(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.)
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.
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.