September 24, 2016

3:30 pm, ESPNU.

Lose a close one on the road to a top-25 quality team. Beat a sub-par Big 10 team. A win against a FCS opponent. No. Not Pitt, UNC.

UNC has a 2-1 record and you can make the superficial case that the two teams are looking much the same. An offense that uses the running game. A defense with a particular aspect that is abysmal. You get the idea.


September 23, 2016

The road to the ACC championship game could have a clearer picture after this weekend. Two of the best three teams in the ACC Coastal division will square off as the Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1) travel to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels (2-1). The winner of this game will have the higher ground against the other in a tight Coastal division. Here are five things to look out for in this highly touted matchup (ESPNU, 3:30).

Road Warriors?
The Panthers are 6-2 on the road against ACC opponents in the last two years, going 4-0 last season. However, even with the Panthers’ recent success on the road, they haven’t been able to win in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have won eight straight at home, their longest streak since 1997. UNC head coach Larry Fedora knows his team must come in focused saying, “This will probably be the best team we’ve played to this point, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

Run, Run, Run

The obvious offensive game plan for the Panthers will be to run the ball down the Tar Heel’s throats. With 717 total rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the year, this isn’t much of a different game plan than other games. The Tar Heels can’t stop a nosebleed when it comes to the run, allowing 680 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground this season. Look for a big day out of the entire running back corps, but especially James Conner. He is already up to 281 yards and three touchdowns on 63 carries this season for the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Fix The Secondary

Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky is coming off his best career game, throwing a career-high 432 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-28 win against James Madison. The Panthers secondary was just got torched by Oklahoma State, giving up 540 yards through the air. Head coach Pat Narduzzi called out the entire defense, taking special note of cornerback Avonte Maddox, who was on the wrong end of the majority of Oklahoma State’s James Washington’s 296 receiving yards. Narduzzi said, “They’ve got to understand it works when you do it right. It doesn’t work if you don’t do it right. If you continue to do it your way, we’re going to have problems.” Trubisky doesn’t make many mistakes, as he has eight touchdowns and zero interceptions this season.

Strength Vs. Strength

Besides Trubisky and the air attack, the Tar Heels will also feature first team All-ACC running back Elijah Hood in their offense — who UNC faithful will swear blind is as good as if not better than Conner and FSU’s Dalvin Cook. Hood will have his work cut out for him,though, as the Panthers own the 10th best rushing defense in the country. Pitt gives up just 75.7 yards per game on the ground. Hood is 37th in the nation and 6th in the ACC with 266 yards, 15 yards behind Panthers running back James Conner.

Ejuan Price vs. UNC Offensive Line

The matchup to look out for is Panthers’ senior defensive lineman Ejuan Price against the Tar Heels offensive line. Price was just named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week after his six tackles, four tackles for losses, two sacks, and one forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown against Oklahoma State. Price has been a monster this season and is on track to be in the All-American conversation. Price leads the entire nation in forced fumbles, and ranks fourth in sacks and tackles for losses. Tar Heels tackles Bentley Spain and Jon Heck will have to be accountable for Price all afternoon long. The Tar Heels have given up 16 sacks this season, including an astonishing 12 against Illinois.

Last season, UNC went 8-0 in ACC play, including a 26-19 victory against Pittsburgh. UNC went on to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship, losing to Clemson 45-37. With Miami off to a hot start, this game has a lot of stake for each team’s playoff hopes. The Panthers must take advantage of UNC’s weak run defense and must neutralize Mitch Trubisky’s passing attack. If the Panthers can break the Tar Heel’s eight game home winning streak, they will be in prime position to play in the ACC Championship game.

September 22, 2016

Load on the Running Game and Price

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:39 am

I suppose it makes sense for the coaches to be a little more cautious in overtaxing James Conner this early.

“Even if you have the wrong guy in the game, it’s still a pretty good guy to have in the game,” Powell said.

Powell relies on Conner to keep him apprised of his energy level. “But I’m beginning to rely on me more,” Powell said.

After a season of inactivity, Conner doesn’t want to let down his teammates, but there is a fine line he and Powell must walk.

No Pitt running back is as talented or as tough as Conner, but none are recovering from cancer, either.

Conner’s 24 carries against Oklahoma State were far from excessive. He averaged 23 per game two years ago when he was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, and he had four games with at least 30.

I wonder, though, if wanting to keep him fresh and not overuse Conner is just a useful cover to allow the offense to give carries to the other running backs that are waiting. Qadree Ollison got no touches against Oklahoma State, for example.


September 21, 2016

Quick Notes, 9/21

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:34 am

Overnights suck and I’ve been on them for the last couple days.  Just some quickies.

The ACC/Pitt announced the Marshall game on October 1 will be a 7:30 affair and televised on ROOT Sports/RSNs. An interesting time choice for what the schedule billed as “Family Weekend.”

Big game at UNC this Saturday. The Tarheels are the only Coastal division team Pitt has yet to beat in the first 3 years of being in the ACC.


September 19, 2016

Sunday was just packed so this is a day late.

It doesn’t really feel like a new season of Pitt football until that first loss and the open thread just explodes with comments.

Most of us penciled this game in as a likely loss before the season. Then the Cowboys had to go and get beaten by Central Michigan the week before. It was reasonable to be somewhat optimistic about Pitt’s chances.

Maybe the Cowboy offense wasn’t what it once was. Too one-dimensional. Easier to beat if you know what’s coming. Maybe the defense was even worse than expected. Pitt could pile up the running yards and at the very least keep the ball from the OSU offense.



September 17, 2016

Open Thread: Pitt-Oklahoma St.

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 9:01 am

3:30 pm


Morning. Going to put this up early because I have a lot to do before gametime. Heck, I still don’t know what beer I’ll be enjoying with the game. Just a lack of preparation on my part.

Here’s some alt-history to consider. After Pitt fired Foge Fazio as coach in 1985, the first place they looked was to Oklahoma St. head coach Pat Jones.

“I don’t know what would have happened,” [present OSU head coach Mike] Gundy said. “I liked Pat Jones. He was the reason why I came to Oklahoma State. If he takes the Pittsburgh job, he probably would have taken me up there with him.”

Rewind to November 1985, a few days after Gundy led Midwest City to the Class 5A state title:

Jones was OSU’s second-year head coach. Pittsburgh fired coach Foge Fazio. As OSU prepared for the Bedlam game (the infamous Ice Bowl), Jones was contacted by a Pitt representative about the Panthers’ job. At the time, the Cowboys were 8-2 and ranked 17th. Jones’ two-season record as the OSU head man was 18-4.

“I told the Pittsburgh people, ‘I don’t want to even think about it until after this OU ballgame,’ ” Jones recalls. “I did let them know that I would be interested and I did want to talk, but I didn’t want to talk yet. I told them to call Myron Roderick (then the OSU athletic director) because I didn’t want any under-the-table stuff going on.”

Jones admits to having been “intrigued” by the Pittsburgh possibility. Before moving to OSU with Jimmy Johnson in 1979, Jones had been a Jackie Sherrill assistant at Pittsburgh for one season.

After the Ice Bowl (a 13-0 Cowboy defeat), Jones met with the Pittsburgh athletic director in Dallas.

“My head was spinning,” Jones says. “ We were getting ready to play Florida State in Gator Bowl, we were recruiting and now we had this Pittsburgh thing. I was worn down. I was thinking, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ ”

OSU was having a run of coaching instability. Jimmy Johnson had came and went, and Jones was only in his 2d season. That prompted the OSU President to step in with a new contract for Jones and keep him in Stillwater.


September 16, 2016

Stripes and Injuries

Filed under: Football,Injury,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:30 am

Stripe-outs are the hot “new” trend in stadiums. I guess. Sure. Guess what Oklahoma St. has planned for Saturday afternoon?

The idea had been floated around in the Oklahoma State football offices a few years now. Discussions that never came to fruition. But Gundy kept pushing the idea, and on Saturday against Pittsburgh, his borrowed vision will finally become reality.

“I think college football is about striping the stadium and having orange pom-poms,” Gundy said. “I just think that’s the gameday experience.”

For the first time in history, some fans will be encouraged not to wear orange inside Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys’ 2:30 p.m. kickoff is featured as the “Stripe the Stadium” game where alternating orange and white seat sections are planned for the ESPN telecast.

I won’t deny they look pretty cool when well-executed, but the optimism and enthusiasm for this in Stillwater is seemingly lukewarm.


September 15, 2016

Run for the Line

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 11:13 am

Before beginning, check out some real nice analysis of Pitt’s offense — especially with the sweep — by OSU blog Pistols Firing.

Oklahoma State is in an interesting position. They are favored by six points. They are at home. They and their fans feel righteously robbed of a win. Now, are in a must win situation this Saturday.

The concern in Stillwater is that their offense, while still fully there with the potential for explosiveness, has become predictable and almost exclusively about passing the ball.


[Editor Note: Check the byline. New writer alert. Be nice.]

The Pittsburgh Panthers move to 2-0 on the season after an exciting win against their renewed rivals, the Penn State Nittany Lions. This will be one of the signature wins for the Panthers as they hope to gain momentum early on in the season. Here are five takeaways from the Panthers’ 42-39 victory against Penn State.

The Panthers Are Legit ACC Coastal Division Contenders

The Panthers join the Miami Hurricanes and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as the only 2-0 teams in the ACC Coastal Division. The Hurricanes have rolled over their competition so far this season, but have faced two cupcake opponents. The North Carolina Tar Heels are also a contender, but need to make up ground after their early loss to Georgia. Pittsburgh is the only team that faced two respectable opponents, Villanova and Penn State. The Panthers will have the opportunity to show they are for real in two weeks when they take on the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.


September 14, 2016

Passing Concerns

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:34 am

I’ll get this out of the way because while it is a gift that keeps on giving, there’s no time for it. Just something to file away until next September. James Franklin, the coach of Penn State, is now revising his comments on Pitt’s defense clapping. First, while admitting it messed up his team’s attempted clap cadence in the first quarter, he conceded it was legal. Now, he’s claiming otherwise.

Pitt’s defense is perfectly allowed to use clapping to signal their own defensive plays. The dispute — shockingly enough — poorly articulated by Franklin, is that Pitt was doing it to disrupt Penn St. The PSU QB Trace McSorley actually gives the reason why PSU is jumping on this excuse.

And while Narduzzi had said after the game Saturday that his defense used the clapping to signal each other in Week 1 against Villanova, McSorley wasn’t too sure about that.

“I hadn’t seen them clapping on the film the prior week,” McSorley said. “But I mean, if that’s what Coach Narduzzi said, I don’t know what they were talking about on their side. So I guess that is what it is.”

The counter-point is that PSU didn’t use much in the way of clapping as signals to each other at home against Kent St. the previous week. Citing previous week’s game tape isn’t conclusive of much.

At the end of the day, those were Big Ten refs on the field and they didn’t have a problem with it, so Franklin can go with “just another excuse.”


September 13, 2016

On the argument that Pitt is more distracted, there is coming off a huge win against Penn State. Pitt players, coaches, fans, everyone acknowledges how big this was.

Yes, Narduzzi has his rule about having 24 hours to enjoy and then on to the next one.


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…)

Good Time Had By All (in Blue and Gold)

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:35 am

Kind of wish Pitt had a bye week here, so I could spend that time basking in the reflected glory and writing all week and beyond about the gloriousness of that game. Alas, there is a high-profile road game against a ranked team that is going to be very pissed after the way they got screwed this past weekend.

For all the fears of some fans getting out of control before or after the game, things seemed relatively peaceful. Between the noon start time and soul-draining humidity, I’m not sure a critical mass of  people in any area had the energy to really go at it, or the time to end up over-served. Though, some tried.


September 10, 2016

Open Thread: Penn State Sucks-Pitt

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 7:20 am

Going to keep this brief because I typed this right before I crashed, so I could get up at 4:30am to drive in to Pittsburgh.

Nooner. Ugh. ESPN for those of you who can’t get to the game. If so, be sure to tune into ESPN College GameDay around 11 am. Feature on James Conner will run around 11:15. Tom Rinaldi  is doing it, so wherever you are it could get a little dusty.

Extra tickets came free late because it seems the opponent returned tickets. Imagine that.

Beat the Nits.

Hail to Pitt.

September 9, 2016

Making The Hate Easy

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:37 am

I am on the record as saying this is not a “Rivalry Game,” simply because it has been on hiatus for so long that the mood is a little different. These aren’t fanbases that have affection for each other. There is all the stuff in-state, especially with recruiting. But it is hard to call it a rivalry game.

But damn if the Nits don’t do their part to make me want it so, just for the hate.


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