi. Upsetting, maddening, frustrating and every other adjective you might care to use as the last two losses have been; they are not enough to even consider firing assistants or coordinators. Let alone the head coach.

That said, I do put the loss to UNC primarily on the coaching in the 8:44 of the game. Specifically on the head coach who once more defaulted to coaching only like a defensive coordinator.

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September 12, 2016

Finding Their Way on Offense

Filed under: Football,Narduzzi — Justin @ 1:42 pm

In hindsight, the Penn State game could not have gone any better. Pitt won, but the second half showed the areas Pitt needs to improve. I had a great conversation with a coworker, a former high school offensive coordinator with decades of experience, about the game. I mentioned the thing that bothered me was how Pitt dominated the game, but still almost lost.

The issue, as we both agreed, was passive coaching. The second half was a terrible combination of the offense stagnating due to conservative plays and PSU’s offense getting into a rhythm. I’m not entirely sure what happened on defense other than they started playing tight after PSU began moving the ball consistently. The offense, however, is very easy to see. Here’s where Matt Canada and the offense went wrong in the second half. (more…)

September 5, 2016

Reminder, this is a noon game because the Pirates are assholes who somehow think not even considering moving their game time will generate more fans to support them.

“We have not asked MLB to consider rescheduling our [Sept.] 10 game,” Pirates vice president of communications and broadcasting Brian Warecki said in a statement. “We are instead very excited about what should be a full and fun weekend on the North Shore. In addition to the baseball and football games on Saturday, we will have dueling Pitt and Penn State University Days on Friday night [Sept.] 9 in order to give the great Pitt and Penn State Pirates fans the opportunity to show their school pride on Friday night as well.

“Working together with Pitt, the SEA and ALCO Parking, we will ensure that Pirates fans have access to the North Shore and reserved parking well in advance of our 7:05 start.”

Be sure not to give the Pirates any money this weekend.

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September 3, 2016

Nova Thoughts

Filed under: ACC,Football,Narduzzi — Justin @ 8:18 pm

Before I go into anything about the actual game, remember something: it’s just a game.

This is real life.

No matter what happens this season, it is truly an honor to be a fan of James Conner. I had a chance to talk to him after practice and a few games during my wannabe journalist time and it’ll be one of those things I talk about for the rest of my life. I’ve been choked up following his battle numerous times and his first touchdown was a special moment and vintage James Conner. His stiff arm started at the 6 and continued several yards into the end zone. It was a beautiful symbolism to see him attack a defender with such intensity.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post. (more…)

August 30, 2016

Special Season

Filed under: ACC,Football,Narduzzi,Schedule — Justin @ 12:00 pm

I noted this on twitter a few days ago, but I wanted to expand on it a bit further. 2016 could potentially be a special season for Pitt. All of the elements are there: experience, leadership, talent, depth, coaching, and opportunity. The national spotlight will be on Heinz this Saturday with the return of James Conner and it won’t leave with Penn State visiting the following weekend. Back to back road trips against ranked teams, Oklahoma State and UNC, pose big challenges.

Hypothetically, what if Pitt starts 4-0? A win over a rival and two ranked teams on the road plus the emotional angle of Conner would make the national media nuts. That would lead to a top 15 ranking with the easiest stretch of the schedule ahead.

Why is this not crazy? (more…)

June 21, 2016

Recruiting Stars & Pitt Players

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players — Reed @ 3:18 pm

Here is a post I had in draft form and forgot to put up.  I did it before that “Art of Recruiting” series of last week.  Discuss-able info as far as stars awarded and Pitt player – present and past.

YR Player Position Stars Nat’l Rank Top 3 Schools
2003 Larry Fitzgerald WR 4* 15 OSU
2003 Andy Lee P NR NR
2006 H. B. Blades ILB 3* 32 Auburn, Iowa State, VA
2007 Scott McKillop ILB 3* 31 Nebraska, PSU, VT
2007 Jeff Otah OT NR NR Pitt
2008 Scott McKillop ILB 3* 32 Nebraska, PSU, VT
2009 Dorin Dickerson TE 4* 8 (ATH) PSU, Michigan, Tennessee
2010 Jabaal Sheard DE 3* 23 Auburn, AZ State, RU
2013 Aaron Donald DT 3* 37 Akron, RU, SYR
2014 James Conner RB 3* 26 (DE)                YSU, Ohio, E. Michigan
2014 T. J. Clemmings OT 4* 16 ND, PSU, Florida
2014 Tyler Boyd WR 4* 12 ND, PSU, Wisconsin

This is an interesting list I think.  As I was looking up the All-Americans I also jotted down the lower rated kids who have become either stars or real solid producers for us.

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June 19, 2016

PA won the annual Big 33 football game yesterday – forgive the PSU slant with the link but apparently this is the best coverage I can find… (neither of the two major PGH papers had a word on it at the time I wrote this)… even though it looks like Pitt recruits contributed also.  But with three TDs (in only 67 yards) he gets the lion’s share of the publicity.

Our DB Damar Hamlin  did well also.  Pitt had six on the roster compared to PSU’s two.

This is an interesting bit about SYR recruit Joel-El Shaw… apparently he thinks coaching staff’s words don’t carry much weight:

At first, Jo-El Shaw almost balked at the opportunity to represent Pennsylvania in the annual Big 33 Football Classic. It was at the first team-wide practice in April and the Pennsylvania coaches figured Shaw would play fullback since that’s how he’s listed on the roster.

“I told them I was going to go home,” said Shaw, now a Woodland Hills High School alumnus. “I told them, ‘You can go find somebody else, because I ain’t playing fullback.’ ”

To what ought to be no one’s surprise James Conner is still giving back more than he receives…

Conner was honored at a dinner hosted by his oncologist, Dr. Stanley Marks, on Friday night at the Field Club in Fox Chapel.

Not only was Conner honored with the award, which is given annually for the past 30 years to a cancer patient, it was re-named the James Conner Courage Award, Marks said.

“James is the first recipient,” Marks said.

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