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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

Boston Beatdown

Filed under: ACC,Chryst,Football — Justin @ 10:27 pm

A quick stat for yinz that I just tweeted.: last season Pitt averaged 23 points per game on the road. That total INCLUDES the 58 points from the Duke game. If the Duke score is removed, Pitt only scored a total of 57 points on the road last season, a mere 14.25 points per game. Pitt’s offense was not perfect. Voytik had a bad turnover, there were some early pass protection issues, and the defense let Tyler Murphy run wild on the first drive.

The football team opted to do the exact opposite of the fan base: not panic. (more…)

Open Thread: Friday Fun, Pitt-BC

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 4:05 pm

Your basic info.

7p, ESPN

Announcers: Dave Flemming and Danny Kanell. (Boy, I’m going to miss the Friday freakery of the Tessitore effect.)

A lot of pixels used this week — thanks Reed and Justin — on recapping Delaware and looking to this game.

Cautious optimism, tempered by past disappointments. A breeding ground for my specialty, dark cynicism.

Here are the twitter feeds for myself and Justin if you want to follow that way.

I want the win. I want to see some insanely unbridled optimism that would come with it.

 

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?

 

Anyone watch Pitt the Packers-Seahawks last night? Man, I can’t believe they would risk their biggest playmaker — Tyler Boyd Percy Harvin — on punt kick returns. What were they thinking using a weapon like that in such a risky place? He can run the ball, he’s a receiver. A vital part of their offense and they risk him on special teams. Why, it’s almost like they want to try and use a versatile and talented player in multiple situations to help the team.

There will be an open thread for the game tonight. I’ll be on Twitter as usual. Probably Justin, but you never know when it comes to games and coping with toddlers.

Remember, Pitt isn’t the only one that needs to raise its game after a patsy first game. UMass is a recent leap to D-1, and was picked for dead last in the MAC. They weren’t exactly a real challenge for BC.

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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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BC is coming off a sound drubbing of UMass and starts their second year under Steve Addazio. A surprisingly strong debut season that reversed a 2-10 2011 to get them to 7-5 and a bowl bid. This year, the rebuilding is really expected to happen, but the strong debut of QB Tyler Murphy — transfer from Florida — gives some hope to the Eagles fans of not having to bottom out while rebuilding

Eagle in Atlanta is one of the longest running college blogs out there. The proprietor, Bill and I worked together at AOL FanHouse back in the day. Bill is also the guy who warned me that the initial hire of Todd Rice as the S&C coach would not work out so well. So he gets credit for nailing that one.

We exchanged some questions and answers. You can find my responses here.

Bill’s answers are below the fold.

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September 3, 2014

Enjoy!

While you are at it enjoy this also!

OK – one more a bit lengthier.  Want to know why I though Durham’s penalty was kind of a big deal.  Listen to HCPC at the 1:10 mark talking about senior leadership.

Coastal Division

Filed under: ACC,Conference,Football — Justin @ 1:57 pm

Most will agree that Pitt’s upside this season would be ACC Coastal Division Champion and a good bowl game. If you have delusions of grandeur and think Pitt could beat Florida State in the ACC Championship game, maybe you should stop partying with Wes Welker. But, Pitt was given a nice start Monday night when Miami fell to Louisville, thus giving them one loss in the ACC already.

Why is that game relevant to this week? (more…)

Honors And More O-Line

Filed under: Football,Players,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:15 am

He only played in the first 21 minutes of the game, but it was enough for James Conner to be named the ACC Offensive Player of the Week. 14 carries for 153 yards and 4 TDs will do that. Though, I am kind of surprised Tyler Murphy of BC didn’t get it. Or FSU’s Jameis Winston — out of reflex.

I did not know the ACC also did an Offensive Lineman of the week, but that went to senior OG Matt Rotheram. The O-line made sure that Pitt had 0 runs for a loss and there was not a sack of Chad Voytik.

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September 1, 2014

Monday Morning QB

(This is the first article in 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.)

Two days have passed since our 62-0 victory over Delaware in the 2014 season opening game at Heinz Field.  As all dedicated fans do, let’s take a look at who we think screwed up and who we believe made bonehead decisions.  I’ll start and then the ill-informed masses can comment with their own take on the issue.

Something that concerned me, and I touched on it in the post-game article from yesterday, was the decision making of Chad Voytik.  On the face of it and by just watching him play out there everything was fine and indeed the results were good.  However, when you are playing a FCS opponent and get a big early lead it is also time to work on your weaknesses in addition to scoring more points.

Since I had a chance to see and hear the offensive coaches interacting with him in a couple of camp practices I noticed some things on Saturday that he needs to correct so that he can get the best out of his own talent and out of the talent around him.  Granted it was his first start but that is when the learning curve gets the steepest.

In a nutshell, Voytik was moving out of the pocket too early and throwing away the chance of deeper completions.  A QB can’t really run through his progressions when he’s rolling out because in doing so his field vision is cut in half.  Once that happens he’s then looking at an outlet receiver to get the ball to for any gain of yardage.  He’s cheating himself of the opportunity to get the most reward out of the called passing play and as a young starter he has to learn to maximize those opportunities.  Some of those QB movement plays we saw were called rollouts but on other plays he bagged too soon and, even though he may have completed the passes, he left better openings downfield.  No use having Boyd open on an intermediate route down the left side if Voytik starts rolling out to his right.

We’ll see a lot of called rollouts this season because Voytik  has the legs and level head for that action, but the majority of his pass formations will be either a three or five step drop or will be done out of the shotgun.  That pocket passing is what he needs to feel comfortable doing.   How he becomes comfortable with it is by sticking with the plan even if it is trial by fire and he gets sacked once or twice.

Another thing to consider with this is the need for him to trust that his offensive linemen will be able to counter the initial rush and keep moving outward with their defensive linemen to create a pocket for Voytik to step up into.  That too comes with experience and I think we’ll see it happen as the season progresses.

This isn’t a criticism of Voytik as I’ve been impressed with his play so far but is written to point out that he’s still a bit behind the learning curve as to how Chryst and Rudolph want him to execute plays as their quarterback.

One other thing I‘ll address is the strange and unnecessary penalty on DE Dave Durham after his sack toward the end of the second quarter.  If you watch at the end of this video clip he’s saying something to the QB right before the Ref threw his flag.  Regardless of what instigated the penalty it was a foolish action on his part on a couple of levels.  First is in the scheme of the game itself.  We were only ahead 7-0, had Delaware back on their own 17 yard line and his sack put them on their own two.  Then his penalty took them from what would have been a 3rd down & 35+ yards from the two yard line to a 1st down at the 26.  So, instead of a great shot at a safety or at the least a probable three and out series, we gave them brand new and decent field position and a first down to keep the series alive.

OK – that’s the in-game situation itself.  What really bothered me was the fact that it was a totally unnecessary show of bravado from a guy who is a fifth year senior and who should be showing 360 degree leadership to the youngsters on the team.  As the youngest team in the FBS, and a team that is struggling to become a winning one, we really need senior leadership both in the locker room and on the field.

Remember Ray Vinopal hearing rumblings in the week before the game of some teammates joking about Delaware and taking the game too lightly?  He did what a true leader does – got in their face and showed them the error of their ways.  You think that wake-up call might have been one reason the whole team played like it was a FBS playoff game with no let up by anyone who got onto the field?  That happened because the starters and upperclassmen showed the way with how they comported themselves from the end of the camp to the finish of the game’s 4th quarter.

I get that Durham was happy, especially with the criticism he seems to get from all sides, and that play was a great one.  I also get that it was a bush call for almost nothing untoward but we see PITT players do great things all the time without showboating.  Conner runs for four TDs and celebrates with his teammates while jogging back to the bench; Boyd has amazing catches and stands up and gets with his teammates to celebrate on the way back to the huddle.

This is part and parcel of what Paul Chryst is trying to teach and instill in his younger players, respect for the game and the opponent and he’s depending on the upper classmen to help with that – we hear it all the time from him and that’s a big reason us PITT fans are so happy he’s the HC.  Durham made a mistake and his position coach leveled the verbal shotgun at him on the sidelines.  I’ll bet a dollar we don’t see that behavior from him again even with the other good plays he’ll make this season.  Live and learn and be an example of what a senior is supposed to act.  I know I sound like a prude and I’m really not, and I’m sure Durham is a good leader, like this guy, but I do think that penalty was kind of a big deal.  That said, I thought the gesture was pretty funny but knew he’d get the flag.

I guess I’d have like to see Anderson throw more passes but his nine yard run from our own one yard line and the ensuing 99 yard drive was pretty nice.  BTW, he’ll be the QB we see if Voytik get injured.  The PITT fans wanting Bertke put in if that were to happen are not thinking straight.

Finally, I really can’t think of any more “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” to be done.  The subject of Boyd as a punt returner has been beaten to death and I won’t address it because there really isn’t any pat answer and won’t be until the end of the season IMO (Sorry Dr. Tom).

 

 

Final Thoughts on Grilled Blue Hens

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 9:37 am

Thanks Reed and Justin for taking care of most of the post-mortem. Two days later that just leaves the final clean-up to me.

Mid-way through the 3d quarter I was talking with another guy in the press box. We were half-joking, wondering what Pitt fans were going to be complaining about after the game — other than whether Boyd should have been returning punts. Considering the complete dominance on both sides of the ball. The fact that James Conner was already done for the day. All the running backs were seeing time. Chad Voytik wasn’t having to do too much, the only thing we could come up with was: the tight ends weren’t used enough. (This was shortly before Orndoff caught a TD pass.)

Sure enough late in the 4th quarter he showed me a tweet he got from a fan complaining/questioning why the TEs weren’t thrown to much in the game. It was so cute.  14 total passes attempted in the game with 10 completions. Very little pressure even came close to Voytik that required him to dump it off. 7 different players caught the ball.

That’s okay. There’s an impulse in us all to look for some negatives. Especially when the game went that smoothly and perfectly. We know it won’t be like the rest of the season (well, maybe FIU), so there needs to be something to fix or tweak. Heck, in Coach Paul Chryst’s post-game presser, even he eventually got around to the subject of cleaning things up.

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August 31, 2014

My Checklist by Paul Chryst

  1. Good, solid play by new QB
  2. No turnovers by said QB
  3. Offensive Line pass blocking
  4. Offensive line run blocking
  5. Positive yardage on every play by running backs
  6. Crisp routes and safe passes
  7. TE involvement
  8. Defensive Line pressure
  9. Linebackers to the ball
  10. Defensive back’s more aggressive play
  11. Deep kickoffs for touchbacks
  12. 2nd and 3rd string playing time
  13. Keep Boyd in on all punts returns regardless of the score  (Memo to self: What was I thinking?)

I took some time before writing this article so that fans could come down from the Saturday imbibing (myself included) and the euphoria associated with a 62-0 score in favor of us good guys.  It was a beautiful day for football, albeit stifling hot, the crowd was enthusiastic and the staff and players were more than ready to start the season.  And so they did in fine fashion with impressive performances across the offensive and defensive boards.  The units did well, the individual players, especially Voytik, Conner, Boyd, Galambos, Mitchell and Durham, did well and the staff used the lopsided score to get almost everyone who has an outside shot of having to play at some point this season some experience.

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August 30, 2014

Roasted Blue Hens

Filed under: Football — Justin @ 4:44 pm

Hi everyone. I’m sure you’ve missed me. For those who forget/don’t know me, I took a break writing here to write for CBS Sports/247 for a little bit. I left a few months back  and haven’t written much thanks to the birth of my son. Here he is with a message for Boston College on Friday. As you parents know life gets pretty hectic the first few months. Now that he’s six months old and life is settling down a bit, I have this thing called “free time.” It’s a weird thing, not sure how to handle it. My thought was MOAR FOOTBALL!!!!!

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Open Thread: Blue Hens-Panthers

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 10:20 am

I’m trying not to read too much into my bag strap snapping as I approached the press gate — but if Pitt blows this I’m totally using it as an omen of doom in the recap later.

It’s a beautiful, humid day. I swear I won’t be reading anything into Pitt’s conditioning today.

Have to believe Pitt will win this game. In fact, I will shave my goatee/van dyke if they lose. Considering I haven’t shaved it off for over 10 years, this has me putting some, um, skin on the game.

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