Monday, September 28, 2009

What More Is There To Say?

500 yards - that number still boggles the mind...especially since Pitt has given up that many yards in TWO games already this year.

First, I think Bob Smizik in the PG has it right when he says Dave Wannstedt should not be fired. You've got to give him this year to see what direction Pitt is headed in. Since the 13-9 win over West Virginia, Pitt is 13-5 - not too shabby.

Paul Zeise has an interesting list of top ten Pitt losses and includes the N.C. State debacle. The only comment I have is that I think he has the Sun Bowl loss way too low (#9). Yes, it was a postseason game after a pretty decent season, but it was disappointing because it kept Pitt from reaching ten wins for the first time in I think about 25 years AND because all they needed to do was score more than three points to win. That game was agonizing and I'd put it at least in the top five.

Besides the defense, the offense's 2nd half performance has to take some blame. Oh, and penalties didn't help either.

Cam Saddler looks like he's the real deal.

Brian Bennett at has a slew of Pitt-related tidbits including Dion Lewis' national rankings, ranking Pitt fourth in the conference, and stating the obvious - that Pitt is having serious defense issues.

Then there was the Wannstedt press conference today. It was amazing how many times Adam Gunn's name was brought up. Kind of ironic considering the game Dan Mason had last week. It really seemed that while Wannstedt wasn't blaming Mason for the loss obviously, to me, he made it seem like it could have been a whole different ball game if Gunn was available. Of course, I'm not buying that. I don't even think I can buy the fact that it would have mattered much at all.

After the loss, Pitt comes in at #36 in the's rankings of all 120 teams.

On a side note, Pitt's next home game vs. UCONN will either be noon or 3:30. Please be 3:30.

Sunday, September 27, 2009 Blog Poll Week 5

Getting my weekly poll in this week a bit early due to some potential scheduling conflicts later this week. Every year is crazy, but this is bordering nuts. Yes, I have some teams ranked higher than some, but even if you don't agree with some of the teams I have in the Top 10, you've got to admit that it's crazy that they're even ranked as high as they are in the AP and ESPN polls. Boise State, Cincinnati, Houston, TCU, and Iowa all undefeated after four weeks and in the top 10? At once? That, my friends, qualifies as insanity.

1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Alabama
4 Boise State 2
5 LSU 2
6 Cincinnati 4
7 Houston 8
8 TCU 11
9 Iowa
10 Virginia Tech 1
11 Southern Cal 2
12 Ohio State 2
13 Penn State 8
14 Michigan 3
15 Kansas 5
16 South Florida
17 Missouri 6
18 UCLA 3
19 Miami (Florida) 10
20 Oklahoma 4
21 Nebraska
22 Mississippi 18
23 Oregon
24 California 16
25 Oklahoma State
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Washington (#12), North Carolina (#18), Pittsburgh (#22), Florida State (#24).
I have no words to explain the debacle of blowing a 14 point lead against NC State, so I felt it best to leave the title blank.

Pitt looked sharp once again on offense. True, they did struggle some in the 2nd half and did nothing after they went up by 14. But 31 points should be enough to win against a mediocre team.

Yes, I'm not feeling terribly gracious about this one. It seemed like Pitt really had the game under control. They were the better team in the first half and went up by 14 in the second half. After that, it just seemed like they stopped playing.

I'm not going to say NC State is a bad team, but Pitt certainly should have wrapped that game up. Instead of going full throttle when they went up by 14, they allowed NC State back into the game with poor defensive play. And this one wasn't all on the secondary - NC State had a nice effort running the ball, rushing for over 200 yards. Yes, I'm sure they were tired after Pitt was unable to do virtually nothing offensively after taking a two-touchdown lead, but you can't allow three consecutive touchdowns to end a game. Pitt's calling card on defense has always been 'bend, but don't break.' Make some plays on defense and keep teams from scoring while allowing them to move down the field. Give up a field goal, not a touchdown. 21 unanswered points is unacceptable.

The good news for Pitt fans is that this wasn't a conference game and a conference championship/BCS Bowl is very much alive. The bad news is that it looks like the defense has serious issues and has a short week to solve them, playing another road game, at Louisville, on Friday.

One last thing - I don't want to hear anyone pinning this loss on Bill Stull or Dave Wannstedt. Stull played well - leading the offense to 31 points is about all you can ask of him. Yes, he did not play a perfect game, but he is what he is - a solid quarterback who is best at managing games. He did that extremely well. Similarly, I don't blame Wannstedt or the defensive coaches. There were so many missed tackles and guys in the secondary getting burnt that it made my head spin. This one is solely on the defense in my opinion.

Sure, you can argue that Pitt should have scored when they recovered the ball on the 8-yard line. And yes, the offense has to score in that situation. But, again, I think you've got to win that game when you score 31 points.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CBS Sportsline Blog Poll Week 4

Here is my Blog Poll ballot from this past week. Yes, I may have been a bit harsh on BYU. But to lose by that many points at home to what looks like a mediocre to slightly above average Florida State is a bit tough to swallow.

1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Alabama 1
4 Mississippi 3
5 Penn State 1
6 Boise State 2
7 LSU 2
8 California 2
9 Miami (Florida) 6
10 Cincinnati 10
11 Virginia Tech 1
12 Washington
13 Southern Cal 10
14 Ohio State 1
15 Houston 6
16 Oklahoma 2
17 Michigan
18 North Carolina 2
19 TCU 1
20 Kansas 1
21 UCLA 4
22 Pittsburgh
23 Missouri
24 Florida State
25 Oklahoma State 3
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Brigham Young (#5), Georgia Tech (#11), Nebraska (#17), Oregon State (#23), Utah (#24).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Curious Case of Chris Burns

Okay, so it's not all that curious. Heck, it's not even all that interesting or unexpected. But I was surprised that the move of Chris Burns to defense only garnered a small mention, buried in the PG's notebook section:

Tailback Chris Burns has moved to defensive back. Burns was the odd man out in the tailback derby as two true freshmen, Dion Lewis and Ray Graham, moved ahead of him on the depth chart. The Panthers also have redshirt sophomore Shariff Harris in the mix so it was clear Burns would not have many opportunities to play at tailback.

True enough, with Lewis and Graham playing well, Burns certainly had his work cut out for him. It was something that, frankly, I hadn't given any thought until I saw it today. But it's just another example of how you've got to be flexible as a college athlete, ready to play elsewhere.

Looking Ahead

I'm not going to recap the Navy game, but I did want to briefly mention one thing Paul Zeise wrote about a couple of days ago.

Navy fans upset about Pitt fans booing their team? Seriously? First, I have a hard time believing that more than a couple of knuckleheads had a problem with that. I think any intelligent Navy fan would realize the booing wasn't for our own Navy - rather a visiting team that came in to play football. Saying it's not okay to boo Navy's football team would be akin to saying it's not okay to boo the San Antonio Spurs because David Robinson, a former Naval officer, used to play for them.

Moving on...

True, last week's game vs. Navy was a test for Pitt. They had to deal with a complex offense they likely will not face again this year in an early-season game with their starting middle linebacker out. But they passed - pretty much with flying colors. This week's test is a whole 'nother animal.

No, they're not world beaters. But they are a solid I-A program from a BCS conference...and it's a road game for Pitt no less. Wannstedt makes a very valid point in his weekly press conference:

"If you look at our schedule, we've taken a step up from a competition standpoint every week," Wannstedt said at his weekly news conference.

And while next week's opponent, Louisville, is not expected to do much in the Big East this year, you could easily make the argument that it could be a stiffer test as it is a game against a conference foe, in a night game on the road. At the very least, it will be the most important game Pitt has played up to this point because of the conference factor.

Back to this week.

Wannstedt also pointed out that Gunn is no lock to return this week and to the dismay of some fans, wouldn't elaborate on how much Dan Mason might play if he does.

One other thing I noticed was that he seemed to very subtly justify his reasoning for putting Tino in the game last week:

"That will be a game-to-game scenario, very similar to how we put Ray Graham into the game. Then he scored. Even if Ray Graham gets three plays, or Tino gets three plays, you'd like for all these kids to get more, but obviously that's not realistic. I think any time they have to go out with the crowds, the lights, the action and make some decisions and play it helps with their maturity level. We're trying to do it the right way and get these kids a little bit of playing time. But at the same time, we aren't going to jeopardize anything or put them in a bad situation that hurts the team. That's a tough, tough deal. I'd rather not be doing that, but quite honestly it's what you have to do."

I understand that you want to get Tino reps, but I wonder if Dave really thinks putting him in last week in the third quarter with Pitt only up 17 was a mistake (which it was). Pitt was in its own territory somewhere around the 20-yard line and a mistake such as an interception could have easily turned into seven points the other way. Yes, I'd like to see Tino play some, but with Stull playing as well as he did, there's no way he should have been yanked to get playing time for the least not that early. And, by the way, remember Stull was soundly booed in his first game. Why not let him continue to build on the great game he was having and win over more fans who will surely have to deal with some down moments at some point this year, as every quarterback endures?

And while I'm on the subject of backups...

Yes, Dan Mason played great. Yes, he may be the best middle linebacker Pitt has - even as a freshman. But the way people are screaming for him to be the immediate starter is a bit much. Adam Gunn had five sacks through two games and Max Gruder hasn't played like chopped liver as well. I wouldn't have a problem if he was named the starter, but people acting like no other options exist are a bit delusional in their thinking. That said, he looks like he could be an all-conference player next year when he's almost assured to start.

Wow, let's try this again....back to this week.

First things first - Pitt shouldn't expect to get a lot of turnovers of the interception variety as Russell Wilson's much-talked about interceptionless streak goes all the way back to Week three of last year.

North Carolina State meanwhile is trying to shake off nagging questions about their weak schedule thus far, losing to their only 1-A opponent, South Carolina.

Pat Forde at expects Pitt to drop some conference road games.

I think Pitt is in for a bit of a fight, but I expect a win.

Prediction: Let's go with 24-14 Pitt

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pitt Improves to 3-0

It's always a lot more fun to recap a win.

I'll get to media recaps later. For now, just some thoughts -

- Pitt somehow managed to fall two spots in the AP poll.

- The offense was incredibly impressive. Stull seems light years better than that opening game and played about as well as you could expect. He even had a nice deep ball to Baldwin, which was thrown fairly well. No, he didn't hit him in stride, but Baldwin didn't have to adjust all that much to the throw.

- I was surprised to hear some people in the stands and others online say that they were surprised Dion Lewis had a bit of a down game. I think he came into the game as the third leading rusher in the country and he's a freshman. He's not going to go over 100 yards every game.

- Can't say how great Dan Mason looked. He exploded off the ball and had two nice sacks. Gunn has played well so I'm not saying I'd start Mason above him, but it's nice to know that he looks like he can step in and play pretty well. Really looking forward to seeing what he can do as a probable starter next year and hope he gets more time on the field even when Gunn comes back.

- Not sure exactly what Wannstedt was doing putting Sunseri in a game that was fairly close at the time. Pitt was up by 17 at that point and it was only the third quarter. I hate to criticize the coach after an all around great game on both sides of the ball, but how can you tell your players not to let their foot off the pedal when you are as a coach? That was a mistake that Wannstedt quickly corrected in the next drive by bringing Stull back in. I understand the need to get Sunseri some experience (and protect your QB from injury), but he was in that game too early. Maybe there was some reasonable explanation that was in the media recaps. Above all, I hope it wasn't another miscommunication where Pitt accidentally sent the wrong QB in as they did in the first game.

- I don't know if the secondary problem will ever get fixed. It seemed like they played a bit tighter, but there were still a handful of times when receivers got open fairly deep and the QB simply couldn't make a good throw. So far, obviously, it hasn't hurt them. But if they don't get it fixed, a guy like Tony Pike at cincy could carve them up.

- "Sweet Caroline" needs to go. I can only imagine what the opposing teams and fans think of Pitt when they hear it at the stadium.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Looking for 3-0

Pitt is on the verge of its first 3-0 start in nearly ten years. Every game is important, but these next two against Navy and NC State will go a long way in determining the success of this season.

The Big East games are much more important to Pitt in terms of getting to a BCS bowl, but these two will be a pre-cursor to the Big East season and the competition will surely be tougher than Pitt's first two games.

Navy gave Ohio State a major scare - in Columbus no less. They came back to rout Louisiana Tech the next week. And I'll say this about their schedule - they're playing a pretty challenging one with games at Ohio State, Notre Dame, Hawaii, and Pitt and also a home game against Wake Forest.

Yes, Navy doesn't appear to have much of a passing game, but they do enough to get by. And one of their receivers had an 85-yard touchdown on a catch and run over the middle against Ohio State (about a 35-yard pass and 50-yard run) - so they have shown the potential to beat the secondary.

With Navy's run game, they control the clock a great deal. 10 guys have already had carries this year and they have averaged about 240 rushing yards per game. I'd feel a lot more comfortable with Scott McKillop back there, but enough of these guys have been around to remember the loss to Navy two years ago.

My prediction last week was way off (mostly due to the fact that Buffalo gave up 27 points off turnovers alone) other than the fact that Pitt got a win. Prediction: Pitt 31 / Navy 20.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Reshuffling Continues

And just like that, the basketball rotation gets a little clearer. At this rate, Pitt may be forced to forfeit games next season.

Pitt has now lost it's top two returning players (at least in terms of playing time and experience with the team) and its only returning starter from last year with the injury of Jermaine Dixon.

Ray Fitipaldo of the PG talks about the depth Pitt has at guard.

I'm not going to sugar coat this and say it's not that bad. Dixon was probably Pitt's best defender at guard last year and was the only returning senior on the team. And after a horrific start at shooting threes, he went on a tear and was a great shooter for a stretch. BUT, Pitt does fortunately have depth at that position. The good news out of this is that everyone should get a chance to play (by everyone, I mean Chase Adams, Travon Woodall, Ashton Gibbs, and Brad Wanamaker. Adams and Woodall will probably play the point while Gibbs and Wanamaker play SG. This will allow Pitt to see what they have in terms of the guards. Of course I'd rather have Dixon playing, but injuries happen. Barring setbacks, he should be ready for the start of the Big East season.

It's also a little scary to me that he broke the same foot earlier this year. You hope he doesn't have a problem playing all out when he returns.

Meanwhile, some good news is that Pitt landed its first recruit for 2011 - John Johnson, a 6'1" junior guard out of Philadelphia. Johnson had plenty of interest at one point or another from quality schools including UCLA, Villanova, Marquette, and Georgia Tech (offers from Nova and G'Tech).

NBE Basketball compares him to Scottie Reynolds of Villanova.

Johnson is a two-time Class-A All-State player and averaged over 20 ppg and really seemed to like Pitt's up-front recruiting approach and seemed to feel right at home during his visit in August.

He'll look nice with Isaiah Epps and Cameron Wright in the backcourt.

And you Thought the QB Controversy Might End in 2009

And you thought the QB controversy was bad this year.

Enter Anthony Gonzalez.

No, not THAT Anthony Gonzalez.

THIS one.

Hard not to be intrigued about what he can do, if not impressed. He was wanted by Penn State, West Virginia, and Florida State among others. He's considered by most a dual-threat with the ability to pass and run well. Oh, and he can play defense, too.

Now, I don't know about you - but the first thing I thought of was Dorin Dickerson. It seems as if he's surely going to be given the chance to play QB at Pitt, but let's hope he doesn't get moved all over the place.

And about that QB controversy. Next year you've got Bostick, who still has two years of eligibility remaining assuming he redshirts this year. You've got Sunseri who will have three and was possibly the favorite to start. You've got Kolby Gray, who will have four. And now you've got Gonzalez, who will have four and might not redshirt if he can prove he can start right away. That's a HUGE if - especially given the number of options Pitt will have. But if he does, I can't imagine that all three of the other guys would stick around. You've got to think one of them would transfer.

Paul Zeise in his PG chat seems a bit confused as to what Wannstedt is doing. But I don't think you can not recruit this type of kid just because you have other options. You take the best players you can and try to find homes for everyone. It might not always work out, but there are too many variables - injuries, grades, guys not playing to their potential, etc. to simply not go after players at specific positions just because you may think that depth exists. I'm not at all saying this is what Paul meant, just pointing out that in general, you've got to take who you can get.

Here's a breakdown from (who ranks him as a four-star recruit) as well as some video if you've never seen him.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CBS Sportsline Blog Poll Week 3

Here is my Week 3 blog poll for I know it's early (REAL early), but the pieces are in place for a 'mid-major' team to really break things up in the BCS this year. Last year, Utah couldn't do it because they started too far out. However, with teams like BYU and Boise State already in the top 10, could this be the year someone busts up the BCS so badly that they actually make a title game?

BYU has three tough challenges (Florida State, Utah, and TCU), but they're all at home. After beating Oklahoma, if they somehow can run the table, they've got to be in the championship discussion.

Boise State has a MUCH easier path...their toughest remaining game may be this weekend at Fresno State. If they ran the table, I wouldn't have a problem leaving them out of the discussion. The schedule just isn't challenging enough in my opinion.

Again, way too early to even think about this, but it could get interesting...

1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Southern Cal
4 Alabama
5 Brigham Young 1
6 Penn State 1
7 Mississippi 1
8 Boise State 1
9 LSU 1
10 California 2
11 Georgia Tech 2
12 Virginia Tech 2
13 Ohio State 2
14 Oklahoma 1
15 Miami (Florida) 1
16 North Carolina 1
17 Nebraska 1
18 TCU 2
19 Kansas 2
20 Cincinnati 2
21 Houston
22 Oklahoma State 17
23 Oregon State
24 Utah 1
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Notre Dame (#19), Georgia (#24).