Today we’ll do a Bits & Pieces article then we’ll have a Know Your Enemy on Thursday, our Predictions Thread on Friday and the customary Game Day Thread on Saturday for the Pitt vs North Carolina.
You all responded to yesterday’s article with your great insights and your good and debatable points as always…thanks. As for football talk:
Coaches always get put on the spot after a loss and the same thing happened yesterday at Narduzzi’s press conference…but then again hard questions should be asked. At the 14:35 mark of the presser video (below) Narduzzi is asked about why Ollision didn’t get any carries – if you can figure out what he said and what he was trying to say please let me know in a comment.
The only think I can figure out is that they had to give the Big Dog (Conner) relief so they played Moss. ???? I don’t know and it makes no sense to me. If you have an established RB who proved he can get 5.3 yards per carry over the season – then don’t use him but instead put in a kid who hasn’t done anything; that’s strange and I think it should be explained.
Pat Narduzzi puts the blame for the 540 yards passing by the OSU QB squarely on the player’s shoulders instead of on his or his DC’s.
The problem, Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly press conference, comes from the team’s execution and fundamental failures, not its scheme or strategy.
“They’ve got to understand and have to have faith and belief in what we’re doing,” the second-year Pitt coach said. “They’ve got to understand that it works when you do it right and it doesn’t work when you’re not doing it right. It’s either your way or our way; which one are you going to do? If you continue to do it your way, then we’re going to have problems. If you do it our way, you’ve got a chance.”
Perhaps that thought would be best said behind closed doors coach. This way it looks like finger pointing. Does he really mean that the DBs, all of them, just all of a sudden decided not to carry out the defensive scheme his D coaches practiced them on all week?
Was the PSU 330+ yards in the air due to the same reason? It was the exact same defensive scheme out there so what happened in both games? Of course – it was the players fault.
Sorry, but this smacks of blame deflection and sounds petty to my ear.
Here is what’s funny about local beat writers – then kind of have to see the silver lining in everything connected to Pitt football. Especially so if you are a newly assigned one to c0ver the local college team. Here’s an example. Yesterday Jenn Menendez of the Post-Gazette wrote this about Pitt giving up 540 passing yards to the OSU offense:
“I think we [had] a good pass rush at times, but it was too inconsistent,” defensive end Ejuan Price said. “Facing a tempo team is one of the challenges of trying to get a rush over and over again. When we didn’t it really showed downfield.”
The silver lining for Pitt, if they can manage to look past the 642 yards of total offense allowed, is twofold. First, they were truly in it until the final play against a team that was ranked in the preseason top 25. Second there’s not a quarterback left on the schedule with that kind of arm.
Huh, she really should have mentioned that we had also given up 332 yards to a QB not known for his arm in PSU’s Trace McSorley just seven days earlier.
Pitt fans always hate the ones who got away in recruiting. Instead of just turning the page when a local HS player chooses to attend school elsewhere we follow his every move and, let’s be honest here, some of us revel when those players don’t do well in their college career. Case in point is WR Robert Foster down in Alabama.
Pitt fans, and everyone else apparently, thought he’d pick up the hat that had “Pitt” written across the front of it – but no! Foster chose national champions Alabama instead setting off a firestorm of criticism from the Pitt people.
Well, he’s been a 2nd string player down there and while he’s seen some game day playing he has fallen short of what I am sure he and his family expected when he chose the Crimson Tide. here are his career stats so far:
So why did he choose Alabama? because 1) he thought he’d have a better chance of getting to the NFL there and 2) he wanted to play for a school who annually competes fot the biggest prize in college football.
There is a prestige factor involved when a college football player who is older and done with football can say that they played ball at one of the really well-known schools.
We are seeing all this happen again, actually it happens every year with the highest ranked local WPIAL recruits, as they blue-chip kids are bypassing Oakland for greener pastures.
Yesterday we saw 4* DT Donovan Jeter of Beaver Falls verbal to the Golden Domers of Notre Dame. Pissed Pitt fans off royally so now he’s either no good or Notre Dame paid him to play there.
Well, I think Pitt fans are more scared than pissed really. After all the talk about recruiting local talent and making Pitt the local star HS player’s first choice… that really isn’t happening.
Chris Dokish put out this list of who he thought were the Top 10 players in PA for the recruiting class of 2017. Granted this was generated and posted on LOI Day back in February of this year but I think it reflects the issue at hand:
Top 10 in PA for 2017 (as of Signing Day 2016)
D’Andre Swift, St. Joseph’s Prep HS (Philadelphia) RB- Perfect running back size at 5’10” and 208 pounds. Short, muscular frame and elite speed and quickness makes it nearly impossible to get a good shot on him. No real weaknesses and even has great hands. His offer list is big and will get huge before long. Right now that offer list includes Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida State, Georgia, South Carolina, Michigan, Michigan State, and Virginia Tech. In my opinion, he won’t end up at Pitt.
Lamont Wade, Clairton HS (Clairton) CB– Possibly the best cornerback prospect in the country for the class. Not big at 5’10” and 185 pounds, but he is a potential superstar with speed, athleticism, technique, hands, and toughness. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Auburn, Nebraska, UCLA, Maryland, and Virginia Tech. In my opinion, he won’t end up at Pitt, though I think the Panthers will be involved until the end.
Paris Ford, Seton-LaSalle HS (McKees Rocks) S- Pretty slim right now at 6’0″ and 175 pounds, but he’s a high level athlete with the speed, athleticism, and hands to be an all-star college player. Great range with hands to match. Also a good hitter despite frame. Ed Reed center fielder type that seems to be everywhere. Chose PITTSBURGH over Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Auburn, and North Carolina.
David Adams, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) LB– The quintessential PA linebacker with smarts, toughness, and tenacity. Sneaky good athlete. Plays well against the run and the pass. Ideal middle linebacker. Early offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Nebraska, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. I think Pitt and Notre Dame could be the teams to beat, and now that his close friends, Ford and Damar Hamlin, are committed to the Panthers, the chances may be improving. In my opinion, because of his talent and the position he plays, he is the top target for Pitt in this class.
Donovan Jeter, Beaver Falls Area HS (Beaver Falls) DT/DE– Already a large 6’4″ and 280 pounds on a massive frame. Can easily get up to 300 pounds if he moves inside. May also have the potential to terrorize as a rush end if he slims down. Excellent basketball player who would be a high major prospect if he was taller. Early offers from Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan State, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Maryland, among others. Pitt appears to be the leader.
CJ Thorpe, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) OG– As of now he’s 6’4″ at best which means he will have to move inside to guard, but at 310 pounds he’s a massive brawler that has great feet to go with the size. Could be a devastating pulling guard and projects just as good as a defensive tackle. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Auburn, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Virginia, and Maryland. Penn State may be the favorite since he has a lot of ties to the school, but Pitt has a shot.
Kenny Robinson, University Prep HS (Pittsburgh) LB– Every year a WPIAL player stands out to me as being under appreciated. For this class, it’s this 6’3″ 205 pound athlete that has speed, athleticism, and toughness. He could also be an excellent college wide receiver. Early offers include Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Temple, Louisville, and Iowa State. He is very close with Pitt, and all of the local players, and I would be surprised if he didn’t end up at Pitt.
OPEN (I’m not sure why this player is on this list – here is his info)
Josh Lugg, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OT- Already great size at 6’6″ and 290 pounds, and he has the frame to get bigger. Great feet, tenacious, and strong. He has a a lot of potential physically, but right now he is very green. He’s very much worth trying to flip because if it all comes together for him, he could be special. Committed to NOTRE DAME over offers from Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. I’m assuming that he won’t flip, but if he does, Pitt would probably be the school he would flip to.
Mark Webb, Archbishop Wood HS (Warminster) WR– In most other years he’d be flirting with being a top 5 prospect in the state. Already good size at 6’2″ and 195 pounds, and with that size he has the speed, athleticism, and hands to be one of the better wide receivers prospects in the east. Early offers so far include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Rutgers. I’m think that Penn State is the team to beat.
Kurt Hinish, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) DT– Already a rock solid 6’3″ and 285 pounds. He’s been on a tear lately picking up offers on an almost daily basis. Right now his list includes Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Baylor, Iowa State, Boston College, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt. I think Pitt may have a good chance with this one.
BTW – I think college football fans are a bit mistaken when a HS recruit picks on school over the other. They tend to think strictly in football terms when the reality is for a lot of recruits, and their parents, academics and college life plays a pretty big part also.
For instance on the list above we have four kids who picked Notre Dame over Pitt. Lugg, Hinish, Adams and Jeter – all mentioned that academics were part of the decision process. Then why ND? Well, look at the current US News and Worls Report college renking for that school:
ND’s 2017 Rankings
University of Notre Dame is ranked #15 in National Universities. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.
That is a lot higher than Pitt’s current ranking of #68 and while these rankings fluctuate year to year ND is constantly up there. PSU’s ranking are pretty good also. So that’s part of the reason recruits choose to go to these schools.
These players parents have a lot more influence than the average fans think and the mom and dad aren’t looking only at football – most often they have a pretty firm idea whether or not their kid is going into the NFL and so advise heavily on the academic side. We have gotten our fair share of recruits who chose Pitt over other schools for just that reason.
Pitt’s 2017 Rankings
University of Pittsburgh is ranked #68 in National Universities. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.
Notre Dame also has tradition, a beautiful campus and great academics so we shouldn’t be all that surprised when local kids want to play there. Pitt is a good school also but is in the middle of a city and hasn’t the recent winning tradition or success that Notre Dame has had on the field either.
If we were losing these high ranking players to lesser schools than ND, PSU or Georgia then I’d be surprised but looking into where they verballed to I’m not. The fact that ND just had seven players picked in the last NFL draft doesn’t hurt either.
It is just very tough for Pitt to compete against ND when a kid is considering both schools. Something to remember also is that as badly as we feel that these kids listed above decided to go elsewhere – they also chose their school over numerous others, not just Pitt.
On a lighter note The City Paper’s Mike Wysocki has a piece about sports personalities who Pittsburghers love to ‘boo’. A Pitt guy makes the list:
Wham, bam, thank you, Todd Graham makes this list and he did it in less than one season; it’s almost admirable, in a perverse kind of way. After a lackluster 6-6 year as Pitt’s head football coach, Graham started talking to other schools about a head-coaching position. He recruited players to play for him and quickly left. When the University of Pittsburgh’s athletic director told him he couldn’t spend time looking for a new job, he resigned. Not only that, he resigned via text — a low-class move even by scumbag standards. Yes, Graham wasn’t an athlete, but if we ever get a chance to boo him, it’ll be good.
But this is my favorite line in the article:
As you can imagine, most booing emanates from the cheap seats of a stadium or arena. These seats usually contain riff-raff, much like myself, and since our lives haven’t turned out the way we thought, we’re more inclined to show frustration.
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT (HTML LINK): Narduzzi Text Transcript
Narduzzi Opening Statement:
“Usually we try to put the last game to rest on Sunday, but I don’t want to ignore it. As a whole, when you go back and look at the game, it wasn’t a lack of effort. Our kids played hard throughout. I love the guys who sit in these seats in here; they’ve got a lot of toughness. I love those guys for the efforts they give and for never quitting. We didn’t make enough plays offensively and defensively.
We had to go out there and sit in a small locker room for almost two hours during the lightning delay. Defensively we played a great second half except for one play, and that cost us. Offensively I thought we played a great first half and not a great second half. There are so many things that we will work to correct and get better at. Give Oklahoma State credit for what they did and how they do it. They have a top-20 football team and program. I believe they will finish there based on the way Mason Rudolph can throw. I told you last week that he is an NFL guy.
After seeing him live, I don’t think there’s any question of that. They have some talented wide-outs as well. There are things that we can do better on defense—fundamentally and structurally—and that’s why we coach. That game is over, and we move on to North Carolina. We get to travel down there for a 3:30 game against a great football team that was the Coastal champion a year ago. They don’t lose much. They have four or five starting offensive linemen back from last year. Elijah Hood is a great tailback, and he switches out there to receiver occasionally.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a guy we saw as a senior out of high school; he was a great player. I have a lot of respect for him. He played really well last year and now has three games under his belt. He’s very efficient in running the offense. Defensively Gene Chizik always does a great job. They are athletic. [M.J.] Stewart and [Des] Lawrence are the two corners that are lockdown guys. They are very athletic and very well coached. They have two defensive tackles in [Nazair] Jones and [Jalen] Dalton who are tough, and they have two good linebackers in [Andre] Smith and [Cayson] Collins who are bell cows on that side of the ball.
They are very athletic defensively, and they probably blitz a little bit more than a year ago. They can heat it up there. We know Gene Chizik is a great football coach. The offense looks exactly like we saw a year ago. It will be a great challenge to go down there and face the Coastal Division champion from a year ago.
That’s our goal and that’s where we want to be. When the first ACC team you play is the one who is the defending champion in that division, it is a great challenge. We look forward to going there.”
On the performance of Pitt’s secondary against Oklahoma State:
“It’s about fundamentals and structure. If we needed to change the coverage up a little bit, we didn’t do it quite enough or early enough. We had some things that we maybe didn’t use that we should have. But that happens in every game. You can always look back. I told our kids it’s 38-38 with two minutes to go in the game and we haven’t played great.
We have a chance with two minutes to go to knock them out. If you told me we could have that situation with two minutes to go in the game, I’d take that because they are a good football team and I have a lot of respect for them. For the defensive backs, [they should] play with good technique and fundamentals.
Don’t get frazzled. The first play of the game was a communication error, not a physical error. It was a coverage bust and a lack of communication. That’s on the coach. Sometimes it’s the tempo or the atmosphere; there are a lot of contributing factors. Fundamentally you have to play with good technique. That’s what we try to play at every position on the field. You better play good technique when you’re playing against great wide receivers.”
On Nathan Peterman and how they matched up in the passing game offensively against Oklahoma State:
“I’m not going to take anything away from who they (Oklahoma State) are, but we missed some throws and some reads. Especially on some third and medium calls, where we had a chance to stay on the field and keep them off the field. We didn’t put the ball where it needed to be on those plays. We missed a play in the fourth quarter to Jester Weah that we have to make.
We’re not going to make every throw either. Quarterbacks can’t be perfect. Nathan [Peterman] managed the game well. The opener [Villanova] wasn’t managed as well. It was a below average day for him. But he’s played above average the last two weeks. If he [Peterman] continues to do that, we will be fine. You can’t blame one guy—it takes 11 to win a football game. The blame is in the whole room as far as our players and coaches. We win together, we lose together.”
On how he will prepare his defensive players for North Carolina’s passing attack:
“We just have to keep coaching them; that’s our job. They have to believe in what we do. They must understand it works when you do it right, and it doesn’t work if you don’t do it right. It’s either your way or our way, which one are you going to do? If you continue to do it your way, then we’re going to have problems.
If you flip on the tape and watch when we’re successful, it is when we cover the guys with good technique. When you don’t win the play, they need to see what they did wrong. It needs to become evident. It happens, and it’s why we coach. If it were easy, everybody in here would coach. But it’s not. That’s the challenge of coaching: it’s fun.”
On Avonte Maddox’s mindset after the Oklahoma State game:
“The first thing that you have to do is be able to admit that ‘I didn’t play great. I didn’t play with great technique and that’s the bottom line.’ We’ll bring Avonte [Maddox] back and talk to him. He’s a great kid and he has a lot of talent. He is one of our best corners when he plays fundamentally sound. I don’t worry about Avonte Maddox. I think you will see a different guy this week who will play with a chip on his shoulder.”
On dealing with outside reactions from the fans and media after a tough loss:
“I don’t read the newspaper. I don’t hear what you’re saying and I don’t care what you say. I hope my players don’t read it or listen to it. I’m not going to go on Twitter and read the notifications after a win or loss.
My motto is ‘Be humble or be humbled.’ We went out and played a good football team and hung tough and that’s all that matters. Our kids will be resilient.”
On if the North Carolina game is a “must-win” contest:
“I would say it’s a big game because they are the defending Coastal champions. They’re the team to beat. But I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket. Either division could be won by a one-loss team.
We can’t say that either champion is going to be undefeated. Look what happened to Florida State this weekend. Do you think Jimbo Fisher is going to crawl underneath his podium and say it’s over because we lost one game? I don’t think so. One game in conference or out of conference doesn’t define you as a football program or your season.”
On what makes this Pitt team a resilient one:
“I love this football team. These guys will fight to the end. Do we do everything right as coaches? No. Do we do everything right as players all the time? No. There are a bunch of calls on both sides of the ball that you may want back at the end of the game. I might have gone for it on 4th down instead of punting it. There are so many ‘coulda-woulda-shouldas.’
The great thing about this football team is they will fight to the end regardless of what the situation is. If you’re down 14, these guys don’t care because they know it’s a four-quarter game. They believe that any game can be ours, we just need to put 60 minutes together as a whole.
The offense and defense played one good half opposite of each other. We need to put those together. That’s a challenge. Nobody can be perfect, but if we played three-and-a-half good quarters, it would be better.”
On electing to primarily run the ball on the second to last offensive drive:
“We were thinking our run has been pretty good and successful. We wanted to continue to run the ball. I think James [Conner] missed a little hole on one of those runs. If he keeps it going outside, maybe we’re in a different spot today.
You can look back and look at so many plays that are missed throughout the game. It boils down to execution and fundamentals. That’s no disrespect to James [Conner]; he had a heck of a game. It happens in every aspect.”
On the defensive strategy at Oklahoma State:
“We wanted to bring pressure. You will watch college or pro football and see the corners out there on an island. I don’t care if you are in man coverage or if you’re in thirds or a read cover two. They are on an island out there and eventually they have to make a play on the ball. It doesn’t really matter what the coverage is; it’s hard to give them help all the time. That’s why you’re seeing points scored like they are.
Those guys are going to be on an island out there. When you ask a question about pressure opposed to base, it’s pick your poison. They have a good quarterback and good receivers. I don’t remember what play it was but at a point I wrote on my call-sheet ‘quarterback is human.’
He had a human error and I didn’t see many of them in the first half. He wasn’t as on fire in the second half and that’s because of the pressure we applied. Getting a couple of hits on him did a lot for us. I guess he was human, but only for a couple of plays.”
On what he will tell the team about the opportunity at North Carolina:
“It’s another game. It’s a big game, but it’s no bigger than Oklahoma State. We wanted that win badly, too. Our guys were locked in. If we don’t win this game, is our season over? No. And I don’t think Florida State feels that way after last week.
They [Florida State] will be in it. They still have to go play Clemson and if they beat Clemson, all of the sudden you have two teams with one loss. I think the same thing will happen in the Coastal. There are no perfect teams.”
On the running back depth chart behind James Conner:
“We got Chawntez Moss and Darrin Hall in the game. It’s just a matter of not wearing out your dog. We want to get all of those guys involved. Qadree [Ollison] was out there quite a bit. Maybe he didn’t get the carries, but that’s all based on the read and what we are doing on that play and what they are doing defensively.
It’s about being unselfish and doing what you need to do. We had some decent runs from all the guys back there. We need to keep guys fresh. James [Conner] gets tired. We have to keep him fresh.”
On the depth at wide receiver after the injury to Dontez Ford:
“You always are concerned with depth. We’ll have Dontez [Ford] back sooner rather than later. Tre Tipton played a solid football game out there. He’s got some wheels. He had a couple nice catches, and a great fourth-down catch. For us, it’s the next man up. Aaron Mathews will have an extended role this week as well.”
On his assessment of North Carolina’s defense:
“They’ve got some good players, I can tell you that. I attribute their stats to the high number of spread offenses. If you look at college football in general, points and yards are happening more frequently.
I think Gene Chizik is a sound defensive coordinator. He’s a bend-not-break guy, and they are very sound. They’ll be ready for us down there and will be very sound.”
On if defensive statistical goals have changed due to how good offenses are now:
“You adjust every year. When I first got to Cincinnati and eventually Michigan State, our goal defensively was to limit the other team to 13 points per game. Today, that just isn’t going to happen.
Turnovers are the key. We were plus two for the whole game until there was 30 seconds left. When you win the turnover ratio, you are usually going to win the game. When you have a blocked punt, you usually win.
We stopped the run for the most part. We ran the ball effectively offensively. Defensively we only gave up one long touchdown run, and that’s what we lost by. You could pick out that play and say we didn’t stop the run. Offenses are going to score points. The numbers don’t matter. It’s about getting a win.”
On potentially needing to score 30 points a game to win in today’s game:
“Yeah. Offensively we scored 31 and that wasn’t enough. The goal is to score more points than they score, and that’s all that matters.”
On if there will be any personnel changes on the Pitt defense:
“No. Avonte Maddox is our best corner. Ryan Lewis is playing very well. It’s our job to coach them up. I’ve got complete confidence in those guys.”
On managing Jordan Whitehead’s time offensively and defensively:
“He knows what he’s doing on defense. We try to manage that. Maybe there were some communication errors where we say ‘Is he not over there enough, or is he over there too much?’ When he gets the ball, he’s explosive and is fun to watch. Defensively we had a mental breakdown and communication error. It’s on the secondary as a whole. We have to do a better job. He might be getting less carries unless he knows how to communicate plays over there defensively.”