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December 20, 2014

What Constitutes “Go Big”

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 6:43 am

When I saw the FootballScoop.com story, I cringed. Not because I didn’t want Pitt to aim high. Not because I don’t think they couldn’t get a really good coach.

Simply because a story like that sets up disappointment and ridicule. Because when you look around the college football landscape, there aren’t that many realistic “go big” options for a head coach.

The landscape has changed. Fewer coaches are just chasing a big paycheck. The money gets absurd at the higher levels, but to some degree it flattens out. Coaches are looking as much at sustainability and the long-term.

The Dan Mullen thing has gone nowhere. Well, not quite nowhere. It seems to have just gone away. And after that?

That creates the question of what it means to “go big.” The story suggested a big name coach, and reasonably, most people seeing that phrase would think the same.

Yet outside of Dan Mullen, who is there that could fit the bill and is someone Pitt could legitimately hire away? I mean without going the route of the rumored “Godfather” offer from Michigan to Jim Harbaugh. Florida, which had once gone out and grabbed Urban Meyer, this time had to take Jim McElwain from Colorado State as the best option available in 2014.

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December 19, 2014

Going Big Or Not

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 10:35 am

I guess new Chancellor Gallegher is looking to make a huge mark early in his Pitt tenure. The “mutual” decision for Steve Pederson to resign wasn’t enough, the coaching search is going to take on mythic proportions.

Multiple industry sources told FootballScoop today that Pitt’s chancellor plans to “go big” with this hire.

We were told that Pitt plans to invest heavily in the program both in terms of dedication to staffing and to facilities and operations. Two sources said “significant new commitment to the program” will be announced in connection with the upcoming announcement once a new head coach comes on board.

Sources tell us not to expect Pitt to hire a coordinator. “Their initial list is all current and former head coaches.”

The name that came up — in no small part thanks to Fox Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman — is Dan Mullen. The current Mississippi State head coach. That would constitute a “go big” hire.

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Know Your Candidate: Doc Holliday

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Justin @ 10:34 am

One candidate that has stuck around as a potential head coach is Marshall’s Doc Holliday. While no name can be considered confirmed, the amount of smoke leads me to believe there’s a fire there. I do think the smoke is coming from Holliday’s camp and some of that desire is to stick it to WVU for not hiring him over Bill Stewart after Rich Rodriguez left.

Hates WVU? Check! (Not really, he’s a WVU grad, just roll with it) (more…)

December 16, 2014

Just A Matter of Time

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 8:00 am

That’s what it feels like right now. Just waiting for the Wednesday deadline so the mandated charade can be ended.

Oh, Paul Chryst was down in Fort Worth for a couple hours to plug the Armed Forces Bowl. Ostensibly to promote the game and try and sell tickets. The press conference, however, had no live stream (or recording for later) and no transcript was available. Man, even Birmingham was better prepared than this.

Still in a bowl game that will likely have two interim coaches running the show, perhaps no real record is for the best.

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December 14, 2014

Just Say NO

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 11:32 am

As we wait for Wednesday and ultimately whether Paul Chryst returns to Madison, there is no way not to speculate on who could get the job.

That means listing possibilities. Listing pros and cons and all that. That’s boring after a while. And let’s face it, it is done by so many. So, in an effort to shake things up, I’m just going to list some of the names that get tossed out there that should not be allowed anywhere near the Pitt head coaching job.

These are just some of the bad calls that should be met with eye rolls and a dismissive wave.

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December 13, 2014

Justin had the run down/recap of where things stand. It’s… weird. And a bit uncomfortable.

We were all certain Chryst was gone yesterday morning. Now we are mostly certain. Thanks to the job posting laws for what is ostensibly a state job in Wisconsin, the hiring of Chryst can’t happen until at least Wednesday, December 17 — Happy Hanukkah everyone. (Yes, I know it starts the evening before but it is the first full day so roll with it.)

That means Chryst and Pitt is in a weird place. Pitt can’t fire him, because then they lose whatever buyout remains on his originial five-year deal. Not to mention, they can’t take the chance that somehow the Wisconsin thing falls through and suddenly they have to keep paying Chryst.

Conversely, Chryst can’t really resign because he doesn’t really have a job yet. He may have assurances and belief that the Wisconsin job is his, but there is nothing smart about giving up the present job until is a reality. So both sides have to pretend that the status quo is as it was a week prior. Even if everyone just wants a quick resolution so things can move forward.

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December 12, 2014

And so it seems the era of Chryst ends with the balance and even keel he preached. A 19-19 record after three years. Perfect balance.

I can’t be particularly angry at Chryst for choosing to go back to his alma mater. His state. Where all his ties are. I can be pissed at everything else around it, but not the decision.

It’s just hard to believe that with such “meh” results, Pitt is staring at yet another coaching search. I had hoped that if the program had to start looking this soon it would be because of success. Not Wisconsin giving Pitt a run for its dysfunction.

Technically it is not official. Yet, it seems to be all but. Paul Chryst will leave Pitt and return to Wisconsin.

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December 10, 2014

The Wisconsin Thing

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire,Rumors — Chas @ 9:03 pm

Last week Nebraska surprised everyone with the hire of Mike Riley from Oregon State to replace Bo Pelini. That was a stunner no one saw coming. That is until late this afternoon when Oregon State hired Dave Andersen from Wisconsin.

Now, Wisconsin has to hire a new coach and Paul Chryst sits right smack dab in the middle of the speculation.

Just as it made sense for speculating on him when Bielema left for Arkansas two years, ago it still holds true today. A native of Wisconsin. Lots of ties to the AD and the school itself. And in much the same way Ohio State fans held Walt Harris in higher esteem than many Pitt fans did after a time, Wisconsin fans still hold Paul Chryst in a semi-revered status for his work as an OC.

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Pressure For All In 2015, Part 1

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football — Chas @ 8:41 am

That Pitt rallied enough to finish 6-6 and gets to play in a minor bowl is a bit of a positive. At the same time, it can’t be said that this was a good season. It wasn’t a debacle — though, it sure came close — but it was a definite step back. How much of a step back is really one that won’t be settled until next year.

When Pitt was sitting at 4-6, it was looking with a high degree of certainty that Pitt would finish the year having taken a big step backwards. With an easier schedule, Pitt was performing worse and it showed in the wins and losses.

The season felt over before Thanksgiving. Pitt would probably beat Syracuse, but going down to Miami seemed like a waste at that point. Pitt football was remaining in the doldrums.

A bit from USA Today writer Dan Wolken from his weekly Misery Index on Pitt at that point probably summed up the fears/feelings growing in a lot of fans.

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December 7, 2014

There are many advantages of being in a major conference. The TV money is usually listed at the top. Don’t forget the backing of that major conference when it comes to shoehorning a team into a bowl.

Plenty of mid-majors were bowl eligible. Some with better records than a bunch of 6-6 teams from major conferences that had more eligible teams than tie-in bowls.

Pitt was among those in the 6-6 mediocrity. Still, they get to have one more game. The seniors get one more chance to notch a victory. The coaches get to have more practices and start preparing even more underclassmen for 2015.

Pitt is heading to Ft. Worth for the Armed Forces Bowl.

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December 4, 2014

This is the first of a multiple part series on how the 2014 PITT football season unfolded over the last five months.  This first article will address the actual games of the season themselves.

None of us fans were jumping up and down about our final won/loss record after PITT’s 2014 regular season ended last Saturday, even though we did win on an upbeat note. We finished the season 6-6 which replicates our records from 2011, 2012 & 2013.  PITT is nothing if not consistent.

Right now we are waiting to see if the mysterious Bowl selection process will choose us to play in a post-season game.  Chances are we will and that, if it happens, gives us fans a bit more football to look forward to and talk about. Also, and maybe most importantly, it could give us a shot at another 7-6 full season record.

However, right now, just after the regular season finishes, is a good time to cast our eyes and thoughts back to the pre-season, the month of fall training camp, and on through our regular season play to see if what we previously thought and hoped would happen, did happen… or not.

Let’s take a look at what transpired between August 2nd when it all really began to come together for this year’s season and November 29th when we ended the year with a convincing win at Miami.  There are a million things to talk about but I’ll limit the topics to the season, the team and the team’s individual units, the staff and the football program over all.  Let’s look at the season’s games first…

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December 3, 2014

The Price of Stability

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire,Rumors — Chas @ 8:03 pm

You would think with a career coaching record of 19-19; coming off a 6-6 season — again; home losses to Youngstown State and Akron on the resume; and a recruiting style best described as laid back, that Paul Chryst would not be in the annual coaching carousel discussion for December 2014.

And but for one big red N, that would be true. There are plenty of rumors and ruminations all day that Nebraska at the very least has interest in talking to Chryst.

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James Conner: ACC Player of the Year

Filed under: ACC,Football,Honors,Players — Justin @ 1:26 pm

It was just announced that Conner has won the ACC Offensive Player of the Year Award. Conner beat Jameis Winston 16-13. Naturally, he’s also the Offensive Player of the Year as well. Conner had a historic season in 2014 which included breaking Tony Dorsett’s record for rushing touchdowns in a season.

Not bad for a guy who was initially recruited as a DE.

December 1, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterbacking, Vol 12

Filed under: Football,Players — Reed @ 9:59 am

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.)

POSITIVES

1.  The Offensive Line. This group has played well all year, especially in the running game. Against Miami it opened up running lanes for Conner and cast allowing our RBs to gain 226 yards at a 4.8 ypc clip. Conner got two TDs for the record and our other RBs, who we have listed in these articles more than once, continued to shine when called on.  Most specifically, SR Bennett and true FR James took over for the ailing Conner (hip pointer against SYR) and combined for 188 yards (5.1 ypc) and a 15 yard TD run.

Running backs don’t get to do that unless the OL in front of them are doing their job correctly and our OL was executing well.  Some of the holes to run through were almost unbelievable especially early on with Conner carrying.  Obviously the staff figured we’d need to power run this game and we did.  The fact that the OL is young with a rookie starting Center means that this group is well poised for 2015 and beyond.  It will be interesting to see how many FR OL will get to play in the bowl game to get them ready for next season.

2.  Our special teams. Most games are won by taking advantage of good starting field positions and making the other guys start with a long field. PITT did that almost perfectly on Saturday.  Tyler Boyd racked up 190 yards on six kickoff returns and that gave up an average starting point of around the 35 yard line.

He had a spectacular and timely 53 yard return right after Miami came within one point at 21-20 after their first drive of the second half.  Having Boyd take that return to the Miami 43 started a five play TD series, in which he also caught a 17 yard pass, gave us the lead needed to win.

Blewitt and Winslow did well also; Blewitt putting out deep kickoffs that either resulted in touchbacks or returns deep in the opponent’s territory averaging 15 yards.  Winslow had four punts of which three were fair caught with two inside the 20 yard line and Miami had zero return yards.  They both made it a lot easier for our defense to function given the poor Miami starting positions..

3.  The rushing defense. Miami had 21 1st downs during the game of which only five were on the ground. They averaged a decent 4.5 ypc but that is a bit deceiving. Their record setting RB Duke Johnson ripped off a 28 yard gain but other than that play Miami had 97 yards on 27 carries (3.5 ypc) which made the Hurricanes turn to the passing game.  Miami had no TDs on the ground either so that is good.  Soto, Mosley-Smith, Durham and Justin Moody, filling in for injured Daryl Render, did a fine job.

NEGATIVES

1.  Our 3rd down defense again. This is the second game in a row where we really have been faltering on stopping our opponents on 3rd  Miami was 8 for18, right around 50% and we should be better. Our defense was weird anyway.  In the 3rd quarter when we were up 28-20 we gave up a sustained 12 play 61 yard series where our pass defense held fast on two consecutive plays; a 2nd & 10 and 3rd & 10 to make them settle for a FG.  Then on their next series we hold them to a quick three and out series.

2.  Soto’s strange outburst and subsequent actions. I’m still not sure exactly went wrong on the field but it seemed like Soto was grossly overreacting to whatever transpired during the play.  Then the angry shoving match between Soto and Thomas didn’t make things any better.  The penalty itself, a 15 yard Unsportsmanlike Conduct call gave Miami a 1st down to our 14 yard line and led directly to a Miami TD.

3.  Not much else really, You guys can add yours.  I thought the survey sent out by the AD was a bit over the top though.

 Ying & Yang

This is a special weekly section dedicated to the quarterback play of Chad Voytik so that we can look specifically at how he’s doing, whether he is progressing or not, and what his impact on the team and games are week to week at this point in the season.

Voytik had a good game distributing the ball when asked to do so, including a nice 40 yard swing pass to Conner out of the backfield.  This was a run-first day and it showed in only 12 pass attempts.  He completed eight of those for 134 yards so he was productive when asked to be, but again, wasn’t called on to do much.

There was a good reason for that other than the rushing game plan and that is Voytik was pretty sick the days before the game and I think that staff wanted to keep things as simple as possible for him.  He played well under trying circumstances.

We’ll do an “End of the Regular Season Wrap” article later to discuss his season but at this point the future looks pretty good at QB, not only going into a bowl game (fingers crossed) but into 2015 also.

Not Taking It Well

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 8:32 am

I guess by the transitive property Miami partisans feel that they too lost to Akron.

It was a theme at halftime.

It was a theme by blogs and beat writers.

This embarrassing 35-23 defeat to a 6-6 Pittsburgh team that had lost by 11 points to Akron –– Akron!!! — was a new low, but also a clear indication that change is needed.

Yes, it happened. Pitt lost to Akron. No one is proud of it. No one feels particularly good about it. But we are living with it. Just taking it day by day.

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