October 4, 2016

The status of Jordan Whitehead is still an unknown. Not listed as injured, he did not play versus Marshall. He was dressed, but without a helmet. Head Coach Pat Narduzzi refused to say anything about why he didn’t play and remains vague as to whether Whitehead will play on this Saturday against Georgia Tech.

It got downright weird in the Monday presser.

Here are the questions posed to Narduzzi Monday on the subject, and his subsequent answers:

Question: Any update on Jordan with the depth chart change?

Narduzzi: “No. It’s nothing more than what I told you [Saturday]. We hope it’ll be soon.”

Question: “You said hope, you hope what?

Narduzzi: “You guys…”

Question: “Is he practicing with you guys this week?

Narduzzi: “You’ll see tomorrow morning. You guys know I’m not going to talk about it. I’m not talking about the injuries or anything else, about anybody.”

Question: “I respect your position on that Pat, but just wondering is whatever kept him out of the lineup Saturday…”

Narduzzi interrupts: “This seems like a hot topic?”

Question, again: “Has whatever kept him out of the lineup Saturday night been resolved?

Narduzzi: “It’s never resolved is it? It’s never resolved. We’re still working on it. Next.”

And that was it. There has been no information to indicate Whitehead is injured.

So is it an injury? Is it team discipline? Is there something else?


October 3, 2016

Back in August the ACC punted on the whole issue of football schedule requirements. With the agreement with ESPN for the ACC Network, content had to be improved/increased.

The ACC had two proposals for annual scheduling. The 9+1 solution: 9 conference games and 1 game against a Power 5 conference program. Or the 8+2 solution: 8 conference games and 2 games against a Power 5 conference program.


October 2, 2016

Surviving The Second Half

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 11:15 am

…And exhale.

There is a part of me that wants to say, “It’s a win. We’ll take it and move on from there.” Mainly because there is a hell of a lot unpack from that game. Much of it contradictory and not nearly as simple as anyone would like it to be.

What I do hit on today won’t be all of it. To some, I’m sure they will say that I’ve missed an issue or action that was a much bigger deal. Both positive and negative. So I will repeat, this is not exhaustive and definitive. This is just some of it.


October 1, 2016

Open Thread: Marshall-Pitt

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 2:31 pm

7:30 PM. Root Sports and assorted other RSNs.

Greetings from my couch.

Wife has bronchitis and the kids have been a special kind of crazy. So with her laid up, I have to be here to keep the peace. Does it serve me well later in the season when I will go to a game on her birthday and one of the kids is having a sleepover? Maybe, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is me being a good husband and father today — at least until the game starts.


September 30, 2016

Football Notes, 9/30

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:32 am

Not feeling a coherent picture of the stories today. It may be my own incoherence from the cumulative effect of a sustained, massive allergy attack this week — and cocktails of assorted medicine I’ve been using to combat it.

Previously the ACC announced it was pulling out of Charlotte for the ACC Championship game in response to the ongoing fiscal suicide that is North Carolina law HB2. As expected, the game has been relocated to Orlando.


September 29, 2016

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.

Pitt will attempt to up the tempo this year, and the media got an early glimpse this week.


September 28, 2016

I swear I was going to do a basketball post first, but the Big 12 stuff has piled up and makes me laugh so much more.

For those keeping track at home, the Big 12 spent the last few years publicly saying that they have no interest at all in expanding beyond their current ten teams. The only exception being Oklahoma President Dave Boren’s quarterly outbursts about needing two more teams or complaining about how they should have taken Louisville when they had the chance.

Over the summer, just as everyone was really and truly ready to believe them this time, they publicly announced they were taking applications for two, possibly four new members.


September 27, 2016

The Loss That Lingers

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Narduzzi — Chas @ 7:13 am

It’s been pointed out here, and elsewhere that going into the season 2-2 at this point would be a reasonable expectation for this team and having two road games against 2 preseason top-25 teams. That is true. It still doesn’t make the losses — especially the last one — any less frustrating nor does it diminish the feeling that Pitt blew it.

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi’s Monday presser, generally conflicts between a coach that wants to move on to the next game and questions based on the last one — unless the next opponent is really good. With Marshall up next, you can imagine where most of the questions went.

The transcript is abridged and questions summarized, but there was still some interesting nuggets beyond hinted, minor, unspecified personnel changes and players likely to return from injury (LB Mike Capara and at some point, perhaps DB Damar Hamlin).


September 26, 2016

I believe that the overwhelming majority of Pitt fans have no interest in even pretending that there is a case to be made to get rid of Head Coach Pat Narduzzi. Upsetting, maddening, frustrating and every other adjective you might care to use as the last two losses have been; they are not enough to even consider firing assistants or coordinators. Let alone the head coach.

That said, I do put the loss to UNC primarily on the coaching in the 8:44 of the game. Specifically on the head coach who once more defaulted to coaching only like a defensive coordinator.


September 24, 2016

3:30 pm, ESPNU.

Lose a close one on the road to a top-25 quality team. Beat a sub-par Big 10 team. A win against a FCS opponent. No. Not Pitt, UNC.

UNC has a 2-1 record and you can make the superficial case that the two teams are looking much the same. An offense that uses the running game. A defense with a particular aspect that is abysmal. You get the idea.


September 23, 2016

The road to the ACC championship game could have a clearer picture after this weekend. Two of the best three teams in the ACC Coastal division will square off as the Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1) travel to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels (2-1). The winner of this game will have the higher ground against the other in a tight Coastal division. Here are five things to look out for in this highly touted matchup (ESPNU, 3:30).

Road Warriors?
The Panthers are 6-2 on the road against ACC opponents in the last two years, going 4-0 last season. However, even with the Panthers’ recent success on the road, they haven’t been able to win in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have won eight straight at home, their longest streak since 1997. UNC head coach Larry Fedora knows his team must come in focused saying, “This will probably be the best team we’ve played to this point, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

Run, Run, Run

The obvious offensive game plan for the Panthers will be to run the ball down the Tar Heel’s throats. With 717 total rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the year, this isn’t much of a different game plan than other games. The Tar Heels can’t stop a nosebleed when it comes to the run, allowing 680 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground this season. Look for a big day out of the entire running back corps, but especially James Conner. He is already up to 281 yards and three touchdowns on 63 carries this season for the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Fix The Secondary

Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky is coming off his best career game, throwing a career-high 432 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-28 win against James Madison. The Panthers secondary was just got torched by Oklahoma State, giving up 540 yards through the air. Head coach Pat Narduzzi called out the entire defense, taking special note of cornerback Avonte Maddox, who was on the wrong end of the majority of Oklahoma State’s James Washington’s 296 receiving yards. Narduzzi said, “They’ve got to understand it works when you do it right. It doesn’t work if you don’t do it right. If you continue to do it your way, we’re going to have problems.” Trubisky doesn’t make many mistakes, as he has eight touchdowns and zero interceptions this season.

Strength Vs. Strength

Besides Trubisky and the air attack, the Tar Heels will also feature first team All-ACC running back Elijah Hood in their offense — who UNC faithful will swear blind is as good as if not better than Conner and FSU’s Dalvin Cook. Hood will have his work cut out for him,though, as the Panthers own the 10th best rushing defense in the country. Pitt gives up just 75.7 yards per game on the ground. Hood is 37th in the nation and 6th in the ACC with 266 yards, 15 yards behind Panthers running back James Conner.

Ejuan Price vs. UNC Offensive Line

The matchup to look out for is Panthers’ senior defensive lineman Ejuan Price against the Tar Heels offensive line. Price was just named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week after his six tackles, four tackles for losses, two sacks, and one forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown against Oklahoma State. Price has been a monster this season and is on track to be in the All-American conversation. Price leads the entire nation in forced fumbles, and ranks fourth in sacks and tackles for losses. Tar Heels tackles Bentley Spain and Jon Heck will have to be accountable for Price all afternoon long. The Tar Heels have given up 16 sacks this season, including an astonishing 12 against Illinois.

Last season, UNC went 8-0 in ACC play, including a 26-19 victory against Pittsburgh. UNC went on to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship, losing to Clemson 45-37. With Miami off to a hot start, this game has a lot of stake for each team’s playoff hopes. The Panthers must take advantage of UNC’s weak run defense and must neutralize Mitch Trubisky’s passing attack. If the Panthers can break the Tar Heel’s eight game home winning streak, they will be in prime position to play in the ACC Championship game.

September 22, 2016

Load on the Running Game and Price

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:39 am

I suppose it makes sense for the coaches to be a little more cautious in overtaxing James Conner this early.

“Even if you have the wrong guy in the game, it’s still a pretty good guy to have in the game,” Powell said.

Powell relies on Conner to keep him apprised of his energy level. “But I’m beginning to rely on me more,” Powell said.

After a season of inactivity, Conner doesn’t want to let down his teammates, but there is a fine line he and Powell must walk.

No Pitt running back is as talented or as tough as Conner, but none are recovering from cancer, either.

Conner’s 24 carries against Oklahoma State were far from excessive. He averaged 23 per game two years ago when he was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, and he had four games with at least 30.

I wonder, though, if wanting to keep him fresh and not overuse Conner is just a useful cover to allow the offense to give carries to the other running backs that are waiting. Qadree Ollison got no touches against Oklahoma State, for example.


September 21, 2016

Quick Notes, 9/21

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:34 am

Overnights suck and I’ve been on them for the last couple days.  Just some quickies.

The ACC/Pitt announced the Marshall game on October 1 will be a 7:30 affair and televised on ROOT Sports/RSNs. An interesting time choice for what the schedule billed as “Family Weekend.”

Big game at UNC this Saturday. The Tarheels are the only Coastal division team Pitt has yet to beat in the first 3 years of being in the ACC.


September 19, 2016

Sunday was just packed so this is a day late.

It doesn’t really feel like a new season of Pitt football until that first loss and the open thread just explodes with comments.

Most of us penciled this game in as a likely loss before the season. Then the Cowboys had to go and get beaten by Central Michigan the week before. It was reasonable to be somewhat optimistic about Pitt’s chances.

Maybe the Cowboy offense wasn’t what it once was. Too one-dimensional. Easier to beat if you know what’s coming. Maybe the defense was even worse than expected. Pitt could pile up the running yards and at the very least keep the ball from the OSU offense.



September 17, 2016

Open Thread: Pitt-Oklahoma St.

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 9:01 am

3:30 pm


Morning. Going to put this up early because I have a lot to do before gametime. Heck, I still don’t know what beer I’ll be enjoying with the game. Just a lack of preparation on my part.

Here’s some alt-history to consider. After Pitt fired Foge Fazio as coach in 1985, the first place they looked was to Oklahoma St. head coach Pat Jones.

“I don’t know what would have happened,” [present OSU head coach Mike] Gundy said. “I liked Pat Jones. He was the reason why I came to Oklahoma State. If he takes the Pittsburgh job, he probably would have taken me up there with him.”

Rewind to November 1985, a few days after Gundy led Midwest City to the Class 5A state title:

Jones was OSU’s second-year head coach. Pittsburgh fired coach Foge Fazio. As OSU prepared for the Bedlam game (the infamous Ice Bowl), Jones was contacted by a Pitt representative about the Panthers’ job. At the time, the Cowboys were 8-2 and ranked 17th. Jones’ two-season record as the OSU head man was 18-4.

“I told the Pittsburgh people, ‘I don’t want to even think about it until after this OU ballgame,’ ” Jones recalls. “I did let them know that I would be interested and I did want to talk, but I didn’t want to talk yet. I told them to call Myron Roderick (then the OSU athletic director) because I didn’t want any under-the-table stuff going on.”

Jones admits to having been “intrigued” by the Pittsburgh possibility. Before moving to OSU with Jimmy Johnson in 1979, Jones had been a Jackie Sherrill assistant at Pittsburgh for one season.

After the Ice Bowl (a 13-0 Cowboy defeat), Jones met with the Pittsburgh athletic director in Dallas.

“My head was spinning,” Jones says. “ We were getting ready to play Florida State in Gator Bowl, we were recruiting and now we had this Pittsburgh thing. I was worn down. I was thinking, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ ”

OSU was having a run of coaching instability. Jimmy Johnson had came and went, and Jones was only in his 2d season. That prompted the OSU President to step in with a new contract for Jones and keep him in Stillwater.


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