Paul Chryst met with the media today and as usual, here are the top ten quotes from the press conference ... at least as I see it. Chryst's quotes in bold with my response afterwards:
10. (On Jarred Holley and Jason Hendricks being the starting tandem at safety) "We believed this going in and still believe this, that we have four good safeties and that’s one of the positions where we have legitimate depth. Jarred is an extremely smart player who made play."
I was surprised Holley didn't get the start at the beginning of the season, to be honest. He had what I thought was a good season last year and with the preseason recognition, he just seemed like a slam dunk. Glad to see he's back in the starting lineup because, frankly, I think that's where he belongs.
9. "Everyone is responsible for those sacks. Certainly, the O-line, you have five guys and their job on a pass is to protect. We’ve got backs, where we gave up one where we had both backs in there and both could have taken a hit off of the quarterback after the line did a pretty decent job on it. The quarterback has to get the ball out of his hands. Getting the ball out of his hands means the receivers have to be precise on the routes.
After a decent job against Youngstown State, the offensive line really was exposed against Cincinnati. It wasn't only the sacks, but there were also plenty of times when Sunseri had virtually no chance to have time to make a good throw. Criticize him all you want (and he certainly didn't play well against Cincinnati), but he's not exactly playing behind a stacked line. The one thing I'm pleased about for the most part is Sunseri not taking huge losses and hanging onto the ball forever. He's clearly improved in that area since last year.
8. (On handling a lot of inexperience) "Best thing is trying to prepare them. There is no substitute for game experience...Did we mimic it in practice? Did we get a good picture from film or from the scout team? Those are things where you continue to learn how each individual prepares. Try to prepare them the best you can and guys need to take ownership of that."
Of all the areas of the team that have failed, this is probably the most disappointing. Pitt has appeared wholly unprepared for both of its games and with so much inexperience, that's the one thing the Panthers can't have. Chryst is definitely right about not being able to mimic certain game circumstances in practice, but it's safe to say that the team should have been better prepared than it has been.
7. (On the play of freshman running back Rushel Shell) "I thought he came in and gave us good energy and ran hard. I think he got eight carries and certainly the way the second half and the game dictated we didn’t get as many rushing attempts as we would have liked. I thought Isaac (Bennett) did some good things when he had some opportunities."
The fact that Shell got eight carries to Bennett's five in the Cincy game wasn't a huge deal, but what was a bit of a surprise was that he got the carries early on while Bennett sat. I wouldn't read too much into that, but it was good to see Shell get some experience under his belt.
6. "You’ve got to learn from what had happened and when playing the game you’ve got to learn from the last play, but turn the page to the next page. As far as thinking anything past this week, I don’t think our players do."
And that would be the frustrating thing we found out on Thursday, unfortunately. Most of us hoped Pitt was merely looking ahead when playing Youngstown State, but as we saw in the Cincinnati game, that probably wasn't the case. Pitt was simply beaten by a better team in both instances.
5. "I thought there were some signs in the Cincinnati game where we’re getting better and growing. Certainly plenty of things we have to improve upon. Quite honestly, that part of the process is fun and enjoyable."
Was there any good in the Cincinnati game? Man, that's reaching a bit, isn't it? The team did move the ball down the field a bit, but it was ugly. Real ugly. And even though it may be 'fun' to see the team get better, getting your teeth kicked in doesn't give me warm feelings.
4. (On Tino Sunseri’s play against Cincinnati) "Some of his decision making and what he saw was pretty good. He saw some different things and I think there is continued growth in that. There are still some areas with the receivers and him that we’ve got to get better at as far as timing and anticipation of things."
Yeah, lots of room for improvement here. Sunseri did some things right, but some of the bad things really far outweighed any good he did.
3. "We’ve got to find ways to finish drives. Turnovers in the red zone, those will kill you. They’ll keep you from having a chance to have success big-picture wise. There are areas where we have to improve and it doesn’t all fall on Tino by any means, but I think there are some areas he can grow and some areas he’s doing really well and can build on."
Finishing drives really kept Pitt out of that game. I made this point on Twitter that night, but Pitt would have been right there before the half without some costly mistakes. There was the Sunseri interception in the end zone and the debacle at the end of the half that ended with an incompletion and no points. Worst case scenario, Pitt should have been down 17-6 and even only one touchdown means it should have been 17-10. Two scores, and it's 17-14. Pitt played the Bearcats pretty close in that half, but the inability to finish drives absolutely killed them.
2. (On what could have been done differently by the coaches against Cincinnati) I thought that what sticks out in my mind is the drive at the end of the first half. ..I’ve got to approach it differently, I believe, with the group we have.
and in case you're not sure what he's referring to specifically ...
1. "Well right now, I would have kicked it with five seconds left, not put us in position where we don’t get another play off. ...Shoot, if I had known on the last play we wouldn’t have a chance to kick the field goal, I would’ve kicked it sooner."
The thing to note in that first quote is "with the group we have." I can't possibly read that any differently than a shot at the offense. He clearly thought that they would be able to get a play off without sacrificing any points, but that didn't happen. Five seconds is really about the least amount of time you can have when deciding to try to run another play and that's really pushing it. When you needed points as badly as Pitt did there, you've got to take them.