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September 1, 2014

Final Thoughts on Grilled Blue Hens

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 9:37 am

Thanks Reed and Justin for taking care of most of the post-mortem. Two days later that just leaves the final clean-up to me.

Mid-way through the 3d quarter I was talking with another guy in the press box. We were half-joking, wondering what Pitt fans were going to be complaining about after the game — other than whether Boyd should have been returning punts. Considering the complete dominance on both sides of the ball. The fact that James Conner was already done for the day. All the running backs were seeing time. Chad Voytik wasn’t having to do too much, the only thing we could come up with was: the tight ends weren’t used enough. (This was shortly before Orndoff caught a TD pass.)

Sure enough late in the 4th quarter he showed me a tweet he got from a fan complaining/questioning why the TEs weren’t thrown to much in the game. It was so cute.  14 total passes attempted in the game with 10 completions. Very little pressure even came close to Voytik that required him to dump it off. 7 different players caught the ball.

That’s okay. There’s an impulse in us all to look for some negatives. Especially when the game went that smoothly and perfectly. We know it won’t be like the rest of the season (well, maybe FIU), so there needs to be something to fix or tweak. Heck, in Coach Paul Chryst’s post-game presser, even he eventually got around to the subject of cleaning things up.

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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 30, 2014

Roasted Blue Hens

Filed under: Football — Justin @ 4:44 pm

Hi everyone. I’m sure you’ve missed me. For those who forget/don’t know me, I took a break writing here to write for CBS Sports/247 for a little bit. I left a few months back  and haven’t written much thanks to the birth of my son. Here he is with a message for Boston College on Friday. As you parents know life gets pretty hectic the first few months. Now that he’s six months old and life is settling down a bit, I have this thing called “free time.” It’s a weird thing, not sure how to handle it. My thought was MOAR FOOTBALL!!!!!

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Open Thread: Blue Hens-Panthers

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 10:20 am

I’m trying not to read too much into my bag strap snapping as I approached the press gate — but if Pitt blows this I’m totally using it as an omen of doom in the recap later.

It’s a beautiful, humid day. I swear I won’t be reading anything into Pitt’s conditioning today.

Have to believe Pitt will win this game. In fact, I will shave my goatee/van dyke if they lose. Considering I haven’t shaved it off for over 10 years, this has me putting some, um, skin on the game.

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August 29, 2014

The Day Before

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 1:49 pm

So, we finally bit the bullet and added a second HDTV in our house. We have a giant HDTV projector in the basement, so a second HDTV was a low priority. The old analog was fine for the kids and in the background. But we finally gave in to  some more rampant consumerism.

It arrived in the evening. I set that thing set up and find about half the channels not coming through. Most glaring being most of the sports channels including ESPN. As I’m trying to figure it out, the wife starts checking around online and suspects that it to be the old and jury-rigged coaxial cables left in place from the previous owner (each line is a collection of 3-foot cables put together and then wrapped in electrical tape). Sure, why not.

Grumbling I spent the $37 for two 25-foot quad strength (supposedly better for HDTV) coax at a store, while grimly noting a pair of equal quality cables sell for $19 on Amazon. But of course there was no way I’m allowed to wait the two days of shipping on that.

A couple more hours of trying to get the old cables out of the wall and through narrow holes to get it to the connections in the basement. Then stringing the new ones through. Success (and a new, albeit discreet, hole in the floor). Turn on the TV, and the same bleeping problem. Another half-hour of trying to figure this out when on a frustrated whim I check the downstairs receiver. Attached to the back of the coax leading into DirecTV box are a couple of DirecTV adapter/filter/converter/condom-things. Take them off the downstairs box and slap them on the upstairs receiver. Yup. Now it works.

Now I have to get DirecTV to give me these stupid things (or I could just order them from Amazon for $10). I know it’s just poor planning on my part not to do this sooner. A bit of a pain for tonight and Sunday and Monday. But it won’t matter for tomorrow.

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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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August 28, 2014

Blue Hens In-Depth

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s),Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 6:02 am

Here’s a bit more background on our first opponent of the 2014 season… the DELAWARE BLUE HENS!!!!

Delaware is a  member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) which is made up of smaller schools located on the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  Included in that list is William and Mary who PITT used to play sometimes back when I was in school in the mid-‘70s.  Great campus there BTW – right in Colonial Williamsburg.

As stated earlier PITT is 9-0 against teams in the CAA so we really shouldn’t have much of a problem with Delaware, but one never knows.  According to the Blue Hens ESPN site the football team went 7-5 on the season and 4-4 in conference.   In their only out of conference ‘big’ game they were beaten by the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy (Navy) 51-7.  Navy was 9-4 last season so factor that in I guess.

Here are last season’s statistics breaking down the details of the season.  It looks like they could run the ball well with a 4.8 ypc and their passing game was impressive with a 62% completion rate, 240 ypg and 27 TDs.  Their starting QB, SR Trent Hurley, played in 10 games last year, completed 64% of his passes for 2207 yds and had 22 TDs to seven INTs.  He also ran the ball 62 times and if you deduct the sack yardage against him he ran for 4.3 ypc which isn’t bad.  It’s something for the defense to think about anyway.

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August 27, 2014

Catching Up On Things

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 1:24 pm

For real media companies and reporters, this past week and this one would be where all the coverage is ramped up and there would be lots of articles. Chasing page views and taking advantage of the growing excitement for the new season. Not at Pitt Blather. Noooo. Instead we take the less is more approach. Letting our pieces breathe, and –

Okay, that’s an obvious load of crap. Sorry folks. Between covering for people trying to squeeze in their final vacations at work. The ramp up to school restarting for my kids. Not to mention a horrid week in between school starting and all summer camps ending — creating a chaotic situation where the wife and I juggle our schedules to ridiculous levels. Then there is just making sure everything is in position so I can take off on Saturday. I’ve barely been on the computer the last couple of weeks.

I really, really look forward to Saturday. Seeing my friends before the game, then abandoning them for the comforts of the press box. This coming season will feature both Reed and myself watching games with the media. Onto some links and thoughts.

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Do you want to know how some of that ACC money is being spent and what dividends we’ll get out of spending it?  Look no further than the growing PITT walk-on program.  Walk-ons are an interesting breed with interesting rules attached to them.

There are two different types of walk-on players; the preferred walk-on and the regular walk-on.

The Preferred Walk-on is usually contacted by the school because they want the kid on standby for whatever reason, maybe because they know a player is leaving school and they want to have the preferred walk-on in place.

But he isn’t offered a scholarship directly out of high school as are regular recruits.  They are given a promise that ‘at some time’ during the kid’s first training camp a spot on the roster will become available in the fall.  Enter the practice of many coaches not inviting back players who are entering their fifth year of eligibility or targeting players they want off the roster for any reason.  Cutting them loose allows those preferred walk-ons’ scholarships to magically appear if the staff wants to offer.

This allows the players a solid opportunity to stay on the roster, practice every day with the team thus staying in the staff’s awareness and also possibly get to travel to away games.  It is a good first step to a scholarship if they can make the grade and prove they are worth the risk.

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August 25, 2014

Game One Preview: Delaware

Filed under: Football,Media,Opponent(s),Players — Reed @ 4:20 pm

Get your game faces on, it’s almost show time!!  Saturday we host the Blue Hens of Delaware at Heinz Field for the opening game of our 2014 season. Yeah Us!!

Here is the PITT SID’s office’s overview of the match-up.  Here are the much more detailed “PITT vs. Delaware Game Notes” that are distributed by that office to the local and visiting media writers up in the press box.  I find it interesting that we’ve never played them before but then again we have never lost to them before either.  Small blessings.

Pitt is undefeated (9-0) against current members of the CAA, most recently beating Maine, 35-29, in 2011 and New Hampshire, 38-16, in 2010.  I think we’ll easily handle Delaware.  The spread is 27 points and that is doable as I think we’ll run right over them.

Before anyone starts talking about ‘we thought the same thing against YSU‘  let’s remember there are huge differences in the two situations.  With the YSU game Chryst suspended six players including starters Ezell and Gonzalez just hours before the game.  That in itself rocked the team. Combine that disciplinary action with the natural uncertainty the players had about Chryst going into his first game of his first year, especially after they were just burnt so badly by Graham, and you had a perfect storm for a loss.  That isn’t the case at all this week against Delaware.

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August 24, 2014

Now that we are at the halfway mark of Paul Chryst’s contract to be the head football coach at PITT and entering his third season in that position, it is a good point in time to step back and take a semi-detached look at where the football program was, is now and what the future looks like.

There is no real need to get into the details, weeds, swamp or muck about what has transpired at PITT after the 2009 season.  We PITT fans know the history like the back of our hand.  But, for clarity it is important to understand the situation PITT was in, why we were in it and what Chryst stepped into as his first job as a head coach.

The upshot is that when PITT offered Chryst the head job we had just run through four different ‘real’ HCs in the 13 month period after Dave Wannstedt was fired (the slowest firing in the history of football by the way).  Four head coaches in a bit over one year might have been a Guinness World Record.  Granted a couple of those HCs were blips on the radar; Mike Haywood didn’t even have time to buy any PITT gear before he was fired and Todd Graham, he of the “High Octane” offense, lasted one season before he pulled chocks and left in the dead of night. Trey Anderson said it best with this quote “I take a nap for 2 hours; wake up to find out my head coach is gone.”

We can debate forever the wisdom of firing Wannstedt after his run as the most successful coach in the last 25 years.  Then again PITT has a track record of jettisoning and/or not fighting to keep successful head coaches.  The decision making in dealing  with Jackie Sherrill right up through Walt Harris and ending with Dave Wannstedt are examples of PITT’s administration acting in ways some fans don’t understand or agree with.  Whether it isn’t offering a truly competitive salary (Sherrill) or firing for cause including issues external to football itself (Harris and Wannstedt), PITT has danced to the beat of its own drum.

Those decisions angered PITT fans royally when they happened but that antagonism has been tamped down now that we are able to look at them with some distance in our rear view mirror, you know – the rear view mirror you have with the nine national championship mini-trophies dangling from it.

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August 21, 2014

Comings and Goings

Filed under: Football,Recruiting,Transfer — Chas @ 12:09 am

Well, the euphoria of a nice recruiting get lasted all of 24 hours. Is this where we are supposed to gnash our teeth and mutter or whine about not being allowed to have nice things?

Welp, start with the older and positive news. The depth at running back will continue to swell as Pitt got a verbal on Tuesday from Darrin Hall out of Youngstown.

The four-star running back announced his decision in front of a group of 20 family members and friends at Buffalo Wild Wings, where he donned a Pitt hat over that of Michigan State and Kentucky.

“It’s good to get it out of the way and now I can focus on becoming a great leader for my [Fitch] team,” said Hall, who’s beginning his senior year.

Hall said he was leaning toward Pitt last week and after a visit on Sunday, he ultimately decided the Panthers were the best choice for him.

He didn’t talk to the Pitt coaching staff about early playing time and said that wasn’t something he was worried about.

“I know they have some young backs, but I’m ready to work hard and earn my spot,” he said.

Hall’s parents, Camille and Darrin Sr., were seated next to him when he made his announcement, but said that was as close as they got to the decision making process.

“He made it on his own,” said Darrin Sr. “He made the decision and he chose to stay close to home and I was glad of that.

“I’m glad that played a factor in his decision and I love the choice.”

His mom was happy her son made his decision not solely on football.

“I’m very excited about it,” she said. “I’m more excited about his education, that’s first and football’s secondary, but overall I’m just very happy.

Hall is a near consensus 4-star running back (only 247 has him at 3-stars).

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August 19, 2014

Cleaning Up Some Football Debris

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 6:03 am

First off, I can’t thank Reed enough for the work he’s done in August. It’s been tremendous having him writing and making the trips for practices and scrimmage. Some fantastic stuff.

There’s not a lot I can add to that part. So I’m just going to clear some tabs, hit the links, and toss a few of my own thoughts in along the way.

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August 17, 2014

There were some nice efforts and results by all the defensive units, and I’ll address those but overall today the defense built “The Great Wall of Water Street” and didn’t let much offense trickle through.

Specifically, the defensive two deep up front against the running game made everyone breathe a little sigh of relief, especially in light of this being “Year 1 Perfectus AD”.  The starting four defensive linemen from left to right were DE Durham, NT Mosley-Smith, DT Render and DE Soto. Those guys overall looked good in the ‘live’ actions, stuffed the run and got good penetration on some passing plays.  Backing them up were MacLean and Blair at DE with Moody and Jarrett in the interior.   All eight kids played solid ball as I saw it and as each day passes the staff should be feeling better about this unit.

One brighter spot was that Darryl Render had some real “wow” moments with his quick off the snap play.  Jerry DiPaola of the Trib hits it on the head in this article about Render and while I wouldn’t say anyone going to forget our award winning Nose Tackle from last season, Render is starting to develop a reputation of his own.  He intercepted a pass on an athletic play and was constantly beating his guy for run stoppage. He’ll be a very good DT for us this season and later on as he’s a JR who had some nice game experience over the last two seasons.  We’ll have a solid two years of him on the line and that is a good, maybe great, thing to have.

Backing him up is Justin Moody, who as a rsFR is 6’3” and 280 (bigger I’d guess) lbs and can move for that size.  He was a solid 3* DE in HS and was the 20th ranked player in the state of PA. He’s fun to watch when he gets in and has a great wing span to get RBs coming through the line.  Hate to say it but he’s the type of talent, to my eye, who could also be a good OL if needed down the road but Chryst does like them taller.   He had a nice sack on Anderson where he got into the backfield in a blink.

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The day’s practice schedule was broken up into warm-up drills, then live full tackle drills, a  scrimmage with the referees calling penalties (and lots of them),  full 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills, finishing up with short yardage situations including red zone plays.  During the punting drills Winslow was getting the ball 40-45 yards downfield consistently and on the two directional punts I watch both went inside the 10 yard line and were downed.

Kevin Weatherspoon was the sole punt returner today as the staff had Boyd only warm-up with some drills early on then sit out the live action parts.  In the kickoff drills Maddox, L. Pitts and Ibrahim were on the receiving end and did OK. Maddox is fast as hell and is turning into a valuable guy for the team this season.   Again, Boyd was our leading KO return man last year and would have been back there this scrimmage also if he wasn’t resting.

Something that jumped out at me during these special team drills is that the kicking and coverage squads were populated mostly with players who are starting at other positions. Apparently Chryst is not screwing around with special teams play this season.

Blewitt was down today with a .500 success rate. He made four FGs, including a 52 yarder and missed four.  Not much to say about that except let’s hope that it was an off day and not the norm for him.

In discussing individual offensive units and players let’s first understand two things;  First  is that a scrimmage is in essence a tryout for the 2nd  and 3rd string positions and secondly,  if the offense doesn’t improve by giant steps in the next 14 days we are going to be some very disappointed fans.  You can point to the old saw that in camp “the defense is always ahead of the offense” but right now that’s an excuse.  What we saw from the sidelines was not pretty and centered on the QB position.

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