Thursday, September 24, 2015

Iowa 27 Pitt 24

First of all, sorry for not posting more. One, I've been busy. Two, I put a lot of info on twitter and I forget that many people don't use twitter. Three, it was the summer so things were relatively slow in the Pitt world.  But I'm going to try to post more. For those that follow me on twitter it may be a lot of the info you already saw, but I will try to put different things on.  Anyway, my thoughts on the loss.

1.  The Panthers may finally have their quarterback. It's still too early to know for sure, but other than two early interceptions. Nathan Peterman showed signs that he can help Pitt in the passing game more than Chad Voytik can. At least it looks like that now. Truthfully, we can't expect either quarterback to be a star this year, but if one can at least be competent, that will be huge for the season.

2.  I thought the running back trio of Quadree Ollison, Chris James, and Darrin Hall could, together, make up at least some of the production lost by James Conner. The just is still out, however. The Panthers run the ball 27 times for 55 yards. That's obviously not good. But, on the other hand, Iowa is currently No. 5 nationally in rush defense so we'll not talking about a bunch of bums the Panthers tried to run against.

3.  Hall started and ran for 38 yards on 14 carries. He appears to me to have the highest upside so I liked seeing him start. Ollison ran for 17 yards on 14 carries, and James ran twice for no yards. Ollison runs hard, and he's tough, but he seems somewhat limited. To me, his talent level is reminiscent of Isaac Bennett in that he could be a solid contributor but may be limited as the main guy. And James has battled injuries, while also not having the full trust of the staff to do what's expected of him.  James does have a lot of talent, tough, so hopefully it all comes together for him.

4. Tyler Boyd hasn't missed a beat, and in fact, he leads the ACC in receiving despite missing a game. Against Iowa he had 10 catches for 131 yards, and the game tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

5.  Voytik locks on to Boyd way too often, both last year and this year, but Peterman spread it around more. J.P. Holtz, Dontez Ford, Scott Orndoff, George Aston, Ollison, and Hall combined for 13 catches.

6.  The kickers still don't inspire confidence.  Chris Blewitt made a 48-yarder and all three extra points, but he still seems shaky.  Ryan Winslow has not had a good season.

7.  The defense is looking very good. The motto for the defense is "Run and Hit", and that's exactly what they are doing.  Cornerback Lafayette Pitts is still the weak link, and in fact he had three horrible plays in a row. But on the other side, sophomore Avonte Maddox has been exceptional. At the safeties, Terrish Webb had a huge interception, and was all over the field. And what can you say about a player that had 16 tackles in just his third college game? That's what Jordan Whitehead did. I always said he will be a first round draft pick some day, and that's looking like a good prediction right now. He's special.

8.  The defensive line was solid against the run again, and the Hawkeyes ran for just 105 yards on 29 carries. But the pass rush was weak. Not only did starting defensive ends Rori Blair and Ejuan Price not have a sack, but they also didn't have a tackle. Shakir Soto had two tackles when he took over after Price got injured. Three ends with two tackles is not going to cut it.

9.  The linebackers were a little better. After having 10 tackles in the opener, and looking like a future All-American, Nicolas Grigsby had just 3 tackles for the second straight game. Bam Bradley took over for Mike Caprara, and even though he had just 4 tackles, the difference in speed and athleticism was quite evident. Caprara chipped in 3 tackles. Middle linebacker Matt Galambos had the lone sack, and it was a vicious one, but a 4-3 MLB needs to make more than 6 tackles in a game. His backup, Quintin Wirginis, had 3 tackles, including an impressive shoestring tackle. Personally, I'd like to see Wirginis playing over Galambos, because he seems like a real playmaker, but the staff prefers the intelligence and experience of Galambos.

10.  The offense, especially the passing of Peterman, gave the Panthers a chance in the second half, but it was the defense and special teams that was the best units of the game. The out block of Ryan Lewis was a welcome sight. It was the second huge play that the special teams came up with through the first three games.

11. Narduzzi got criticism for not going for it on a crucial fourth quarter drive, and it was well deserved. Even legendary coaches make bad decisions so it's not the end of the world, but Narduzzi relied too much on a good, but not great defense to bail him out, when all he had to do was make one foot.

12.  At the end of the day, Pitt was a 5 point underdog, I picked them to lose by 3, and they lost by 3. So a close loss is hardly a surprise. But Iowa looks to be a pretty good team this year and they had to hit a 57 yard field goal to win the game at home. A loss is still a loss, but there are definite signs that the Narduzzi resurrection project is on course.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pitt 24 Akron 7

The Panthers exorcised another demon by going on the road and beating Akron 24-7, in a constant rainstorm.  Panthers go to 2-0 and play next Saturday night at Iowa. Some thoughts:

1.  Chad Voytik started and began the gamer going 6-6. But he played his usual cautious, anxious self, and he was eventually replaced for the rest of the game during the second quarter. He ended up going 6-8 for 33 yards. Peterman was much more poised and while he was hardly dominating he did at least make normal quarterback plays. He ended up going 12-17 for 147 yards and a touchdown. I'd be surprised if he didn't start next week, but the offensive decision making has been curious so you never know.

2.  Qadree Ollison was solid, but for some reason offensive coordinator Jim Chaney ran between the tackles almost exclusively. Ollison had 21 carries for 81 hard fought yards. Darrin Hall looked quick and confident, and he ended up with 12 carries for 52 yards.  Neither are James Conner but combining for 133 yards is not chopped liver.

3.  Tyler Boyd had 11 catches for 95 yards, but he really didn't break anything. Zach Challingsworth is the only other wide receiver to make a catch, and it went for a first down. JP Holtz had three catches for 42 yards, including a touchdown on a nice Peterman pass.

4.  Defensively, Avonte Maddox and Tyrique Jarrett flashed again, but maybe the most impressive player on defense was Rori Blair. The combination of Blair and Dwayne Hendrix at DE next year is exciting, especially with Jarrett returning in the middle. By the way, the Panthers gave up only 110 yards tonight.

5.  Jordan Whitehead didn't do anything spectacular but he made a lot of good little players. He's only going to get better.

Bottom line, it wasn't pretty, but neither was the weather. Without Conner, no real receiving option outside of Boyd, and without a topnotch quarterback, Pitt will have to gut it out all year, but 2-0 is a good confidence builder.

Monday, September 7, 2015

James Conner out for the season

According to Pat Narduzzi, James Conner has a torn MCL and will be out for the season. Chris James, Qadree Ollison, and Darrin Hall will have to pick up the slack.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Pitt 45 Youngstown 37

Some thoughts

1.  Jim Chaney was much too conservative and if the Panthers don't have a quarterback that can complete passes 10 yards down the field on at least a semi-consistent basis then they are in big trouble.

2.  Speaking of which, Chad Voytik was mostly bad, and after looking good in his first series, Nathan Peterman promptly threw an interception. He never returned

3.  James Conner looked great but an injured knee in the second quarter cost him the rest of the game. Chris James got the first chance to replace him but eventually Quadree Ollison came in and was a one man wrecking crew. He was the unquestionable MVP of the game.

4.  The defense was hit or miss, though much more miss in the second half.  Nicholas Grigsby, Avonte Maddox, and Tyrique Jarrett looked the best but there's still a lot of dead weight that is seeing time. I'm still confused as to why Matt Galambos even sees the field and Lafayette Pitts still is not very good.

5.  The Panthers had six sacks and until the last long TD run they were giving up just 2.3 yards a rush. The offense continually put the Panthers in bad position, and initially the defense came up big. However, late in the game, the defense fell apart. There just isn't enough good players on defense it seems. 

Bottom line, it's a win, even though it was an ugly one. And it was done without the two superstars for the most part. The defense will get better, and the pass game, with the return of Boyd, will get better. But it's clear that this team will go only as far as the passing game and defense improves.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Jamie Dixon lands PG for this year

It's never too late to add some help and Jamie Dixon did just that by adding 6'2" combo guard Jonathan Milligan today.  Milligan, of Kilgore (TX) JC, will have two years of eligibility left. A native of Orlando, FL, Milligan averaged 14.3 ppg and 3.7 apg last year. He also proved to be a very good shooter, going 48.3% from the field, as well as 40.2% from three, and 79.1% from the free throw line. He also has excellent quickness.

Milligan originally signed with Florida Gulf Coast but recently was considered ineligible by the NCAA. Somehow things changed in the last week, and he's now a Panther. He joins a suddenly deep backcourt of James Robinson, Sterling Smith, and Damon Wilson.

Coming out of high school, Milligan was considered a top 100 prospect by MaxPreps, and ESPN ranked him the No. 25 point guard in the country. Tennessee and Creighton were his most recent offers, and NC State and Marquette were also interested.