Todd Graham held his weekly press conference with the media and here's my top ten highlights:
10. I think Ray Graham has touched the ball somewhere between 20 to 30 times a game and that’s something that is a directive. We’re going to do that because obviously he’s a pretty good player so we’re going to get the ball in our best guys’ hands whether it’s run, whether it’s pass.
Hard to argue with that philosophy. Graham is college football's leading rusher in
the FBS Division I. He's been incredibly effective so far, but the big thing to remember is that the competition is going to be picking up real soon. With all due respect to them, Maine and Buffalo are not Iowa, Notre Dame, and West Virginia. Safe to expect a bit of a dropoff from Graham, but I do think he'll still string together 100-yard games.
9. "I think the key in this game is going to be playing hard-nosed smash mouth. A 3-yard gain is a positive gain for them. That doesn’t bother them one bit. They’ll line up and do it again and again and again and again. And you’re going to have to stop the run.
Iowa's run game is right around the middle of D-I programs and Graham would have to be happy if they stuck to the run more than the pass. Pitt's pass defense hasn't been nearly as good as their run defense and the Panthers' strength is clearly in its defensive line. That's not to say Iowa won't be able to run against Pitt - but I like their chances there than against the pass.
8. "It’s just like in that (Maine) game. I don’t know how many times I went for it on fourth down, but I’m not sitting there punting the ball to Maine. I’m not going to do it. No offense to those guys, I mean they did a great job and deserve a lot of credit but it’s inexcusable for us to not have closed that game out. And that comes back to us as coaches and I want our kids to know I’m going to be aggressive.
I can't tell you how much this quote rules - especially the early part of it. This is telling it like it is and Graham pulling no punches about playing weaker teams Pitt should not only beat, but dominate. This is anti-Wannstedt and anti-JoePa. If you don't like it, then there's something wrong with you. To me, there's not a shred of disrespect there. The fact is on 4th and one, Pitt should be able to pick up a first down every time against FCS competition.
7. I think we’ve been very consistent in the secondary. Most of the passing yards have been on quick-game passes where we’ve had alignment issues which really has to do mostly with the underneath coverages.
This is actually a fair point. Pitt's struggles in the passing game have been getting beaten on the short passes over the middle in linebacker territory. That said, I'd still like to see Pitt's corners take another step up to help cover those short patterns.
6. I’m worried more that I’m not yelling at him (Kevin Harper). (Laughs) I’ve tried really hard not to yell at him because I get really frustrated when field goal kickers miss field goals, much less miss an extra point.
Graham's probably right in not yelling at Harper, but one thing's for sure - he's got to get better.
5. ...we’re excited about Anthony Gonzalez being back this week and Anthony will play this week.
It's not a huge surprise that Gonzalez will play, but how much is going to be the issue. He's playing a new position he just picked up this Fall and with Hubie Graham doing a good job there, hard to say that Gonzo's going to get a ton of snaps - especially right away. Graham did say, however, that he could go with some sets involving both Hubie Graham and Gonzalez. I love the fact that instead of using him as a backup quarterback that may never play, Graham is trying to get him on the field because he's a great athlete.
4. Love the fans passion, love our student section. It was neat and last week was special. I’m an old school and patriotic guy. And it was the 9/11 weekend. I think Pitt’s kind of old school, Pittsburgh’s kind of old school. I liked our crowd. They’re very educated fans and are not very forgiving but that’s the way you want them. They want to win and expect us to perform. Just be patient, we’re going to."
This is the definition of politically correct. The turnout for the Buffalo game was slightly disappointing and the attendance this past week was far worse. That said, the fans that were there and booing at times had every right to do so. There were some good moments but plenty of forgettable ones as well.
3. I think he can be successful and he’s a guy that has come a long way in his work ethic and all those things. So no doubt Tino will be our starting quarterback going down to Iowa and we’ve got a strong belief in him...Trey has some things that he brings to the table, that you could see him in a package in the game. But we have one starting quarterback and that’s Tino."
No surprise here as Graham reiterated that Tino's the guy. The interesting part was the sentence about Trey possibly getting into the game in a special package. If Sunseri is rolling along and Pitt is in the game, would we see Anderson? I doubt it. But if Tino struggles even a little, I do think there's a good chance Trey gets into the game this weekend.
2. On how much Pitt has shown the first two games:
"I’m going to tell you that we’ve been fairly bland about what we’re doing (schematically) and we felt like we could win the first two games and do that.
That's comforting to me in that it alludes to the fact that there's still plenty up Pitt's sleeve. And as they're just now getting into the meat of the schedule, that's a good thing. We haven't seen too much in the way of creativity on offense, so I'm hoping things open up over the next few weeks.
1. Most of the big plays we’ve given up have been the result of a critical error while we’re pressuring. ‘Well if you don’t pressure then that won’t happen.’ Well the tradeoff is that when you get down and you get in a big game and you want to win a championship, then you’re one dimensional and you can’t win the big games. So we want to build this thing to win championships. If we would’ve lined up and played 4-3 cover four every down for the first two games, we probably wouldn’t have given up a few more things than we gave up. If we lined up and ran the ball every play and never threw a pass play in the first two games we probably would’ve won by more points. But that’s not what we’re building towards, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish.
This is the perfect example of the difference between Graham and Wannstedt. I think Wannstedt was more comfortable winning 9-10 games a year when Graham seems to indicate that's not enough. That's not to say that Wannstedt didn't want to win a title, but Graham talks about doing it all the time. He's willing to take more risks if it will mean a bigger prize, while I think Wannstedt wanted the bigger prize without taking the risks.