I expected lots to come out of this week's press conference (well, as much as could come out of a press conference with a head coach, anyway) and there were some solid quotes. Here are the top ten things I noticed:
10. Our secondary played two of the better receivers in the country and held both those guys in check. We gave up one big play on defense that we can’t give up.
For as poor as Pitt's pass coverage has been at times this year, they've done surprisingly well against some of the game's better receivers. By holding Notre Dame's Michael Floyd to four catches and 27 yards, they were the only team so far to keep him under 75 yards. Then they shut down Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu this past weekend (two catches for only 27 yards). That speaks well to the corners covering them and shows that Pitt is able to cover some of the No. 1 receivers fairly well.
9. I did think our punter, Yoklic, did a good job punting against a team that puts a lot of pressure on the punter.
Yeah, I know - punting? Seriously, though - Yoklic did a heck of a job all day and especially on the punt where he was kicking out of his own end zone. Pitt got crushed on field position, but it was far from Yoklic's fault as he averaged 43 yards per punt in the game. He's right around the middle of I-A and has done a serviceable job all year in filling in for the departed Dan Hutchins.
8. They (Utah) are a lot better football team than their record shows. That is a very good football team coming in here to play Saturday.
Ain't that the truth. Utah is 2-3, but has played a tougher schedule than Pitt has to this point. The Utes have gone on the road to play BYU (4-2) and USC (4-1) while facing Washington (4-1) and Arizona State (5-1) at home. They crushed BYU and hung with USC. Utah is probably one of the better teams in the country with a losing record.
7. There is no question that we can be a team that wins a championship. We can still do that.
Okay, so is this technically true? Sure. But that's a bit like saying the 0-5 Indianapolis Colts can still make the playoffs this year. It's hard to see Rutgers going undefeated the rest of the way and Pitt can make up that game. But having seen the way they've played so far, it also doesn't look like beating West Virginia or maybe even Cincinnati is possible right now. And games against teams like UConn and Syracuse will be tougher than originally expected. The bottom line is that this team can still win the conference, but things will need to significantly turn around for that to happen.
6. We made an uncharacteristic mistake on kickoff coverage. We’ve been one of the best in the country and they returned a kick deep in our territory. That was a key play in the game.
I hate looking back on one play, but if there was one that sealed Pitt's fate, it was probably that return. Pitt had just scored, largely off a 64-yard run by Ray Graham. The Panthers were down only ten at that point with most of the fourth quarter to go. Pitt could have made that up, but the long return by Rutgers had to take a lot of wind out of their sails. Flat out, that's a momentum-killer.
"I hope so. Not having Lucas is tough for us. Not that the other guys behind him aren’t battling, but when you don’t have (Chris) Jacobson and Lucas out there it’s tough...Honestly, it’s day to day. I’m hoping to have him back this week. If not, I would say for the next week. Todd (Thomas) is in the same boat. That was another loss for us. ..We’re hopeful that those guys will be back this week."
Not much to add - Pitt really needs those guys to come back ... and soon. With the game against Utah a non-conference matchup, I'd be inclined to sit them if they're not ready yet, though. Pitt has a bye the following week before facing UConn on a short week on a Wednesday night. Much more important those guys are healthy for that game.
4. On the switch to Trey Anderson in the second half:
"We were trying to create some type of spark. We felt like his ability to be a little more mobile would help us. Obviously, it didn’t."
Yeah, that didn't go so well. Anderson finished 2-5 for only four yards and also threw a bad interception. He looked better earlier in the year when he briefly played against Maine (5-7 for 33 yards). But it shouldn't be any surprise since that was against FCS competition. I've said repeatedly that Anderson simply isn't ready and, well, the Rutgers game proved that. That said, I didn't have a problem with putting him in there to see what he could do because Tino was just that bad.
3. (Jordan) Gibbs walked up to me the other day and said ‘Coach, I am the only senior on this offense.’
If there's a bright spot for the offense, perhaps that's it. Now, keep in mind that he said this when speaking about the starters and injuries to Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson - both of whom are seniors (though, Jacobson will hopefully be able to come back and get a redshirt). Ray Graham also could be gone, but Pitt will return most of the linemen (all of whom should be better with another year of experience) and guys like Devin Street, Mike Shanahan, Hubie Graham, Cam Saddler, and Ronald Jones should all be back. The quarterback issue remains, but hopefully with a year under their belts, Sunseri and Anderson get better. Mark Myers? Well, I'll get to him in a minute.
2. I didn’t think our guys played hard like they should. Especially on the offensive side of the ball, I thought we at times looked confused and didn’t play hard. That is our job as coaches to get our guys ready to play.
Ever since Graham made a point not to criticize the players, there have been few slip-ups in giving them the blame. This was kind of one of those times, but he still followed it up by saying it comes down to the coaches preparing them. Still, 'didn't play hard?' Graham said that twice in the same quote and that's just about the worst thing you can say about players. I'll say this - Rutgers is not 24 points better than Pitt, so I do think there was a sense of giving up a bit.
1. "Mark is basically our third quarterback and he is our backup punter. He is doing a good job. We’re not going to play musical quarterbacks and get ready to play a football game. He is definitely a guy that we have looked at…he is a guy that is in the equation as he progresses. Where Coach Norvell and Coach Magee feel like we are at, that is what we are going to do. Our starting quarterback is Tino. I have said that all along. He knows what he has to do to get better and we know what we have to do to get better as an offense."
This came up in the comments section of my post about Todd Graham's quarterback issue, but Mark Myers seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. I already covered this in the post earlier this morning, but it looks like we shouldn't expect to see him anytime soon.