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March 18, 2015

Football Scheduling Note

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Reed @ 11:36 am

Hot off the presses…

PITT AND TENNESSEE AGREE TO PLAY HOME-AND-HOME SERIES IN 2021 AND 2022

   PITTSBURGH—Pitt and Tennessee have agreed to a home-and-home football series for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the schools announced today.  The initial game of the agreement will be played at Tennessee on September 11, 2021. The Panthers will host the Volunteers at Heinz Field on September 10, 2022.  Pitt and Tennessee have played just twice before. The Panthers won both meetings—30-6 in 1980 and 13-3 in 1983—with each of those games taking place at the Vols’ Neyland Stadium.

The 1980 game was memorable for being Pitt’s first encounter with its former head coach, Johnny Majors, who returned home to Tennessee after leading the Panthers to the 1976 national championship. Majors’ former top lieutenant at Pitt, Jackie Sherrill, succeeded him as the Panthers’ head coach. Sherrill’s 1980 squad, considered one of the finest in Pitt history, finished 11-1, including the victory at Tennessee.  NoteJackie Sherrill left PITT for the highest paid contract in college football at Texas A&M. Then came Foge Fazio.

The 1983 game served as the season opener for both teams. Pitt, under the direction of head coach Foge Fazio, defeated the host Volunteers, who were picked by Beano Cook in Sport magazine to win the national title that year. (In response to that prediction, Majors said that Cook, Pitt’s former sports information director, told him “he did it to get back at me for leaving Pittsburgh…Beano likes to kid around and play jokes.”)

BeanoCookPghSkyline

The Panthers’ finished the ’83 campaign with an 8-3-1 record and Fiesta Bowl berth. Tennessee did not win the national championship but did go 9-3, the Vols’ finest mark in 11 years.

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January 8, 2015

Running through the usual list of PITT sports websites I visit every morning while I have my first cup of Joe I read an opinion piece by Joe Starkey of the Tribune Review titled What PITT Football could be that he posted on Wednesday night. I found that it mostly made sense and was well thought out, hitting on the the root of the matter of PITT football program’s mediocrity over the last 31 years and what Pat Narduzzi has to bring to PITT to change the culture of apathy on the part of the administration, students, local populace and, in my opinion, the local media as well.

Starkey opens his article with a simple declaration “It’s time for a key substitution regarding Pitt football: Excuses out. Expectations in”. That is a pretty simple stance to take and one he expounds upon later in his piece when he says:

Time will tell whether Pat Narduzzi is the guy to change all this, but you have to like the fact he is coming from a place (Michigan State) where Mark Dantonio & Co. looked at all the built-in excuses, kicked them in the face and created an entirely new culture. And did so without batches of five-star recruits. After decades of mediocrity, Michigan State has become a bastion of positivity and big wins.

That is fantastic! PITT will do it right now if only Starkey would let us in on exactly how Dantonio & Co. accomplished it! I do wonder if Starkey and PITT fans forget that sometimes ‘excuses’ can also be seen as ‘reasons’ for an outcome and vice versa. If in the past, as a lot of us believe, the PITT administration tried to create and sustain a successful football program while stinting on the financial resources to make it happen then is it an excuse that it didn’t work out or is it a reason we did what we did?

Perhaps it depends on how one looks at the University’s financial situation as a whole or maybe just the level of honest interest the Chancellor and the BoT had in fielding a successful team, which might have been even less than we saw in public. To me that is a contributing reason for the poor results we have seen over the last two decades, to others it may just be an excuse. Nothing happens in a vacuum, there are always reasons things turn out the way they do.

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January 4, 2015

I have a confession to make, with a question to go with it.

Was anyone else laughing when the buzzer went off at the end of the bowl game? Honest to God, I was and my wife couldn’t understand it (and I wasn’t even drinking or taking any Windowpane acid either).  When we went up 31-6 she turned to me and said “I guess you didn’t expect this to happen, did you?”  My reply was that there was no way the game was going to end nicely.  Not that I thought we’d lose, I didn’t, but I was sure there would be drama at the end.

When the Houston QB hit those two long completions in a row, 43 yards and 32 yards down to our 7 yard line at the 4:00 mark I was resigned to it.  Then, when Nick Grigsby grabbed his own balls instead of the football on that second on-side kick I knew we were sunk.  Silly women, she couldn’t believe what happened but we PITT fans weren’t that surprised were we?  Reading the 600+ comments in the game thread I can see that that is true.  There was much anger and some disgust but really, no one was saying ‘I can’t believe this happened‘ because deep in our hearts we knew it could.

That’s why I’m not even parsing the game that was played.  It doesn’t matter who did or didn’t do whatever whenever.  IT JUST WAS.  As PITT fans we ‘get’ that.

And perhaps that was Fate’s way of saying “Boys, it is time for a completely clean slate for 2015“.  The Chancellorship changed, the old AD was shown the door,  the head coaching job turned over and I believe all the staff coaches will be gone this week.  Perhaps in the long run, and especially given our recent four year history, this kick in the nuts loss is the perfect way to make us sit back and clear our own minds as far as being a PITT football fan goes.

I’ve decided not to have any expectations whatsoever with Narduzzi and the new people he’ll bring in.  I firmly believe we have a 50/50 chance of being ‘Same Old PITT” as we do with winning lots of football games.  I’ll take things day to day and will walk the “Show me!” line as the off season goes by and the games begin.  I look at PITT football with tabula rasa; a blank slate to imprint with facts and opinions as things unfold and not before.

Anyway, I had a great time writing and conversing with everyone on here during the ramp up to and then the playing of 2014’s games.  We’ll have just as much fun, hopefully more, starting today for the new 2015 season.

Chin up boys and HTP!

January 1, 2015

As seems to happen regularly with PITT football this last year was one that was neither very satisfying or particularly exciting until the last days of the last week of the last month when the personnel changes began happening. Then things started to roll into developments that we can sink our teeth into on here. Some good, some undecided but that still excites fans.

Let’s start from the New Year of 2014 and look back at the most interesting thing that happened in each month. This will be Part 1 and will encompass January until the end of September and the four games played to that date.

Jan 6th:  Tyler Boyd was named as a Freshman All-American Wide Receiver for the ’13 season. That made sense considering he broke the big receiving records that a past PITT star, Larry Fitzgerald (that never gets old), had set back in 2002. Boyd racked up 85 receptions for 1174 yards and seven TDs in his rookie year, all from the arm of transfer SR QB Tom Savage. Not too many people in Western PA were surprised that Boyd did this since he had been a star at undefeated Clariton HS for the past four years. If you remember, the first thing PITT had to do after Boyd signed his Letter of Intent back in 2013 to was enroll Boyd in a Personal Therapy program to teach him how to accept losing football games. He had six chances to show that he was OK in that area. That was a good thing as in this, his second year, Boyd was a fine all-around player and teammate and has built on that to be a stalwart of the future Panther teams.

Feb 5th: LOI day came and went without any real surprises. We signed almost the expected full class with the exception of QB Wade Freebeck who bagged on us for the Vanderbilt Robber Barons. That left us with one QB in the class in Adam Bertke who looked good in the fall camp. As has been Chryst’s plan, a lot of these true FR saw playing time. On offense the FR who contributed most was RB Chris James who played in all 12 games, had 82 carries for 406 yards (4.9 ypc!) and 4 TDs which is a great first year especially considering he was playing behind our star RB Conner. WR Adonis Jennings got in some games in the 2nd half of the season, held back because of limited time in camp practices due to an injury, and had 6 catches for 55 yards (9.2 ypc). Both those guys, including the redshirted RB Qadree Ollison, who at 6’2” & 220 could fill the FB role later or more likely be the thunder to James’ lightning, will be the nucleus of the skill positions in the future.

But it was on defense where we saw the most impact from this recruiting class. DB Avonte Maddox , a future star for us, played in all 12 games eventually starting five in the latter part of the season. He had 27 total tackles. DB Pat Amara played in nine games starting two and had 18 tackles;. LB Quentin Wirginis played in all the games, mainly on special teams coverage squads and had five tackles. Wirginis has a ton of potential and is a ‘tough kid’ as stated by the staff. I don’t doubt that as I know his father from my professional life (he owns the Gateway Clipper Fleet) and he’s no pushover either. (more…)

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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November 24, 2014

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.  Any RB not named James Conner, again. What a great supporting cast at RB we have. Conner gets a hip pointer and is pulled after tying the ACC TD record and chasing hard after Famous Tony Dorsett’s record and our running game doesn’t skip a beat.  We were up against a Syracuse defense that wasn’t too bad against the run (139 ypg & 30th nationally) and pretty much had our way with the.  True FR Chris James was the lead horse but the other two RBs certainly chipped in when needed.  The box score reads like this:

James: 19-122, 6.4ypc;  Bennett: 11-75, 6,8 ypc;  Ibrahim: 3-23, 7.7 ypc.  When you have three backs that average above  6.4 ypc over the course of 33 carries both the backs and the OL are clicking.

Bennett had a nice 9 yard ramble on a 2nd & 3 yards play that got us a 1st down and led directly to Voytik’s TD pass to Ford to make it 17-0 and an easier game to play. But all three of those guys had very nice running skills and are a mixture of some power, Bennett and James particularly and shiftiness (all three).

We all want Conner healthy and able to set some records of his own against Miami this week but it helps us fans to know that we have some pretty reliable backs behind him.  I thought earlier this season that if Conner had gone down with an injury it would be a loss but we would also have the OL and the RBs to still mount a successful rushing game.  Glad that it didn’t happen for many reason and on is that having Conner behind Voytik has allowed this staff to bring Voytik along slowly and that has paid dividends in the second half of this season.

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November 13, 2014

Hello fellow disappointing ACC Coastal team. You seem so familiar.

In ranking the most disappointing teams in college football this year, arguably Pitt can’t even win in its own division. That honor goes to UNC followed by VT. Pitt only manages a 3d place finish in the Coastal Chaos Mess. Is there any doubt that Pitt is in the right conference?

Heck, in the weekly ACC power polls ESPN.com does, Pitt moved up two spots over the last two weeks — with an OT loss and a bye. If that isn’t a #goacc moment, than I don’t know what is.

I’m even more excited than before for the Pitt-UNC game on Saturday.

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November 6, 2014

The bye week feels like a great time to break out my old column Optimist vs. Pessimist. There’s not a whole lot to be optimistic about the rest of this season, but perhaps a bowl win could inspire a little hope like it did at the end of last season. Naturally, two more wins are needed before Pitt can even think about going to a bowl game. Let’s examine whether or not James Conner and company can win two of the last three games against UNC, the ARCHRIVAL ORANGE, and Miami. (more…)

November 3, 2014

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.)

I have to start off by saying that because of external family issues; a death of a good friend, my having to set up his Memorial Service ,  having the wake at our home and then having house guests all weekend I didn’t watch the game and I didn’t record it either.

I took a look at the box scores and watched a few video highlights and that’s it – you guys can do the MMQB’ing this week…

POSITIVES

1.  Chad Voytik. That is his second consecutive game that he’s shown improvement in his actual passing production.  From watching a couple videos of his passes it looks like his passing skills are getting better also. 16 of  24 for 236 yards (66.8%) with a ypa of 9.8, which is excellent! And two TDs is a good day at the office for any QB.  Good for him.  He lead the team to 31  regular game points.

On our second TD drive we had to go 32 yards and he did that with only two plays, a 16 yard pass and a 13 yard run.

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November 1, 2014

PITT – Duke Predictions

Filed under: Conference,Football,Opponent(s) — Reed @ 6:51 am

As bad as last week was I still don’t think it was an accurate reflection of the talent this Panther team has or its ability to play well and win games. With that I’m expecting a much better showing by PITT this week with a return to a strong running game and the staff getting the other RBs and different WRs the ball more often then in the past.

Conner gets 100+ yards and two TDs, Voytik throws for one and we score another by some other player.  Trey Anderson might be that other guy.

PITT – 31 Duke – 27

What do you think?

Open Thread: Duke-Pitt in the Slog

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 5:50 am

It seems I may be a sadist as well as a masochist. Not only am I heading out the door to attend the game today — highs today in the mid 40s, some wind and rain in the mix — I’m dragging my daughter with me. I know, get those “I’m reporting you to CFS,” jokes in before they get too stale.

To be fair, she wanted to go. Despite the weather. Despite the way Pitt has played. She enjoys going to the game and doing all the other activities. And disturbingly enough, hanging out with her dad and his friends. Strange kid.

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October 31, 2014

So, Yeah. Duke Tomorrow

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:48 am

No, really. I wasn’t trying to forget about football with a couple basketball posts. Just had to get that stuff out there. Hey, an exhibition tonight. With a 30 second shot clock. Wait. Stay on topic. Sorry, thinking about the Duke Blue Devils tends to be an exercise in basketball considerations. Not football.

Nonetheless, Pitt plays Duke in bas- football tomorrow. It’s a nooner on ESPNU. So, national coverage (yay?), but a noon home game (boo!). ESPN set this game time was set after the VT win, but before the GT loss. Duke was coming off a win as well and it could have been considered a battle for the ACC Coastal, yet still got a noon slot.

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October 27, 2014

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.)

We met the enemy and they are us.  After some games this season it has been kind of hard to find three positives to list in this series’ articles.  Today it is virtually impossible.

POSITIVES

1. The holder on our PATs. At least he didn’t fumble the ball.  Seriously.

2.  Our Running Backs. A while ago I mentioned ‘every RB not named James Conner’ in an article. I’ll do that again here. Ibrahim, Bennett and James all had good plays to try to keep us in the game.  Ibrahim (3 carries for 66 yards)  took a handoff down the left sideline for 50 yards to set up a Conner TD; Bennett, although he was one of the now-record breaking PITT fumbling crew, took a beautifully thrown wheel route from Anderson down the right side for a 35 yard TD and Chris James contributed a nice show of yards after the catch on a short dump pass from Voytik that James turned into a 23 yard gain.

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October 25, 2014

Georgia Tech Predicitions

Filed under: Conference,Football,Opponent(s) — Reed @ 5:53 am

Another hard one for me to fathom, but they all are it seems because I have a 50/50 record at best predicting winners.

I think the weather is nice, crowds will be bigger and the defense will be focused and hold GT down below their average offensive output.  Big ACC game to win if we can….

PITT – 27 GT – 24

October 23, 2014

Georgia Tech Preview

Filed under: ACC,Chryst,Football,Opponent(s),Players — Justin @ 10:51 am

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are coming to Heinz Field this Saturday in an attempt to continue the craziness that is the ACC Coastal Division this season. Everyone in the division is 2-1, 2-2, or 1-2. That means each team is still within one game of first place. There are scenarios in which the entire division goes 4-4, a cluster%&#@ that would certainly make things interesting. A win this weekend and next will suddenly put Pitt in the driver’s seat to take the division. (more…)

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