October 16, 2016

Surviving Inconsistency

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 8:39 am

Somehow made it threw the day without spoilers, and watched the Pitt-UVa game around 7pm last night. That broadcast was the full-on, classic ACC experience. A Raycom produced nightmare of awkward camera angles, following the wrong guy and flat out missed shots. Complete with a non-stop scroll that actually covered part of the screen rather than being below it.

And if that wasn’t enough, Ron Cherry as the lead official for the referee crew to make sure it was a flag fest. #goACC

As for Virginia, it is arguable that they now have the 3d or 4th best basketball-football combo in the ACC. Behind Louisville, UNC and a toss-up with VT. Bronco Mendenhall was a really good hire for the Hoos. You can see the improvement. Not just from last year, but from the start of the season.


October 7, 2016

For a coach with defensive roots like Pat Narduzzi, getting burned by the triple option offense is not something he can just let go with ease. It clearly bothered him that Pitt struggled to contain GT last year and then Navy decimated Pitt in the bowl game.

To that end, he’s had the team practice for it since August.


October 6, 2016

3 Storylines Heading into Week 6 vs. Georgia Tech

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Steven Callahan @ 6:55 am

If there’s such a thing as a “critical” phase of the Pittsburgh Panthers’ 2016 football schedule, it’s about to begin. Pitt (3-2) begins a crucial five-game stretch Saturday when it hosts Atlantic Coast Conference rival Georgia Tech at Heinz Field. The next five weeks will also see the Panthers facing league rivals Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.), Clemson and Virginia.

Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is coming off back-to-back losses to Clemson and Miami and, like Pitt, is 3-2 on the season, as well as in a make-or-break point in its schedule. The Yellow Jackets are 1-2 in the ACC’s Coastal Division while Pitt is 0-1 in conference play.

Here are three storylines worth keeping an eye on for Pitt fans:

Can Pitt contain Tech’s run game?

Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense has befuddled a lot of teams over the years under coach Paul Johnson, with Pitt being no exception. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 370 yards against Pitt last year, although the Panthers won 31-28 on Chris Blewitt’s 56-yard field goal with just over a minute to play.

While Tech’s running game hasn’t been quite as prolific so far this season, it’s still averaging 226.8 rushing yards per game – which ranks fourth in the ACC – while freshman running back Dedrick Mills has shown plenty of promise. Mills has averaged 4.5 yards per carry while rushing for 370 yards through his team’s first five games.

Tech quarterback Justin Thomas is also a threat in the running game, but has cost his team with turnovers at times. Thomas lost two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns in last week’s 35-21 loss to Miami.

Will Jordan Whitehead play?

Pitt strong safety Jordan Whitehead, the ACC Rookie of the Year last season, sat out the Panthers’ win last week over Marshall. Whitehead started the Panthers’ first four games, but Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi wouldn’t discuss why the sophomore didn’t play a single down against the Thundering Herd.

Whitehead, like many other Pitt recruits is a homegrown talent, who occasionally plays on offense, is second on the team with 31 tackles and has a fumble recovery, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble. While Narduzzi remains mum on Whitehead’s availability for this Saturday, all indications are that Whitehead will be back in the lineup against Tech.

Is any lead safe for Pitt?

If Pitt jumps out to a sizable lead early against Tech you may want to postpone your trip to the concession stand. The Panthers had a 27-0 lead last week against Marshall, but let the Thundering Herd close the gap to 3 points before closing out a 42-27 win. Pitt let a 13-point lead turn into a last-second loss to North Carolina the week before, and had another late meltdown two weeks ago in a last-second loss to Oklahoma State.

October 5, 2016

Triple Option Week

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:29 am

Speaking of which, a quick update on the ACC football scheduling thing. ESPN has relented, and it looks like the status quo is likely to continue.

The ADs spent much of the last three-plus months in fierce debate over two alternatives offered by ESPN, both designed to create more quality programming for the ACC Network, set to launch in 2019. In exchange for financial incentives, ESPN asked for eight league games and two Power Five non-conference dates (8+2), or nine league games and one outside Power Five contest (9+1).

But during a conference call Tuesday morning to prepare for their face-to-face meetings, the athletic directors learned from ACC commissioner John Swofford that while ESPN prefers one of those formats, it will settle for 8+1. This according to sources throughout the league.

How much that will cost the conference in incentives is unknown.

Not a fan of this, Expect the issue to continue to rear its head. It is still going to be a headache for a lot of schools for scheduling. After this season, we’ll see Clemson at Heinz Field in 2022.


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 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.


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 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.


September 8, 2016

Musings and Notes

Filed under: Football,Non-con,Opponent(s),Schedule — Chas @ 7:35 am

I look at Penn State’s attempts at “unrivaled” to market their lack of a rival team the same way I view friends that try to pretend how happy they are not to be in a relationship. Constantly spinning the positives when you can see the desperation in them to be with someone. Anyone.

In that vein, I can’t bring myself to call this game a rivalry game. A resumption of on the field hostilities, perhaps, but not a real rivalry game. I wish it wasn’t so. But it isn’t. It should be, but I don’t know that even Pitt is feeling like it can or should happen annually. Despite what AD Scott Barnes is saying.


September 2, 2016

Less than 24 hours until I hit the road to Pittsburgh. The familiar giddiness is building. A smile creeps over my face as I think about it. I’ve missed this.

Think the Pitt coaches are hammering home to the players about what nearly happened to Tennessee against Appalachian  State last night? The risk of taking a team likely, simply because they are FCS? Without any doubt.

So what’s news?


September 1, 2016

At some point I will have to do a post on Big XII expansion, simply because it has not failed to amuse me this entire spring and summer. It is just so perfect, though, that a conference named for 12 with only 10 members would announce “6 to 8 finalists.” Yet, the list actually goes to 10, 12 or even 13.


The year was 1998. My first year as a season ticket holder. I wasn’t unrealistic. I knew it was going to be a struggle that year. 1997 was loaded with seniors and 1998. Well, 1998 was bad. We got an idea in that first game as Pitt struggled to beat Villanova 48-41. One of two wins that year and 0-7 in the Big East.


June 15, 2016

Here is a detailed and in-depth look at the Panther football program under Pat Narduzzi.  It was written yesterday by Bill Connelly of SB Nation  and is a wealth of historical and present (and future) info about where we have been and the direction he thinks we are going into the 2016 season.

Here is an opening salvo to get your attention:

As fans, we have plenty of funny tendencies. If you raise the stature of our program just enough to break our heart with high-stakes losses, we will resent you for it.

It’s funny (if you’re not a Pitt fan, at least) to look back to the end of the last decade.

Under Dave Wannstedt, Pitt pulled off one of its most significant upsets, in 2007 (taking down WVU in Morgantown to prevent the Mountaineers from advancing to the BCS title game), then went 9-4 and 10-3 over the next two seasons. The Panthers went 8-5 in 2010, giving them 27 wins over a three-year period for the first time since 1981-83.

And Wannstedt resigned under pressure, hated by a large portion of Pitt fans.

But I’ll disagree – unless he thinks I am the only Pitt fan whose opinion matters I don’t think Pitt fans hated Wannstedt at all.  It was more like they were so disappointed with all the crap that went on back in 2010 and his inability to outright win a BCS bowl bid in his six years as head coach that any sort of a change was a relief.

But let’s not put binders on as this writer has – there were a hell of a lot of Pitt fans that didn’t want to see DW go at all.

Aside from that this is a fantastic read.  It is a breath of fresh air to read someone state the true comparisons between Chryst’s time at Pitt and Pat Narduzzi’s first year.  We fans are infused with a lot of Narduzzi’s energy and exuberance so we look at last season with an overly positive view.


June 13, 2016

The Pitt News weighs in with two articles.  The first is regarding the rise in Pitt’s season ticket sales:

Pitt’s athletic department announced in a letter Tuesday morning that 93 percent of season ticket holders have renewed their subscription for the upcoming football season.

On top of that, Pitt has sold almost 10,000 new season tickets, putting the University on track to break the school record for season ticket sales — a goal Athletic Director Scott Barnes set in February.

This is an interesting fact – the excitement generated after the 2002 season when we went 9-4 under Walt Harris produce a record for sales.

Pitt’s all-time record for season ticket sales is 53,775, set in 2003. According to the letter — which both Barnes and head football coach Pat Narduzzi signed — the school expects to actually break the record in August, when the majority of undergraduate student ticket purchases occur.

I went back to look at what that might have been the reasons for that and wanted to see if there were other factors than the winning record. I think what goes into making fans excited is not just winning seasons. I have said on here many times that one of my favorite seasons was the 2007 one where everything that could be thrown in our path to stop progress was… and we still felt it was a great ending when we beat WVU 13-9.

I remember very clearly that after the dust settled on that year we fans were excited to see what 2008 was going to show us.  Of course we wanted to see LeSean McCoy in action again. That is one of the main attractions when looking forward; to see how your favorite player’s career is going to turn out is a powerful motivating factor for fans to attend games… along, of course, with that all-important W/L record.


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