I skipped last week's Todd Graham press conference review - that's what happens when Pitt plays in the middle of a work week. But it's back this week for the Cincinnati game - let's take a look:
10. We are going to need everyone out there filling the stadium and turning it blue to support our team this Saturday in what I believe is our biggest game of the year. Our student section again does a tremendous job and I am really appreciative of our fans. Hopefully we can get the stadium packed and create a great atmosphere for our team on Saturday...I encourage everybody to come and support our team. We’re playing for first place this weekend and it’s going to be a big game against a very good football team."
I'm not sure which I'd prefer - Graham asking nicely for fans to come or the Dana Holgorsen approach. But Graham mentioned this twice during the press conference and there's no reason for there not to be a good turnout. A televised night game against a nationally-ranked team for first place in the Big East should equal a decent turnout.
9. Aaron Donald is developing into a special player and has made about five sacks in the last couple of weeks.
Quick, who's the Big East's sack leader? That'd be Donald and not Brandon Lindsey who you might have projected at the beginning of the season. Donald's having a monster year and seven sacks for a defensive lineman in a 3-4 is sick. You could make the argument that he's been Pitt's best defensive player and the thing about those seven sacks ... they came in seven games since he didn't play against South Florida. No other Pitt player has more sacks than Lindsey's 4.5. Oh yeah, and Donald's only a sophomore.
8. I will tell you what I told Tino, that we played average but we can play a lot better than that. I was pleased with the performance but it was not a great performance.
Sure, Tino can play better, but I'll settle for 400 yards and a win any day of the week. The fact remains that if Tino can merely play adequate, Pitt should have a chance to win most Big East games. If he plays well? They're the favorites against almost anybody in the conference.
7. Hubie has been really steady and has been doing a good job for us. I am very pleased with him.
There was plenty of talk about how tight ends would be utilized in Todd Graham's offense, but Hubie Graham proved there's a spot for them. Tight ends have caught 33 passes for nearly 400 yards - Graham himself has 20 for 247 yards.
6. Ryan Turnley’s toughness and what he’s playing through is something I have not witnessed before since I have been coaching. He is unbelievable to go out there and fight through what he’s fighting and being able to play is impressive. He is doing a great job especially at the center position. His snaps have been very consistent.
This is something that's completely forgotten at times. Center was a largely debated topic this offseason with several players getting a crack at it. Turnley's ability to play there freed up Jacobson to play guard and botched snaps haven't even been a minor issue this season.
5. I like the attitude and approach this team is taking, and an example is Ray Graham. Ray went down and naturally he is heartbroken and disappointed, but he showed back up the next day to practice. He started talking to the other guys about beating Cincinnati, winning the Big East Championship and going to the Orange Bowl. Ray has that mentality and that is the same mentality of the rest of our guys.
That's great that Ray has been so active. His temperament on the sidelines led me to believe he might make it back this season. Sure, you expect him to come back at practice, but Graham serving as a de facto cheerleader shows he's about the team.
4. "In addition, a guy who was not available to us last week was Trey Anderson who is out with a wrist injury and he will continue to be out next week. It’s kind of a week-to-week deal with him. We have a long list of those players who are season-ending but Trey is not one of them."
This means nothing unless Sunseri gets injured, but it looks like we'll see Mark Myers out there if that happens.
3. "We simplified our procedures because we ran a lot of different plays but it is not a simplified playbook.
Someone's really got to explain this to me.
2. We will have one of our freshmen come in and play the role that Zach played. We have Corey Davis, Malcolm Crockett and Isaac Bennett that we will look at for that position..."Corey Davis has been playing in special teams, some speed sweeps and perimeter runs. Malcolm Crockett or Isaac Bennett will have to burn one of their redshirts and we hope it is just one."
This was maybe the most interesting thing said. I'd have expected Graham to say he was going to try to get by with Zach Brown and Corey Davis since he's already played this season. I'm surprised he's willing to concede that Crockett or Bennett will have to play. If Rushel Shell is everything he's cracked up to be then this is kind of a moot point since all of these guys won't play anyway without a position change, but burning a redshirt of one at this point would still be a curious move.
1. It’s not how you start but it’s how you finish."
The fact is that, like last year, Pitt started slow and still has a chance fairly late in the season to win a conference title. If the Panthers lose, they'll have virtually no shot to do that so this is a huge game. For all the angst there's been about Pitt's season, the Big East title is still in reach.