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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 19, 2014

One of the great things about college football is having friends who also follow it and then debating with them the different points of view about our favorite football program.  We do that like crazy here on the Blather so as a switch from all the negative things we fans have been dealing with when it comes to the program lately let’s sit back and take a look at some past and present team and player comparisons.

A bright spot of the 2014 season is the production of some of our underclass starters on offense.  Boyd is replicating his great ’13 season, Conner has blown up after a pretty darn good true FR year and it looks like Voytik has settled in a bit and could be more productive in 2015.  Next season we should see even more increase in the offense play of these three as a whole.

The thing that jumps out to me first and foremost is how exceedingly productive James Conner has been at Defensive End Running Back. PITT has a great history of running backs especially going back to the 1970’s with Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. For timely comparison sake let’s go back 10 years and look at the best rushing yardage years of five of PITT’s most productive RBs of that decade with the best production in red.

RB GP Carries Yards YPC CPG YPG TDs
Dorsett 11 370 2150 5.8 33.6 195.5 22
Lewis 13 325 1799 5.5 25.0 138.4 17
Conner* 10/12 250/300 1562/1874 6.2 25.0 156.2 21/25
McCoy 13 308 1488 4.8 23.7 114.5 21
Graham 12 222 1042 4.7 18.5 86.8 11

* – Conner’s projection for the whole 2014 season is in bold italics, assuming no bowl game :(

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November 15, 2014

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Durand Johnson’s season long suspension.

“Durand will remain in our program and practice,” [Head Coach Jamie] Dixon said. “However, he will not compete in any games this season. While it is disappointing, we will encourage Durand to make the most of this year personally, academically and athletically.”

There was no nebulous “team rules” citation. This appeared very suddenly, as a week ago Johnson was playing big minutes in the final exhibition game. My instinct in a suspension like this, is that it is academically related. That appears to be the likely reason.

It sucks for Durand Johnson. Everyone raves about him as a person and a teammate. He accepted his role as an energy guy coming off the bench. He worked on his defense. There was a strong expectation that he could make a leap coming back from his ACL injury and with more playing time coming his way.

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November 12, 2014

Mental Health Break

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 8:07 am

From the comments, many of you have checked out on the season. Some have stated or threatened to check out even further than that. Oddly, despite how maddening, frustrating and agonizing the last couple weeks have been I haven’t checked out on this year.

Oh, my expectations/hopes are extremely shallow at this point. And it is probably more about individual stories, performances and that feeling of being unable to turn away from a wreck. Still, I’m feeling connected.

I’ve checked out before. I know the feeling. 2007, definitely checked out early (notwithstanding that final game of the season). Same with 2010. More detached. Les angsty. Much more focus on basketball.

Having said that, I needed a little time after the Duke game.

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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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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 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…)

October 18, 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 Virginia Tech Hokies on the turf at Heinz Field on a rare nationally televised Thursday night game and came away with a very satisfying 21-16 win.  It was a close game and one that even to most optimistic of PITT fans had to doubts about as the 4th quarter unfolded.  The win puts us at 4-3 on the season with a 2-1 ACC conference record that is just about what we figured we’d have at this point of the season.  It is safe to say that we needed to start the second half of the season with a conference win if we want to have any chance at a Coastal Division championship.

POSITIVES

1.  Our defense, again. When you hold a team, any team, to 26 yards rushing on 21 carries (1.2 ypc) and 2 of 14 on 3rd and 4th down conversion tries you are playing excellent defense.  That is the kind of stout play that results in low scores for the other team (16 points with three FGs) and a win.

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October 12, 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.)

Now that we are in the middle of the 2014 schedule let’s take a moment to look at what we fans have liked or disliked about the staff, team and players after six games have been played.  We stand at 3-3 with a 1-1 record in ACC conference play.  Last week we lost a close one to Virginia Cavaliers on their home field and this coming Thursday evening we play the Virginia Tech Hokies at Heinz Field.  It is safe to say that we need to start the second half of the season with a conference win if we want to have any chance at a Coastal Division championship.

POSITIVES

1.  Our defense. Yes, we have given up some big plays and yes, we have allowed the other team to score more points than us in three games but there were a lot of factors that went into that.  One factor that stood out and pretty much crippled us in our recent three games losing streak was our crap offense (see “Negatives #1″ below).

But we are holding our own on defense this season and while it doesn’t seem like it at times it’s true.  Granted we stumbled a bit against Akron when we let a team not know for its run game tear up the field but that was mainly due to a couple of long runs through pretty poor arm tackle and angle taking attempts.

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October 9, 2014

Historical PITT QB Ratings

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s),Players — Reed @ 7:52 pm

(Before any statisticians or math majors get excited and start ripping this apart please realize this is done for fun and researched as well as I could with the internet resources available.)

Last week we put up an article titled Past PITT QBs’ Ground Games exploring how well PITT’s recent quarterback’s could run when they actually tucked in the ball and tried to get positive yardage.  We did that because at present we are having a lively discussion of PITT’s current QB, Chad Voytik, and his strengths and weakness in the position.  I think it’s safe to say that we all recognize that running the ball is perhaps the greatest strength he has at this point.

In writing that article and looking back over the numerous and lengthy debates we have had on here about how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ a QB was for us I wondered that because  it is so subjective an issue there must be a way to at least compare QBs in a somewhat standard way.

To start I chose to go back to Alex Van Pelt, because he was so good for us, then to Rod Rutherford and all our major starters since then; Tyler Palko, Bill Stull, Tino Sunseri and now Chad Voytik.  I  included Tom Savage in the initial comparisons even though he had a short one season stint with us.

The first thing I had to address was exactly how to show the QB’s side by side measurements.  We have all seen the “QB Rating” numbers at the end of a player’s box score after the game but do we really know what that means? I didn’t realize there was more than one way of numerically rating a QB’s performance, but there is.

Background of the Ratings
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October 6, 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.)

These MMQB articles are getting harder and harder to write given the inconsistencies of our coaching staff’s decisions, our team’s efforts and our individual player’s success’ and failures, even from play to play sometimes.  I’m still not sure exactly what caliber of PITT football team we have this season.   I’ll put down some more personal opinions at the end of this article.

POSITIVES

1.  Todd Thomas’ play at OLB on defense. He came rigged to play last night and ended up with 12 total tackles; seven unassisted, five assisted with one tackle for loss, most of which seemed to come in crucial situations. He was all over the field and at least two of his tackles stopped important 3rd down conversion attempts.  There is a lot of fan discussion this morning about how DC House is substituting for Thomas in certain situations, most specifically passing downs and against the spread formations we have seen in some past games.

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October 1, 2014

Past PITT QBs’ Ground Games

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s),Players — Reed @ 3:00 am

(Note: “Fun with Stats!” again – there maybe some small math errors and lapses in info from RR’s years but this is a pretty accurate take on this subject.)

We have spent a good amount of time discussing Chad Voytik’s short career as a starter with both articles and hundreds of reader’s comments. We have talked about his past, his time since coming to PITT, his winning the starting job and his performance in that position through the first five games of this 2014 season.

What has been one common thread in those discussions is Voytik’s ability to move well with the football.  That includes called rollouts on passing plays, called running plays where he is the primary ball carrier and scrambles away from the defensive line pressure.

His box score with ‘ball in hand’ is as follows:

Opponent Rush Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs
Delaware 2 11 5.5 7 0
BC 6 47 7.8 23 0
FIU 12 144 9.5 40 1
Iowa 5 6 1.2 15 0
Akron 8 7 0.9 15 0

So on the season, adding back the sack yardage (-38 yards) which comes off the top of his rushing totals, he’s has 33 carries for 253 yards at a 7.66 ypc clip with a long of 40 and one TD.

QB Games Played Rush Attempts Yards YPC YPG TDs
Voytik 5 28 253 9.0 50.6 1

Now that is his production when he has the ball in his hand and makes a positive move to pick up yards on the ground, and is what I consider a basis when talking about a QBs running ability His stats in this are very good.  He accounts for almost 20% of PITT’s 1,347 yards rushing total to date.

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September 28, 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 tried to tell myself to wait until Monday to do this edition of this series but for a few personal (travel) reasons I just can’t put it off.  This will be short but not sweet as there aren’t many positives to talk about at all. We had our asses handed to us by the freakin’ Akron Zips of the MAC conference! That says it all really.   I’ll put down some more personal opinions at the end of this article.

POSITIVES

1.  Our kicking game continues to do well. Punter Ryan Winslow was tasked with punting seven times due to the ineptitude of our offense and had a 42.1 ypp average. His longest was 49 yards; he put two punts inside Akron’s 20 yard line, had one touchback and two fair catches.  That leaves another positive in that two of his punts were returned for a total of 10 yards, which means our Punting Team covered well.  Our own punt return team didn’t fare so well and looked like the Two Stooges at one point.  This one play is burned forever into my eyeballs.

Chris Blewitt stayed his good kicking self as he went 1/1 on a 34 yard FG and kicked off three times for three touchbacks. When a kicker can limit the opponent’s starting field position to their own 25 yards line that’s playing well.  So far on the season Blewitt is 7/7 for 21 points and has completed 19 of 20 PATs for a total of 40 points.

2.  Hmmm, let’s see.  Ok – RB Rachid Ibrahim continues to shine in his very limited role. He had three catches out of the backfield for 40 yards, a 13 yarder which was and a 26 yarder, both for 1st downs and all YAC, and one rushing attempt for 10 yards.  His abilities to run with the ball are as good as Boyd’s so use Ibrahim more and don’t rely on Conner up the middle so much.

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Looking For Something Positive

Filed under: Basketball,Injury,Players — Chas @ 9:48 am

Maybe there’s some good news from Pitt basketball.

Senior guard Cameron Wright, Pitt’s leading returning scorer, had surgery Friday after breaking his left foot a week before the team’s first practice, a team source said.

Wright, who broke his foot Thursday, is expected to miss 10 weeks.

The Panthers’ first practice is scheduled for Friday.

/sigh

September 23, 2014

(Note:  For some time I’ve been wanting to do a separate piece on Chad Voytik, his recruitment and what he was like in the camps and practices leading up to his winning the starting job.  This is that article and I’ll remind readers that if what I write isn’t a solid fact like a statistic or a direct quote then it is my opinion.   That said, here are Voytik’s current statistics:  He has started all four games and has a 3-1 record; He’s passed 48 completions in 79 attempts (60.8%) for 534 total yards and 133.5 ypg along with 5 TDs & 3 INTs for a 130.83 QB efficiency rating.)

 Now is the time, with four games into the 2014 regular season behind us, that we should take a minute to review the question marks we had going into this year and we all felt that QB play was the biggest of those.  Let’s look at the background and history that brought Voytik to his starting position at PITT and while we do that let’s also remember that Voytik has been in the program for over two years and is a first year starter at QB.

After attending some of the 2012 spring practices, and watching Voytik in practices and scrimmages since then, I’ve paid close attention to his play and skills because it wasn’t too hard to figure out that he would be our starting QB  sooner or later.  Sunseri was going into his last season at PITT back in ’12 and we had Trey Anderson as the only other valid QB on the roster for ’13.  Tom Savage wasn’t on PITT’s radar screen yet so the field was open for Voytik to fleet to being a rsFR starter in ‘13.

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