Know The Enemy – Penn State

Byline: Chris Logue and it is a good one…

It’s go time for another week, another opponent and worst of all, a whole new slew of athletic receivers, running backs, most of which I am sure can run the wheel-route, and a quarterback that can beat you in a myriad of ways. This could just as easily be time-stamped in 2016 heading into Death Valley and Clemson, but this year’s edition of that is in Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions.

While I would love to be the sole interpreter of Penn State this week, I also felt that it would be doing our readers an injustice. This edition of “Know Your Enemy” comes with a guest, Centre Daily Times Penn State beat writer, John McGonigal. John pulls no punches and lets it all fly which is why he fits the bill to be our guest this week.

John provided incredible feedback and you’ll notice it throughout our inside look at what our Panthers face this week in Centre County.

Last week, Penn State drubbed Akron 52-0 and did it in a multitude of ways. Whether it was breaking a long, very strong, streak of not having a return for a touchdown, intercepting Akron quarterback, Thomas Woodson or if it was quarterback Trace McSorley and his trusted back, Saquon Barkley, Penn State looked good. Very, very good at that. It’s no mystery that McSorley and Barkley will be the key drivers for PSU on offense, it goes back to the basics, deep in the trenches who kick-starts this offense.

“Outside of Barkley and McSorley, I think an underrated guy on this offense is center Connor McGovern. I could’ve gone with flashier picks like breakout wide receiver Juwan Johnson or tight end Mike Gesicki — who I think will lead the Nittany Lions in all receiving categories this year — but McGovern is a guy who guides the offense,” says McGonigal.

Like Pitt who has shifted and mixed the offensive line over the past two seasons, McGovern is amid transition himself, “The Penn State staff moved him to center in the offseason after the departure of senior Brian Gaia — the Nittany Lions’ lone loss from the o-line — and McGovern has lived up to all expectations so far, being more vocal and impressing against Akron.”

Reed and I exchanged emails and we both had the same feel that a lot of what Penn State wants to do and should succeed in doing is planting roots in the trenches and making it their own, and it seems as though McGovern is sturdy in that task where “[McGovern] had a lot to do with that, and the lineman will play a key role in the Pitt game.”

How big of a task do the Panthers have this week on the defense? Look for yourself at PSU’s last game’s offensive stats:

PSU Game 1

Continue reading “Know The Enemy – Penn State”

POV Sunday Podcast; June 25th, 2017

4. Pittsburgh
Sept. 9 at Penn State, Sept. 16 vs. Oklahoma State, Sept. 23 at Georgia Tech

There won’t be any easing into the 2017 schedule for Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers. In Week 2, they hit the road to face No. 5 Penn State. You think the Nittany Lions will be motivated after losing at Pitt a year ago? Then comes a home game against No. 6 Oklahoma State, which throws the ball all over the park with the returning combo of quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington, and the Panthers open ACC play a week later by going on the road and having to deal with Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack.

Name Pos Location Ht Wt Stars Rating
Matt Alaimo TE Montvale, NJ 6’5″ 235 3 5.7
Blake Zubovic OL Belle Vernon, PA 6’3″ 308 3 5.7
Chase Brown OL Scranton, PA 6’6″ 310 3 5.6
John Morgan DE Hyattsville, MD 6’3″ 235 3 5.7
Judson Tallandier DB Hyattsville, MD 6’2″ 180 3 5.7
Wendell Davis LB Richmond, VA 6’2″ 215 3 5.5
Jake Kradel OL Butler, PA 6’4″ 270 3 5.7
Noah Palmer DE Jefferson Hills, PA 6’4″ 225 3 5.6
Nick Patti QB Montvale, NJ 6’3″ 190 3 5.5
Jay Symonds TE Cambridge, MA 6’4″ 248 2 5.4

Steel Valley safety Paris Ford will not start classes on Monday with the rest of the incoming freshmen, multiple sources told Panther-Lair.com. Details of the situation are unclear, although it appears Ford could have an opportunity to qualify this summer and enroll closer to training camp.

If he doesn’t qualify this summer, Ford could spend one semester or a full school year at a prep institution like Milford Academy in New Berlin (NY) before enrolling at Pitt.

What is the NCAA Eligibility Center?

The NCAA Eligibility Center was created to bring academic and amateurism certifications together under one roof. Its purpose is to ensure that college-bound student-athletes, as well as coaches and administrators, understand the requirements to participate in NCAA Divisions I and II athletics.

All incoming freshman who plan on attending any NCAA Division I or II university MUST register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, meet all academic and amateur requirements and be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center.

What are the NCAA Eligibility Center standards I must meet?

The standards issued by the NCAA Eligibility Center are slightly different for Division I and Division II but are based on the same four principles:

You must graduate from high school.

You must successfully complete all core courses.

You must have a minimum 2.000 GPA in core courses; and

You must have a minimum qualifying score on the ACT or SAT.

Military Bowl Presented By Northrup Grumman

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Navy-Marine Corps. Stadium, Annapolis, MD

ESPN, 1:30 pm

Pitt vs. Navy

39. Pitt Panthers

Relative Strengths: Passing Game, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Pass Defense, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? Will the Panthers ever stop a passing game? USC transfer Max Browne will keep the offense going, but against so many good ACC QBs, all that matters is the beleaguered secondary.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 35 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 32

2017’s WRs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

This is the seventh of a longer POV series looking at the individual positions which need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions in ’16. We will not factor in true freshman at this point.

Wide Receiver will be a position of strength for us in this coming season almost surely.  I say that because as we wrote about the QB position early in this series I think we’ll have a downgrade there – so the ripple effect may impact the overall production of our WR corps for ’17.

To start let’s look at who departed Pitt over the off-season.  rsSR Dontez Ford and rsJR Zach Challingsworth.  Well, that was pretty simple wasn’t it? 

Of course our main WR coming back is the exciting and inconsistent – which is part of the excitement because we hold our breath hoping he’ll come down with the ball – rsSR Jester Weah.

Weah is a great example of kids who are just average in their recruiting rating (3*, 5.5) and don’t burst right out of the gate in college… but learn the new game and flourish in their upperclassmen years.  And yes, that is what a good player will do. 

Great players usually do make an impact earlier and Weah may have also if he hadn’t been stuck behind Tyler Boyd and Dontez Ford for his first few years.  But for now he’s pretty darn good and may just be great this season.

Weah has had the catching yips and was publicly open and refreshingly honest about that which I like him even more for.  He has great downfield speed and good moves – but his hands used to let him down when it came to gameday.  More on that later…

Continue reading “2017’s WRs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw”

2017’s RBs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

(This is the second of a longer series looking at our individual positions that need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions. We will not factor in true freshman at this point as we have no idea what they can and cannot do).

Much like in 2016 when we were faced with the prospect of having to put out a passing game without Tyler Boyd, we are revisiting that situation with this season’s loss of James Conner at running back.

At the risk of being unpopular (again) I’ll say this.  As I wrote many times during last year’s offseason that we wouldn’t miss Boyd much at all – and I took major heat, some of it from the more mainstream media, for saying that I’ll repeat that thought for this year’s running backs.

We won’t miss James Conner’s 2016 production as much as fans think. I love Conner, have had great personal conversations with him and feel that as a human being he’s one of the finest men I have ever met – and that is saying a lot given my professional career. Pitt and his peer players will miss his wonderful human traits and his friendship no doubt. Those are the intangibles James Conner brought to the Pitt football program and will continue to bring to any organization he is affiliated with for the rest of his life.

Unlike Tyler Boyd’s leaving, Conner’s departure is going to cost us big time in the leadership and role model areas. 

I truly wish he’d have stayed at Pitt for his 4th year of eligibility but understand completely why he declared – and what a grand decision that was given the relatively high round in which he was picked and by the Steelers to boot. Pittsburgh fans will have a lot more time to watch Conner play football I’m sure, just not in a Panther uniform.

But as a running back on our team last year, and the production he had out on the field, he’s replaceable and it will most likely be by committee.  Again I’m speaking of what he did out on the field production wise.

We’ll make up for Conner’s statistical production, especially rushing yards and TDs by this year’s batch of RBs, although his 20 TDs all told last season won’t be met by one player, that’s (maybe) for sure. Continue reading “2017’s RBs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw”

From the Vault: Why Pitt Is the Way it Is

This is an article which entails some heavy lifting in the reading department so it may be best taken in chunks rather than sitting down for the whole shebang at one time. But do take a very close look at the Title Photo (Oakland in the 1930s) before you get into the linked articles.

For a weekend’s reading I have included two excellent and well-written Saturday Evening Post articles about the University of Pittsburgh and our football program’s history back in the 1930s and 1940s.  Before you click on those let me add a few things about why I did this and why I did it today.

I truly feel like Pitt is on the cusp of having to make some pretty hard and maybe unpopular decisions about just where the Football program fits in with the rest of the Athletic Department and even more importantly where it fits in relation to the rest of the University.

Why now you may ask?  Because this is the season where our won/loss record will determine if Pat Narduzzi restructures his contract to be Pitt’s HC for the long run or not. His existing contract is low for a continually winning Power Five school and can easily be bought out by any other program who wants him badly enough.

If he wins big this season, and by that I mean 9 or 10 wins including that elusive bowl win, then the rest of the nation is going to really sit up and take notice of what he and Pitt have done over the last three years.

I’ve written many times that last season’s bowl loss really hurt us in a lot of ways – mainly because it kept us from being listed in 2016’s  post-season Top 20. That would have been a real solid achievement for him on the national stage and made him more valuable to others than he actually might be to Pitt.

Instead the bold truth is that even as excited as Pitt fans are about the program and Narduzzi we are one win better that his predecessor’s best season – Paul Chryst’s 2013 year when he beat Notre Dame at home and won his bowl game.

Before you jump up and down in indignation please understand that I wholeheartedly believe Narduzzi’s 2016 season, with the wonderful wins over PSU and Clemson, was way better than 2013. It certainly was for us fans. But with only eight wins per year and no bowl game wins he hasn’t put all that much concrete distance between the program now and then.

Continue reading “From the Vault: Why Pitt Is the Way it Is”

Time of Possession Effect; Myth or Truth?

The two teams battling in a football match always try to control the play clock.

They do that for a variety of reasons but the main ones are that if you have the ball the other team can’t score and the longer you hold onto possession of the ball the better chance you get to score. Pretty basic stuff.

Another is the more tired the opponent’s defense gets by being on the field for so long makes the odds for catching them in a mental or physical mistake thus taking advantage of that for quick scores and points on the board.

That is the theory anyway. I suppose it works that way but I’m just not sure that helps get a “W” in the win column any more than striking into the end zone quickly and often to garner more points than the other guy does.

Time of Possession, or TOP,  is easily the most misunderstood statistic in football I think.  Since our 2016 season ended I have read many Pitt fans say that our defense was on the field too much and got too tired to be effective. Thus the imbalance in TOP was responsible for the large amount of points per game our defense gave up.  Hmmm…

I wondered if that is true so I did some digging.  My findings are this – I really can’t tell if TOP is all that much of an indicator in the outcome of a game.  I know that sounds very wishy-washy but hold on. Here are some facts to think about first.

Continue reading “Time of Possession Effect; Myth or Truth?”

POV: BB Issues & OL and TE Questions

Have to apologize for lack of articles lately – between going to Virginia for two days on Tuesday then having to drive up to PGH for two days for a funeral on Thursday I couldn’t find computer time to write anything.

BB News: Cam Johnson is indeed leaving the Pitt BB program as one of the many who have seen the handwriting on the wall with the Stallings hire.  I think that Pitt BB fans are much like the Pitt FB fans in that they find it hard to point fingers at the coaching staffs when there are players to blame.

To me this mass exodus from the BB program is all on (dearly departed) ex-Pitt AD Barnes’ and BB Head Coach Stallings’ shoulders. From that initial press conference announcing the hire until now the Stallings era has been on a downward slope.  Multiple players from a small roster don’t leave within months of each other unless there is great institutional instability.

This is NOT what you want a new AD to have to deal with in the first part of her time at your university.  We saw a Pitt FB head coach leave Pitt when there was the same type of institutional instability back with Todd Graham. 

Continue reading “POV: BB Issues & OL and TE Questions”