Saturday, November 16, 2013

North Carolina 34 Pittsburgh 27

I'm going to make this short because I'm writing this on my phone in North Carolina because I can't get the iPad to work with the hotel wifi.

James Conner. Did I tell you that he's a future star? Pitt finally gave him the ball in the second half and he responded by running for over 100 yards. When Pitt utilized Conner and the tight ends they moved the ball. When they get pass happy to the wide receivers it gets ugly.  I know that Tyler Boyd and Devin Street are excellent but the OL and Tom Savage's quick thinking are not. Use Conner and the tight ends to move the ball and it will help the line, Savage, and even Boyd and Savage because they won't have to do all of the heavy lifting.

The defense was not good in the first half but did much better in the second half. This time it was the horrible special teams that cost Pitt the game. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the players don't have some responsibility in this but in all honesty I don't think the coaching staff is helping them be their best, and therefore they are most responsible. The Panthers have bad special teams and the staff doesn't have somebody that really concentrates on the unit. Isaac Bennett takes too many carries away from Conner. Not enough passes to the backs, tight ends, and receivers crossing over the middle in stride.  Things like these adds up and you lose close games like this.

56 comments:

  1. Not playing a full 60 minutes loses games period.

    This program hasn't had a team that could play a full 60 minutes week in week out for 25+ years.

    If we could play a full 60 minutes consistently we'd go 9-3 at least pretty much every year. All these close losses - at least 3 this year that should have been Ws - wouldn't be losses if we weren't playing for only 30 minutes a game.

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  2. Only saw the second half. A great comeback but it always felt like if it came down to the last possession Pitt would lose. Sure enough, an epic special teams collapse although I thought there was a blatant block in the back on the second half punt return.

    This game showed (again) just how critical a good offensive line is to a team's success. Kudos to Savage and Street for playing when they were banged up.

    Once again, Panther fans will have to say, "Wait 'til next year."

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  3. Chris, I very much agree with your comments.

    The offense works best with Conner and the short passing game moving the sticks. Conner is the best back Pitt has, and should be used much more than Bennett. The long passing game is a nice complement to Conner and the TEs, but it should be secondary to them.

    The special teams did cost Pitt the game. If you give up two punt returns for TDs, you deserve to lose.

    While I'm glad Pitt showed heart and mounted a comeback, this is a very disappointing loss. They were atrocious in the first half, and playing one good half won't win you many games.

    While it was disappointing, I'm not surprised. We've seen this act many times in the past. Have a great win one week, and then go down the chute the next. Will Pitt ever be able to sustain momentum from a game like ND?

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    1. I don't know who to be more dumbfounded by, either Savage or the OC calling the plays. How it hasn't become obvious to EITHER of them that with this line, they need to focud on the short to intermediate routes to open up both the running game and eventually the deep routes is just astounding.

      It's almost as if the game against ND, with a better defense BTW, didn't happen.

      Mike W.

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  4. Meh. Typical Pitt loss. Come out flat and disinterested w/ poor play calling… come back in the 2nd half only to have a special teams meltdown.

    Yoklic gets some responsibility… the guy has been inconsistent all year and the first punt return for a TD was a missile line-drive where he out-kicked the coverage. After that he should have been instructed to kick high and not returnable - if he has that ability which he has not shown this year.

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    1. I don't think he does, John. PC was quated as saying when asked why he didn't kick away from the UNC returner that the gunners had been doing a good job and he didn't want to mess with Yoklic.

      WHAT!!!! The same kid that took two to the house against Pitt had an 85 yard return the week before for a TD. You'd think after you give up one return for a TD you'd kick away from the kid, but given how inconsistent Yoklic has been this year the staff was probably afraid of him shanking one late in the game. You can't be a program in amjor conference that has a punter that can't kick directionally, that is absoluely inexcuseable.

      Mike W.

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  5. Bennett has be a huge disappointment this year.
    Seems the TE were thrown at today. Holtz had 5 catches and Garner had 5. Finally getting the TE's into the gameplan.

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  6. I'm not down on the coaches. They lost to a team with more talent and depth. It's just unfortunate that if you take away the turnovers and punt-return-tds, they hav a chance to win. They play hard and with heart, and the comeback attempt was impressive. Need more talent esp oline.

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  7. and you thought pitt had a chance to win why they do the same dumb shit year after year.
    who ever is coaching things dont change sure they will beat a ND then lose all the reast it is just how things are at pitt stop drinking the koolaid same old pitt same BS.

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  8. Last play to run into stacked line. Poor decision. Playaction to tight end would have been money. We were very predictable on 4th and one. Should have given him option to check off based on d allignment

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  9. It is probably time to invest in a special teams coach. 3 phases of the game and we lost badly on special teams

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  10. Gutsy comeback, but another tough loss. Pitt is just a plain old mediocre team. Obviously, they're not great. But they're also not awful (as some here like to think after a loss). The numbers back it up. They played one elite team and lost handily. They played 3 terrible teams and won all 3. The rest were against mid-level bowl teams, and they are 2-4 in those games, with every game being relatively close. With the last 2 games against mid-level bowl teams, the numbers point to Pitt winning one or both to finish 4-4 against the other mid-level teams. But my guess is a 6-6 finish.

    On the bright side, if Pitt can get some O-line help (which it seems like they are), I can see Chryst teams regularly winning 8 or 9 games a year.

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    1. 6-6 is awful.
      Pitt is 2-4 in ACC with 2 games remaining.
      Mediocre is winning 50% of your ACC games. Non-conf is for building stats and wins and don't count in my book.
      So, mediocre is really 8 wins.

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    2. 6-6 is mediocre. 8 wins is not.

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    3. How about this Winters.
      4-4 in ACC is mediocre. Throw out any non-conf wins or losses.
      But 6-6 is not medocre if 3 wins come from powderpuff teams.

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    4. How about this; you can't just throw out non-conference games. Again, 6-6 (.500) is mediocre. 8 wins (.667) is not.

      I'm not saying 8 wins is great, but it isn't mediocre either.

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  11. yup 2 punt returns cost us. need to revamp the special teams from coach to players

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  12. My fear is that Chryst's type of O-lineman may fit well playing in the B10, but may not get it done against the speedy D-linemen of the ACC

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    1. Anon7:27 I agree with your assessment about the type of linemen needed going forward, we don't need the big, lumbering, 6'5 320lbs B10-type. We need the more athletic for the speed rushers in ACC. And when we try to "bulldoze" on a 4th and 1, we are stopped. Our O-line probably outweighed NC D-line by 20-30 lbs per man! I know that his has been said many times before, but we need speed!
      Also, M-Garner returning KOs! A TE! Granted, he is an exceptional player as a TE, but come on, there isn't anyone else!

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    2. The Oline is FAT. so what.
      It needs strength and quick feet. They don't have that.
      300# max weight is where they need to be. B10 lumbering oline isn't working in the acc.

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    3. "We don't need the big, lumbering, 6'5 320lbs B10-type."

      Tell that to Stanford, who replaced their TEs with tackles against Oregon... Tell that to Alabama, who uses the biggest Oline in the country to dominate the line of scrimmage.

      You're both wrong here. This is how Pitt is going to compete with Miami and UNC and Duke in the years to come. When they try to hurry everything up with quick strike offenses, Pitt is going to control the clock and limit their possessions. It's a winning formula, you just need the right personnel.

      -BostonsCommon

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    4. the major reason we were stopped is UNC had all their players at the line which was more than we had blockers... It was not smart to run right into that.... a playaction quick hit pass to the tight end over the middle would have been the right call... no shame if it was incomplete... at least we would be running a play that was dictated by the defensive formation and not running straight at 11 guys in the box.

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    5. Alabama Oline range from 290 to 315 per their depth chart.

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  13. The linemen Chryst has been brining in are much lighter compared to the guys at Wisconsin. Biz is barely at 300, Johnson needs to eat a lot to get to 300, the injured center is about 300 and the rest of the recruits from last year's class weigh between 280 and 305. They'll get bigger, but I don't many will go over 315. Jones-Smith will since he stands 6-foot-7. As for the guys in the 2014 class, Grimm for sure is in that Wisky mold.

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  14. The fans that were expecting to beat UNC were simply asking too much and are being unrealistic.

    Sure, Pitt can pull off the occasional upset - ND this year and Va. Tech last but to KEEP beating more talented and especially teams that have more speed like UNC is just not going to happen.

    The two Clairton players - gunners on special teams that we lost probably would have won that game for us.

    I have to believe that one of those guys would have stopped Switzer on the two punt returns.

    We have very few good players in reality and when you lose a couple, it just makes winning that much more difficult against quality teams.

    I DO believe that these players want to play hard for Chryst and his staff which is very encouraging going forward but, we must - MUST close out McKenzie, Bookser, Nicholson and Henry because another nice group like this from the WPIAL that are supposed Pitt leans (I understand Henry is probably 50/50), we just have to capitalize on them.

    Kamara is a long shot but if we get him with the aforementioned above, Pitt has a chance to get back - where I don't know but let's hope well above mediocrity.

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    1. Zatiti,

      I agree with much of your post, but I don't think it was unrealistic about Pitt beating UNC. In my mind, Pitt should've won yesterday.

      As you correctly write, the special teams were the downfall yesterday. If those punts returns aren't returned for TDs, it's a totally different game.

      Also, Savage's fumble early in the game swung the momentum to UNC very quickly. If he holds onto the ball, Pitt could've grabbed control of the game early.

      I realize that's a lot of "ifs", but my point is that Pitt was in this game, even with the horrible first half. A few plays dictated this game, and it turned out to be a close game.

      We need to begin expecting this program to win consistently, instead of the up and down, inconsistent play we've become accustomed to. The coach needs to instill the importance of consistent performance in every game, and get the players to get that done. That's how Pitt will achieve winning results.

      I don't know if Chryst is the coach that can do that, but I certainly hope he is. If not, we need to find someone who can.

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  15. After two years there is noting to indicate that this coaching staff has the ability to instill consistency in this program. Some things this coaching staff are just unexplainable like having your best playmaker ( Boyd) on the sideline at crucial times in the game. And play calling hasn't changed and continues to amaze especially on shirt yardage downs. Like when 9 defenders are in the box and play call is a middle run. I hope I'm wrong but even with more talent I can see a similar outcome......

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    1. Well Said. The problem is Chryst has surrounded himself by too many of his friends and not enough real good coaches. So you get the crappy recruiting and on field results we have seen.

      Unless changes are made, I do not see this improving. The question is will Chryst wise up and if he doesn't will Nordy's replacement also be fine with miring in mediocrity

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    2. I get your point, but how is this different from Fraud graham, Wannstedt, Harris, et al? It isn't, and probably won't be for at least the near future.

      Pitt's problem is overall lack of talent, that hasn't changed since 1984.

      Mike W.

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    3. I think both Graham and Wanny had more competent assistant coaches and coaches who could recruit. Alas, Wanny was a horrible game day coach and Graham left after one year.

      You can not change the lack of talent unless you have competent people who can recruit better players - not the MAC level, no other major offer wannabes we have signed for the most part

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    4. I've seen a lot of people refer to the recruiting class as full of MAC level guys, but I actually looked at the offers our 19 commitments have received. All but 4 have multiple BCS-AQ conference offers - Wirginis, Briggs, (local kids), Amara (Philly) and Motley (Oh) are the only ones with out 2 BCS offers.

      Interestingly, the guys with the highest number of offers (a couple have 10 BCS team offers) aren't the local guys so they're doing something well. Maybe they're too kind to the WPIAL kids who have no business at Pitt because everyone around here is always whining because Pitt doesn't take more local kids?

      With James we're now in the upper 30's on most boards, which is definitely not where we want to be, but its not bad. We've got several elite prospects - Henry, Nicholson, Jennings, Bookser etc. - yet to make decisions on Pitt. If we land some of those guys that's a solid class.

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    5. Sorry, I actually meant upper 40's not upper 30's, although I see ESPN has moved us up to 41 now.

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    6. You have to adjust for those sites who award points just for quantity over quality. A team that takes 15 recruits who average 4 stars and tons of major college offers should be ranked higher than a team that has 24 recruits averaging less than 3 stars without a ton of major college offers.

      Unfortunately some sites skew the overall ranking based simply on the quantity

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  16. Positives:

    - Boyd and Street both had great games. Savage played really well also considering he was running for his life most of the game.

    - Blewitt again had a great game and looks to be a keeper.

    - The DB's had a good game again and seem to be improving.

    Negatives:

    - The OL again struggled with a quicker DL. I don't know if it's a physical, mental, and/or coaching thing but it's something that should have been fixed by now.

    - Conner's poor pass blocking is the reason he doesn't get more playing time. As aggressive as he runs with the ball, he's that passive when blocking.

    - The Savage fumble and ensuing drives were the game changer. The coaches have to do a better job handling those situations. After NC scored their TD, Pitt panicked with 3 quick pass plays, giving the D no rest which turned into a NC FG. Then they mix it up for a first down to go pass, pass, pass and again quickly give the ball back. NC TD.

    - Pitt should have been running the ball non-stop as NC showed little interest in stopping it.

    - LB's had a terrible game with too many missed tackles.

    Overall:
    Very entertaining game to watch and one I thought they were going to pull out. They have two games left and once again Pitt's must watch TV. Cuse and MI both got rolled. I'm expecting Cuse to come out hard next week but MI might be calling it a year.

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  17. I will not defend the special teams, it was awful and hopefully they can address it if not this year then next. Other than that, there really isn't a whole lot to get down on. People can complain about whatever they want to but it boils down to the O-line. It doesn't matter what you call if the O-line doesn't succeed then you can toss out the game plan. As for the O-line, people have this illusion that a freshman is going to step in and save this offensive line. That just isn't realistic. There is a reason you don't see Linemen leaving college early for the pros. This line was no good when they took over and it won't be good until they get the players they want with a few years under their belt. Joe Thomas for Wisconsin was a blocking te as a freshman and brought along slowly. Josh Oglsbey was the top rated OL in the country and he was redshirted for wisconsin and only started 3 games as a sophmore. The reason you are seeing the players you are on our line is because of need and not because they are ready or should be there. It is astounding how out of touch many of you fans are.

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    1. Is it the fans who don't understand - or the coaches? Why are you trying a delayed handoff behind this poor OL against a stacked/9-guys in the box defense on a 4th and 1 with the game on the line?

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  18. Doke what I don't understand is why, when u have a player the caliber of Tyler Boyd, do u not have some special plays prepared for situations like yesterday at the end of the game. I mean line Boyd up under center as a half back as a full back, something, anything to get the ball in his hands.

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  19. Nice pickup by the staff of Chris James. Conner, Ollison, and James look like a nice future of backs. James is legit.

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    1. I'm pretty excited about this pick up as well. It'll be interesting to see what happens with Crocket (currently only playing special teams) and Ibrahim who might get moved to defense - though as a true freshmen it's a little unfair to say what his future's like right now.

      Any word on how the Chris James pick up effects McKenzie?

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  20. The most encouraging play of the game, was our field goal kicker stroking a three pointer when it was needed. He misses that pressure kick, we don't even tie the game. NC pressured the heck out of that kick and almost blocked it. Well done kicker man.

    This was a good game once the player's played with emotion.

    Our defense made a few nice plays, but when they needed a stop on 4th and 12, they failed. Is it me or do too many teams successful against the Pitt defense over the past three years on 4th and 5 or more? It might just seem that way, but big stops would do wonders for the team with respect to confidence. I liked Render and his motor. We need player's with big motors and quickness, not one of two. Murphy has a great motor, but is just challenged physically. NC was superior athletically. Ebron would look good in a Steeler uniform next year.

    Pitt needs a strong finish to recruiting. Two to three more 4 stars should make this a great class. Each of the 4 stars would see the field next year.....often. Pitt should put Voytik in now. Another 5th year player is not the way to go in my opinion. We need consistency at the position. I think Chapman would be starting by now had Pederson not canned him. Oh, I am sorry, Nordenberg canned him after he and Pederson met first and planned the canning.

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    1. No chance they play Voytik without that 6th win to become bowl eligible. And if they get the 6th, they will want the 7th for recruiting, etc.

      If they get the 6th in the Cuse game, no way they will start Voytik against Miami. Pitt, if they get a bowl game, and it's a big if right now, they will very much want to win it....so Savage will play that game too.

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  21. Chris, any update on what d-line and linebackers are on team and being recruited? That area is concerning considering Donald is gone after this year.

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  22. Sagarin Ratings ranks Pitt basketball strength of schedule at #331 out of 351.
    That's sad.
    That is why only 3000 fans are showing up at the non-conference games.

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    1. But...but....they need to win 20 games again... ;-)

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    2. Yeah… but who wants to play them at the Pete? Basically an automatic loss - and that does teams from the MAC no good.

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  23. Take aways from UNC...

    - First of all, why is anyone shocked or hitting bottom over this one? It was predictable... in fact I think some of the key challenges UNC presented for Pitt were well posted as was the likelihood of a "LETDOWN" coming off Notre Dame.

    Let's face it... the two PUNT RETURNS were the difference just like the "THREE to ZERO" turnovers the previious week.

    Still there was obvously OPPORTUNITY for Pitt to PULL OUT the WIN even though luck was not with them as it was against the Irish.

    - One notable GOOD coming from the loss has to be the running of James Conner. Now, that the "light bulb" has gone off and James realizes how effective he can be by getting LOW and RUNINING DOWNHILL... the yards are going to add up.

    - While showing COURAGE in his willingness to FIGHT back from injury, the play of Pitt's Quarterback was not so good. Unfortunately Savage again showed his limitations. The fumble that ended the drive that would have put Pitt up by 10 was pretty ridiculous. Just like Navy, there were also passes thrown to a COVERED (i.e. WRONG) receiver instead of the OPEN (i.e. RIGHT) receiver which lead to key missed opportunities.

    And then there are the SEVEN sacks. Not all his fault of course... but predicable given his HISTORIC struggles here and the fact that the UNC D-Line was obviously "Quicker than ND upfront."

    However, Savage is to be recognized for revealing his character as a TRUE TOUGH GUY determined to make the most out of his strengths in spite of his limitations as an athlete and not being exactly a savvy playmakter at the Quarterback Position.

    - Someone not lacking in athletic ability or savvinness when it comes to playmaking is Devin Street. He too deserves recognition for his own version of TOUGHNESS and continued SENIOR LEADERSHIP.

    - Despite the sacks... the O-Line did again show some improved COHESIVENESS which is the secret to any good line play. But how much better could they be without the rash of injurries and the resulting substitutions.

    Speaking of the substitutions, one seems to NOT be working out quite as well as many thought. Bisonwaty (himself struggling) was replaced by Johnson who was MYSTERIOUSLY replaced by Hollins. Absent of some kind of injury, it again looks as though despite all the hype as a "5 STAR" tackle, Johnson's best chance at success is INSIDE.

    The continued positive is that T.J. Clemmings continues to be Pitt's BEST OFFENSIVE LINEMAN and MOST DEPENDABLE. Next year, it's a good bet that it will be Clemmings and a freshman named GRIMM anchoring the tackle positions.

    - On the Defensive side, Aaron Donald is showing himself to be a SPECIAL PLAYER who likely is rising fast on many NFL Team Draft Boards.

    - And HOUSE continues to show that maybe, just maybe he was deserving of Chryst's promotion to DC.

    However the final exam is left. It's a two parter that starts Saturday with Syracuse and ends with Miami.

    -Lastly and certainly not least... there's House's boss.

    - THE GOOD... his challenge of the UNC sideline reception that while very, very close... was out by a fraction and SHOULD have been challenged.

    - THE BAD... Yes, the last play call after a BAD SPOT on third down is deserving of scrutiny. However, the decision to run actually DOES NOT seem like a CHRYST call to me. But that's where the buck stops.

    - THE UGLY... What else but the TWO PUNT RETURNS? Despite the CLIP that wasn't called on the second one... absolutely NO EXCUSES. Who is Pitt's Special Teams Coach anyway? Wait a minute, isn't it the HEAD COACH?

    *Final Note again goes to Mr. BLEWITT. The kid continues to show why when it's all said and done he will go down as one of the MOST ACCURATE (and BEST TACKLING) Kickers in Pitt History.

    PittofDreams

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  24. Unlike last week, I do like Pitt’s chances Saturday against Syracuse.

    Now, NOT exactly a GUARANTEE… but a PROBABLE Win.. and an UNLIKELY one looking at the numbers.

    Syracuse is a BAD passing team and BAD stopping the pass. But, UH, OHH!. Don’t look now!!

    The Orange are REALLY GOOD at BLITZING the Quarterback… tied 12th nationally with “30″ SACKS… almost as many as the “37″ Pitt has given up!

    Admittedly, on paper… this would seem to present Savage and his Offensive Line with their WORST NIGHTMARE. A LOSS would also would seem to fit with my prediction early in the season that Pitt’s wins and losses would coincide with what teams rush the passer well… and which ones don’t.

    But all is not lost!

    Looking for James Conner to have his BIGGEST game of the year. He knows WHO HE IS now and so do his Coaches.

    Conner’s BIG DAY should take enough pressure off of Savage and the O-Line (whoever they turn out to be) to allow time to throw the football. Not a lot of time, especially for Tom Savage. But enough to connect on critical passes at critical times and put the Orange back on their heels.

    And that will mean MORE #40 for the Orange.

    Play calls will be very important. Just the right balance of run and throw at the right times… SHOULD get the job done. OK, Joe Rudolph, this is your time to shine!

    Like Notre Dame, Paul Chryst NEEDS this Win… the Team needs it… and so do we, the Pitt Faithful.

    Not a “Chryst Revival” as much as a “Chryst Survival.”

    It really comes down to a KEY QUESTION.

    Will Chryst have his Players “MO-TEE-VATED” to play, not just in the second half… but right out of the gate?

    PittofDreams

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  25. @ the anonymous who posted Pitt's strength of hoops schedule as 331 out of 351 per Sagarin-->

    Keep in mind that those numbers are solely based on the 3 games played so far. Once the entire schedule is played (including all OOC tourney games, all ACC regular season and tourney games, and any NCAA tourney games) the 331 number will no longer exist. Here are Sagarin's final Pitt strength of schedule ratings for the past 5 seasons:

    2008-09 #19
    2009-10 #13
    2010-11 #48
    2011-12 #31
    2012-13 #43

    Bottom line is, that despite a relatively weak OOC schedule expect Pitt's final, end of season, Sagarin strength of schedule rating to be within the top 50 nationally.

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    1. That's not the point.
      Last year, before the start of Big East, non-con strength of schedule was 300 plus or minus.
      That is why only 3000 fans showing up at the games.

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    2. But these games are already sold out ... thus, there is no incentive to play anyone good

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    3. If Pitt was the only sports brand and Pitt basketball was the only thing to do in Pittsburgh, people would show up no matter who they were playing. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Pittsburgh isn't Louisville or Bloomington.

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  26. @Anonymous--Point taken as the reason for no shows. But, IMHO, all that proves is that Pitt has a lot of spoiled fans for hoops--just as they do for football who will only show up for the better and/or name opponents.

    If Pitt had the kind of OOC schedule these fans would like it would probably wind up as the #1 strength of schedule with about about 5-6 less home games. Then they would whine about the additional 3-4 losses each season.

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    1. Of course some powderpuff games are fine.
      If at the end of non-con Pitt has SOS ranked between 150-200 that will be fine. Last year was pathetic. I expect this year to be 250-300.
      We can revisit this before the ACC games start and see if Pitt non-con prepared them for the ACC.

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    2. I would like to see a game or two to see what the Panthers really have before they start the conf. schedule. Not right off the bat, I like having a few warm up games, especially this year for Jamie to see where his new players fit in and to get a grip on the system. I wouldn't mind seeing a top 15 team in game 5 or 6(maybe they thought TT would be that), but I think this year the team has a lot of turn over and padding the record while figuring out what you have is a nice luxury.

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  27. Glad to see Ray Graham getting picked up by the Steelers. Believe he’ll eventually see some playing time.

    It could happen late this year if a back goes down. More likely next year when one or two of the current backs are no longer with the team.

    Could make a home for himself if he gets back to the "pre-knee" Graham.

    PittofDreams

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