Atlanta, GA – December 8, 2016 – College Football Hall of Fame: Portrait of College Football Awards winner of the Disney Spirit Award, James Conner of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers (Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images)
The news hit me twice in about thirty seconds. When James Conner announced to the world a little over a year ago that he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I had the unfortunate pleasure of learning twice. Pitt put up a feed online for fans to watch but there was a lag. So while I scrolled on twitter waiting for the press conference to begin, I saw it.
“James Conner announces he has been diagnosed with cancer.”
He earned his latest award by compiling a career-high 257 all-purpose yards against the Orange, averaging an incredible 21.4 yards per touch.
Henderson averaged 18.7 yards on three punt returns (56 yards), 24.5 on four kickoffs (98 yards) and an incredible 20.6 on five rushes (103 yards). He had a 66-yard touchdown burst off a jet sweep to give Pitt a 49-21 lead in the third quarter.
Henderson’s (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I. du Pont) performance helped the Panthers achieve their highest single-game point total since 1977. His five Specialist of the Week awards are the most by an ACC player this season. He was previously honored for his performances in the Penn State, Virginia, Miami and Duke contests.
A highly viable All-America candidate, Henderson has four returns for touchdowns this season, including a nation-leading three on kickoffs. He ranks second in the country in combined kick return yards (1,121), fifth in kickoff return average (31.1) and 11th in all-purpose yards per game (159.75).
I’m assuming the ACC has a Specialist of the Year honor, which Henderson is a shoe-in to get. Along with 1st Team All-ACC recognition.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hope you are enjoying it with friends, family and those who make you happy. I have been doing little things in preparation for the full-blown day of cooking (and maybe a bit to drink). The way things work out this time of year, we can’t travel to be with the entire family, so it is just the wife and kids. Which is much more peaceful, but we do miss out on the fun (usually) chaos of a house full of family.
There’s a game on Saturday, and I’m taking my son to it. He went with me to the spring game and had a great time. It just hasn’t worked out most of the season, but I promised him his first game this year so it is do or die time. On that note, does anyone have a couple extra tickets they aren’t using? Dragging him to the pressbox doesn’t seem like a good idea. I don’t think I can sell him as my intern. That means I have to pick a couple up. I know it won’t be hard to get a couple, but I might as well ask here first.
The line on this game started at Pit -23.5. It has since risen to -24.5. I wonder how much of it is confidence in Pitt versus a lack of confidence in Syracuse.
Normally the Syracuse-Pitt “rivalry” game is a time for us to make fun of the ACC for declaring this the rivalry game. Point out how neither side really views the other with deep hate in football. That the series tends to shift one-sidedly for quite a while — and right now it is on Pitt’s side.
That’s still all true. But, at least the ACC went and moved it to the end of the season when there is a chance the game could means something in terms of wins and losses.
Focus of today. Primarily some pieces on tackles and the secondary.
Stories today looked at the position changes for Brian O’Neill and Shakir Soto. In no small part owing to their game against Georgia Tech. Both have been thriving all season, but they really shined this past weekend.
Basketball Head Coach Kevin Stallings is a disciple of UNC Coach Roy Williams. So it is no surprise that Stallings wants his teams to be playing at a faster pace. That has long been a hallmark of Williams’ teams at Kansas and UNC.
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.
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.
The two topics covered in the news regarding Pitt.
This has to be one of the best parts of being a head coach. Getting to reward walk-ons with scholarships. These are kids that either took a chance on themselves or needed to be at the school because of family or some deep desire for that particular school. They earned the scholarship for the work they have done since coming into the program.
PA won the annual Big 33 football game yesterday – forgive the PSU slant with the link but apparently this is the best coverage I can find… (neither of the two major PGH papers had a word on it at the time I wrote this)… even though it looks like Pitt recruits contributed also. But with three TDs (in only 67 yards) he gets the lion’s share of the publicity.
Our DB Damar Hamlin did well also. Pitt had six on the roster compared to PSU’s two.
At first, Jo-El Shaw almost balked at the opportunity to represent Pennsylvania in the annual Big 33 Football Classic. It was at the first team-wide practice in April and the Pennsylvania coaches figured Shaw would play fullback since that’s how he’s listed on the roster.
“I told them I was going to go home,” said Shaw, now a Woodland Hills High School alumnus. “I told them, ‘You can go find somebody else, because I ain’t playing fullback.’ ”
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.
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.
This is the lead into the article and I think he hits the nail right on the head regarding our pass defense:
“The most difficult positions to fill in the Narduzzi secondary are probably the boundary corner, free safety, field corner, strong safety, and star LB (space-backer) in that order.
The latter two positions of strong safety and star are the tip of the spear for this defense, these guys are set to up make plays and put pressure on the offense, which is what defines this scheme. Their aggression and freedom isn’t possible without the play of the former three defenders who have to establish the “no-fly zone” so that the strong safety and star can spend their time hunting down running backs.
As it happens, the Panthers are returning their boundary corner Avonte Maddox, free safety Terrish Webb, and strong safety Jordan Whitehead but are looking for players to step up at field corner and space-backer.”
Well, most likely that field cornerback will be true FR Damar Hamlin after the dust settles during fall camp. At least that is what the pundits (and myself I suppose) think. He’s highly rated at 4*s and had offers from across the country. If we are looking for another, or different, newcomer to take that spot then 4* FR George Hill could fit the bill also. We discuss him a lot on here, our mysterious commenter Pitt of Dreams can’t envision him anywhere but at running back. However, needs must and if the staff wants him there they will put him there.
Today I’ll talk a bit about the recruiting articles we just had up on here and some other things, then historical subjects about what the Pitt program was like years ago and how things can make or break a team.
After that 1982 regular season, when we were 9-2 and Becker death happened, we lost the Cotton bowl to SMU by a score of 7-3. After averaging 27 ppg in the regular season we put up three. That, I believe was a hangover from the preceding week.
We went 8-3-1 the next season then tanked to 3-7-1 the year after. If you look closely you’ll see that our recruiting suffered a lot after that Becker incident also. So many different things can affect a football program…
Note: Just as a heads up – I am zeroing in, with my daughter’s help, on figuring out how to do a conference call-in recording so that we can start a “Pitt Blather Round Table” where I would moderate and select some subject matters for two or three Blather readers to discuss and then post as a podcast.
My feelers out to Pitt fans about doing this have been well received and I think it would be nice to hear some other opinions on Pitt football other than mine. Our written comments are great on here and generate some fantastic discussions but maybe a bit of a different forum to give and take on issues will be fun to do also.
I’ll keep all informed as to the details but keep your eyes open and I’ll be asking for test dummies soon.