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September 19, 2014

James Conner Has Some Focus

Filed under: Football,Players,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 7:42 am

It’s been quite a week for James Conner and media attention. But he is trying to ignore it.

After Conner rushed for 177 yards against Florida International, he broke another Tony Dorsett record, this time for most yards by a Pitt back in the first three games.

Conner trumpeted the achievement, placing a photo on Instagram. It didn’t take long for his phone to ring. It was Aaron Donald, Pitt’s highly decorated former defensive tackle, who knows a little bit about how to handle fame.

“He said to me, ‘Just stay focused and just play ball,’ ” Conner said. “ ‘Those individual awards will come. You can’t worry about that now.’

“I listen to every word he says. I’m not thinking about that stuff anymore.”

Conner took Donald’s advice one step further and decided to take a break from social media.

“People have negative things to say,” he said. “If I keep thinking about that, it will throw me off my game.

“I figure time spent on Twitter could be spent in the weight room or in the film room. I’m glad (Donald) reached out to me.”

Still, there has been a good deal of media attention this week. And the thing that I keep seeing in these stories is a very different kind of focus. One that seems to be on a big picture of his future and an unshakable confidence.

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September 18, 2014

Iowa – PITT Predictions

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s),Players — Reed @ 1:37 pm

(P/S: Please read Justin’s “Iowa Keys to the Game ” first then jump back over here and get your prediction down for us.)

Two day until game time and we’re playing at Heinz Field  again, this time against the Big Ten opponent the Iowa Hawkeyes.  I think other PITT fans are with me, at least the ones with tickets to the game, and have been really looking forward to see our Panthers in live action again.

The weather report for Saturday at noon is great with cooler temps in the low 70s and sunshine – perfect football weather.  We have three wins with no losses, an awesome running game, stout rushing defense and a chance to see just how well our QB and the passing game can work against a FBS opponent at home.

Reed:  PITT  27, Iowa  21.  Lower scoring and hard fought on Saturday. I’m not sold yet on our passing game seeing a breakthrough although I can see Voytik getting 100+ yards passing and throwing one TD pass with an INT or two. He’ll help again with his running ability.   I think our rushing game gets 175-200 yards and we win.

Justin: Pitt 24, Iowa 14. Voytik throws for 180 yards and 2 TDs, Conner goes for 90 yards, and Ray Vinopal has a huge day for the defense.

How about you guys?  Give us a  winner, final score and why you think it will turn out that way.

 

Iowa Keys to the Game

Filed under: Chryst,Football,Opponent(s),Players,Playoffs — Justin @ 9:45 am

With the Iowa Hawkeyes coming to town, Pitt has a chance to put another nail in the B1G coffin. So far this season the B1G is 1-10 against other Power 5 (PAC-12, SEC, ACC, and Big 12) conferences and there are four more opportunities this weekend to keep the downward trend moving. Headed into the season, Iowa was viewed as a dark horse B1G champ and playoff contender, but early season struggles have put a damper on that. However, this could be the type of game that helps Iowa gain confidence after an ugly loss to rival Iowa State last weekend. If the rest of the B1G continues to suck, Iowa could be the Mountaineer fan with the most teeth and still pull it off. (more…)

September 16, 2014

You would think that at the one quarter point in the season we’d have a solid idea of how good the team is and how well the primary players are producing.  It seems not to be the case this season for PITT.  Granted we are 3-0 going into Saturday’s noon game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Heinz Field but really doesn’t feel like 3-0 given who the wins were over.

Delaware and FIU are both teams that PITT should beat handily even if the PITT team isn’t that great and in essence we did that, so for an optimist that is OK.  Beating Boston College up in Boston is on a different degree of difficulty level and the Boston College Catholics, err…I mean Golden Eagles, pretty much looked like a lost team out there for the majority of the game.  But they did have a couple of big plays early for scores and recovered an onside kick at the end of the game so at least there was some tension during that game.

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September 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Halves: Chad Voytik

Filed under: ACC,Chryst,Football,Players — Justin @ 2:03 pm

Last week, some hack wrote about Pitt’s success in the red zone and the result against FIU was two turnovers in the first two red zone possessions. As recommended by readers, this week something negative shall be written.

Trey Anderson came in for a series in the early fourth quarter in a situation that once against perturbed Pitt fans. If you listen to Paul Chryst’s press conference, it won’t take a mind reader to see why: Chryst was not happy with Voytik’s play and pulled him for a series to calm his nerves. A quick second look at the game and it’s obvious Voytik was not finding open receivers and he would not let plays progress properly as the game wore on. In fact, there was a fine line between good Chad and bad Chad: the touchdown pass to Boyd late in the second quarter. (more…)

(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.)

PITT travelled down to hot and humid Miami to play the Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers on Saturday and, after some worry-making moments, came out with a win by the score of 42-25. PITT fans, the media and maybe even the players themselves for a bit, went into the day feeling as if this was going to be a cakewalk but it wasn’t.  FIU played a pretty tough game given their lower stature in the FBS division.

POSITIVES

What first comes to mind is that our defense did a good job for the third straight game.  Don’t let the 25 points FIU had fool you, one TD was a long and freaky tipped ball reception that took FIU down to our three yard line and another two points were on a safety.  Other than that we kept FIU from scoring another TD for 40:40 minutes of game time when they scored with 5:49 left to play.  That is some solid defense.

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September 14, 2014

“The Glass is Half Full”

Well, yesterday we saw some things in a PITT football game that I’ve never seen in my lifetime, including one lightning delay of 50 minutes, two 1st quarter fumbles inside the opponents red zone by the same PITT star RB and three combined team safeties resulting in six points.

Two of those things help PITT to dig a hole against FIU that they had to scramble around to get out of. But they did and came out with a 42-19 win which, on the face of it, isn’t that impressive given the opponent’s perceived lack of talent.

But then if you look closer as the game unfolded you see that it was a game that, after that rocky start, PITT had a good handle on. I’ll also disagree that the kids weren’t up for the game or were ‘sleepwalking’ as some say.

Let’s look at what transpired in the 1st quarter.

On PITT’s second series of the game, after the teams swapped punts, we started our own 20 yard line and moved the ball via the air and the ground 74 yards in eight plays, which is 9.3 ypp. Each play gained positive yardage and it was only the Conner fumble at the FIU 6 yard line that stopped us from scoring.  Is that a crappy start to the game?  I don’t think so, the offense clicked very well.

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September 12, 2014

(Note: This is a follow up article to the topic of discussion we all have been having about James Conner playing on defense)

Scarf  In a separate post’s comment section  our long-time commenter Wbb and I have been bandying back and forth about the coaching staff’s experiment of planning to play SO James Conner at Defensive End at certain times this season.   This has been an interesting and contested topic of conversation since the 2014 Spring Practices when the move was semi-formalized and talked about publicly.  We PITT fans will remember that Conner played a few downs on defense during the Bowling Green bowl game where he got in but had no tackles.  Let’s look at where the staff stands on that now and what we might see in the future.

In a nutshell the staff’s intent of having Conner play DE was to insert him on defense during situation specific needs, mostly 3rd down passing plays, where he could use his size (6’2″ & 250 lbs), his speed (4.4) and his strength to rush the QB.  This isn’t that farfetched as Conner played DE very well while at McDowell High School in Erie, PA.  Supposedly he was recruited by PITT to play that DE position, although I don’t believe that.  Just because a recruiting site labels a player “DE” doesn’t mean that’s what he is.

The fact that Conner ran for 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns on 155 carries, an impressive 10.8 yards per carry, his senior year at McDowell was the factor in Chryst’s decision to place Connor at RB as soon as Conner set foot on campus and to keep him there in the backfield all of last season.   Personally, I think Conner was always targeted to be Chryst’s ‘Big Back’, like those he had at Wisconsin, all along.

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September 11, 2014

On Saturday, September 13th our PITT Panthers will take on the FIU Golden Panthers on their home turf in Miami, FL at FIU Stadium (20K seating).   FIU, a university with 37,475 students, is in Conference USA (CUSA) and has a 1-1 record at this point in the season.  They lost their opener to Bethune-Cookman 14-12 then went on to beat a NEC member school in Wagner University by a score of 34-3.  FIU is coached by an old NFL head coach Ron Turner who took over from Mario Cristobal a year ago.  In Turner’s first season with FIU they posted a 1-11 record and just missed getting into a bowl game.

The Golden Panthers are returning 10 starters on offense and seven on defense. They are coming off a poor 1-11 year in 2013 where their losses were by an average score of 37-10!  Phil Steel’s forecast for them is four wins and eight losses and you can see that they have a way to go to be competitive at this level of college ball.

So far this season FIU looks like a team with two identities, a poor offensive team with a solid defense to go along with it.  On defense they are ranked pretty well nationally with: 6th in Scoring defense (8.5 ppg); 9th in total defense; 17th in passing defense (134.5 ypg) and 26th in rushing defense (91 ypg).  That is some fine defensive play even considering the level of competition they had.

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The FIU Walk-Through

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 7:44 am

I am sure the players, coaches and announcers are completely focused on the upcoming opponent this Saturday.  But I can’t say I am. There is no way to really describe FIU as a legitimate threat. They are a complete mess from the top of their athletic department down.

You can see the utter lack of concern for this week in the stories. They are almost bye week stories. Talking about individual players. The mindset of the team. A complete dearth of discussion of the actual opponent. And, well, I’m fine with that.

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September 8, 2014

Red Zone Efficiency and Voytik

Filed under: Chryst,Football,Players — Justin @ 4:00 pm

One of the most impressive parts of the offense thus far has been red zone efficiency. Through two games, the offense has scored a touchdown on all 12 red zone possessions. Pete Roussel of 247 pointed out that this is not a trend unique to Pitt just this season. Paul Chryst offenses have been remarkably efficient in the red zone. (more…)

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.)

Coming off a nice win against a fellow ACC member team in Boston College we PITT fans are feeling pretty good right about now.  The only long lasting problem that arose during the game is when Artie Rowell, our Center, went down for the season with a torn ACL.  Other than that it looks and feels like the team will have nothing but positive ramifications of that win.

POSITIVES

The one thing we can all point to is that, unlike sometimes in past season, we soundly beat an opponent where the odds were close and we were playing in their backyard as it were. Yes, the 30-20 score aside we beat the BC squad up and down and bettered them in every phase of the game.  This wasn’t a pushover team either.  They will win more than they lose this season so for me a real positive is that we didn’t feel overconfident coming of a big 62-0 the week before.

Another good thing that happened is that James Conner had two monster games in a row.  Last season he had a singular two game set where he ran for over 100 yards and that was against New Mexico State (119) and then Duke (173).  Other than that he was way less productive during the regular season having done this for yardage: 27, 1, 28, 3, 35, 102, 26, and 22.  Does anyone actually think we’ll see that type of low production again from Conner this year? Not me.

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September 6, 2014

First off, what a fun game to watch!  Things clicked on both offense and defense and mistakes were kept to a minimum.  That is the recipe for winning football games and that is just what we have seen in our two games so far. The fact that last night it happened against a higher caliber team than last week’s opponent is cause for a bit of relief also.

ON OFFENSE

Right off the top of my head I have to acknowledge the fantastic job the offensive line played last night.  They opened up space at the line of scrimmage for Conner to get through so that he could bull his way around in the second level. They protected Voytik very well giving up zero sacks and gave the young QB some time to make decisions on passing plays.

Since an offense is really only made up of two things, running and passing, that good work they did was critical.  Plus they did it with injuries and shuffling of players.  The fact that in their third year Chryst and Hueber have big, talented bodies to plug-n-play on the line shows me all I need to know about Chryst’s OL recruiting.   In just two full recruiting seasons he’s brought in more OL talent than I can remember in a long time.

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September 5, 2014

OK -Here we go!  Seven hours to game time.

You working guys have already started on the liquid lunches to prep yourselves for watching the game on ESPN.  Us unemployed guys just woke up and are starting to get nervous as always before a PITT game.  No one, if they are honest with themselves, can say that they know what this 2014 PITT team is all about and capable of.  Of course, that why they play the games.

So – what do we PITT fans think is going to happen tonight.  How about we take a shot at predicting the final score and how we score our first touchdown.  I’ll go first because no one else can since I’m the one writing this.

PITT – 28  BC – 24; Voytik to Orndoff passing TD.

 

What say you?

 

September 4, 2014

Tomorrow our PITT Panther football team travels up to one of the great US cities, Boston, to play the Golden Eagles of Boston College.  BC is an old rival of ours from the Big East days and our matches with them have always been pretty close games.  They compiled a 7-6 record last year (4-4 ACC) and then ended that season in fine fashion by going 4-1 with bigger victories over Virginia Tech, NC State and Maryland before losing a close one up in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse.

As we all know by this point we are coming of a convincing 62-0 drubbing of Delaware that, for me at least, didn’t answer too many of my preseason questions about the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

We last played BC in their home place,  Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, where they play their ballgames, in 2003 and won by 11 points 24-13 and surrounding that ’03 season we won two games against them, both close overtime games, at Heinz Field.   However and overall Chestnut Hill has not been good for us as we have lost games there at a 1 win – 5 loss clip. Ugh.

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