Friday, September 30, 2011

Pitt and USF Thoughts

I wonder where the big mouths are today.  Talk about impatient.  And that includes much of the local media.  When Todd Graham was at Rice, he lost his first four games before winning 7 of his last 9 to get the Owls to their first bowl game in nearly fifty years.  It takes time to switch over to a completely different offense, Graham has always made that switch successfully, and there is NO reason to think he can't do it at Pitt, too.  And last night should be a wakeup call to anybody who took out decades of disappointment on Graham.  It's not same old Pitt.  Get used to it.

I agree that so-called "trick plays" at this time may not be ideal.  The team has to learn to run the offense the correct way first.  But those fancy plays that have been driving fans crazy this year are part of this offense, and they will, and should, be used in the future.  When used right they could be devastating.  The problem is the execution.  The fumble on the reverse in the first quarter was not bad because of the play, it was bad because Darius Patton was way too timid.  In fact, a play or two before his fumble he looked timid  running after a reception.  That's something he needs to get over or he'll have to sit.  The other fumble was when the receiver was running full speed behind Tino Sunseri and Sunseri pitched it at him.  Common sense says a fast backwards pitch to a crossing receiver running full speed is a recipe for disaster.

I may be the only person in the city who doesn't mind that Todd Graham blamed his players for the problems of the first four games.  I'm sick of coaches always falling on the sword for his players.  The truth is, sometimes it is the players who are at fault.  Graham's offenses have always succeeded, and they weren't succeeding with these players.  He wasn't having any of it and he wasn't coddling them.  I say good for him because this game proved that if they just play well, they will score a lot of points.

Best game of the year for Sunseri, Todd Thomas, Cameron Saddler, and Jared Holley.  Bad games for Mike Shanahan, Patton, Jason Hendricks, Max Gruder, and K'wuan Williams.

Zack Brown is an excellent backup RB and runs hard all the time.  He's the perfect compliment for ray Graham.

Speaking of Graham, how good is he?  In my opinion, he's the best running back Pitt has had since Ironhead Heyward.  I was drooling thinking of Graham and Rushel Shell trading off next year, but now you have to have doubts that Graham could go to the NFL.  He's small so the NFL will not see him as an every down back, but his quickness and hands are at the elite level.  I'm not a draft expert but I'm thinking round 2-3 for him.  Better running back prospects than Graham have stayed for their senior year, but with a short shelf life most running backs leave early.  If I had to guess, I think Graham will probably leave, but if Shell is not impressed by last night then nothing could have gotten him here.  Especially when he would probably start if Graham leaves.

Graham is on pace for 1,762 yards rushing and 19 TDs this year, plus 60 receptions.  That's domination.

Sunseri has taken a lot of heat but he has handled it with class.  I'm pulling for him.  It was good to see him have his best game, by far.  He still is not made for this offense, but look how good he was.  Imagine a quarterback who can run.  It will be even more devastating.

I love Todd Graham's style.  I really do.  I'm not guaranteeing greatness for him, but I like how he does things.  Thank you again Mike Haywood for being a loser.

How about that offensive line?  Maybe it's not a coincidence that the line performed better without Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson.  Both are good players, but both have more habits to break.  They have been in Dave Wannstedt's style for years while the younger guys may have an easier time to adapt.  If Juantez Hollins, Ryan Turnley, Ryan Schlieper, and Cory King play like this all year then the future looks bright on the OL next year.

The biggest thing that may have arrived for Pitt last night was confidence.  They looked lost and defeated in the first four games.  Against USF, they looked like they wanted to play all night.  There is no reason why they shouldn't kill a bad Rutgers game next weekend.  They have to build on this.

The attendance again was not great, but if people can't get excited now then they aren't real Pitt fans.

Welcome to college football Kevin Harper.  One of the best high school kicking prospects in the country as a senior, he is finally showing why.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned this much this season has been the great kick and punt coverage that the Panthers have shown this season.  Andrew Taglianetti could be a star in the NFL on special teams alone.

On the other hand, Ronald Jones has not been good at all returning punts.  Somebody needs to replace Ray Graham on kickoff returns.  I'm usually for using the best option, period, but Graham is just too important to this team.

The defense, especially in the first half, was not that great.  Too often yards are gained way too easily.  The defensive line has not been good and on 3rd downs, the opponents have had little trouble running it right down their throats.  It's the same players as last year so it may be the scheme.  I fear that the defense  during Graham's reign will never be excellent.  Hopefully they can at least be good enough for the offense to outscore most teams.

It's pretty bad when even ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer makes fun of Max Gruder.  I feel bad for Gruder.  He was never a great prospect because of his lack of speed and athleticism, but in Wannstedt's defense, that was hidden somewhat.  In this defense, however, he sticks out like a very slow sore thumb.  You have to think there is nobody better on the bench, which is scary, but I'd almost rather have a quick freshman out there because at least it will help that player in the future.

In the second half, the defense showed what Graham wants.  Lots of blitzing.  With more speed on defense, it will be fun to watch.  By the way, up 44-17, Pitt even blitzed on the last play of the game.  I loved it.

Chas Alecxih was the latest veteran to do something ridiculously stupid.  Face mask penalties happen, but to rip off the kid's helmet and throw it was just losing his mind and is inexcusable.

Not to dump on Wannstedt, but time after time, the program missed golden opportunities to make a national statement.  Graham has already did it.  An impressive win on national TV with nothing else in sports going on last night was HUGE for the program.

Last but not least.  The pace that the offense played was staggering and the amount of plays was an all out barrage.  The USF defenders looked like they wanted to die in the second half.  This offense is nowhere near as it's going to be in the future and they had 44 points and over 500 total yards against a good defense.  The future is bright.


  1. I was impressed as any Pitt fan with the win over USF. The real test will come against Rutgers. They need to repeat this dominating performance against a mediocre opponent that they should handle easily. This will help fill the stadium against Utah as that will truly prove this is not "The same old Pitt".

  2. I was surprised by the very short honeymoon given to Graham. It's a new system, and he's trying to shoe horn the kids into it. The offense (except for the ND game) is fun to watch -- and it's a modern college football offense, designed to create deception and mismatches. I think Graham will be fine, and I really wouldn't be surprised to see Pitt win the BE this year. It seems as though the entire league is in a down year.

  3. "Not to dump on Wannstedt, but time after time, the program missed golden opportunities to make a national statement. Graham has already did it. An impressive win on national TV with nothing else in sports going on last night was HUGE for the program."

    Wannstedt's 2008 Pitt team got a victory vs. South Florida on an ESPN Thursday night game. Wannstedt's was against a top 10 USF team (not #16)... in Tampa (not Pittsburgh)

    Good article, but you got carried away in that section.

  4. But the fact remains, that overall, Wannstedt failed miserably in important games.