Busy week for head coach Paul Chryst as he prepares to get the team ready for a home game against Old Dominion. Here were the top ten quotes from his press conference this week:
10. (On Tom Savage taking a lot of hits): "We all have to do a better job of protecting him. I love the way he competed."
I'd agree with Chryst here, obviously. The offensive line didn't protect him (at all), but despite that, Savage did what he could. Sure, he could have made a few more throws, but hard to concentrate too much when you're getting knocked around like that behind the line.
9. (On the Pitt passing game not throwing any interceptions last week) "Yeah, I think certainly we knew that if we took care of the football, we’d have a chance to have a chance. I hadn’t quite focused on that as much afterwards, but yeah that’s good."
Totally agree - this was really the type of game where Savage could have thrown a couple of picks and it would have been difficult to fault him. I remember one pass that was close to being picked off, but other than that, Savage gave Pitt a chance to win.
8. (On the struggles of the offensive line): "I just think we’ve got to get back to trusting some of the things individually with technique. We’ve got to do a better job of making sure they understand the scheme and where they’re getting help. It’s wrong to put this all on the offensive line."
7. (On Savage taking sacks): "I thought a couple times we got challenged on the perimeter routes, so sometimes he waited one split-second for it to open up. Then you end up holding on, and it wasn’t a game to be holding on to the ball. When you look at the tape, there’s responsibility to be had in all areas. ..Offensive line had some problems. Tight ends and backs got beat. Everyone has to own it—coaches included."
The offensive line was clearly the story afterwards. I'm always the first person to say it's impossible to put an entire game on one unit, or especially, one player. And while I won't do that here, it's really, really difficult to not want to stick as much blame as you can on the line and the coaches for not preparing the team better to handle blitzes. That was about as bad a game as an offensive line can have. There were eight sacks and had Savage not turned into Houdini a few times, eluding defenders, it should have reached double digits.
I won't argue that Savage, at times, took too long with the ball. But part of the reason for that was because of the playcalling and the routes guys had to run. And for every time that he took too long, there were two where the defense was in his face as he was getting the ball. I'm all for assigning blame to Savage on some plays, but for me, the line was a far bigger issue.
6. (On linebacker Todd Thomas): "I thought Todd played one of his better games. He was physical. He was in the right spots. I thought he played well."
Fans should thank Chryst from now until eternity for letting Thomas come back. He's had several good games now and the team would be in worse shape without him. He had another big game Saturday.
5. "It gets tricky throwing short. Throughout the course of the game, there’s a risk-reward situation because you don’t spread a defense out as much."
A lot of us wondered aloud why we didn't see more screen passes, more quick slants inside, and short dump passes. This pretty much sums it up for me. Well, sure it's tricky throwing short. It's also tricky throwing long. Heck, handoffs can be tricky. That doesn't mean you avoid it altogether like the offensive staff clearly did. Those short passes would have helped dramatically - unfortunately, Chryst and company think it's too much to handle apparently (insert fingers in eyes).
Chryst's theme throughout the presser (and I encourage you to read the whole thing) was that Pitt simply has to play better on offense. While that's certainly true, a big part of that is how coaches prepare their teams. A game plan without short passes against a strong pass-rushing defense (particularly when you have an inexperienced offensive line) is setting your team up for disaster.
4. (On sustaining drives offensively): "..When you run the ball inconsistently, then you try to get it going through the air and sometimes take a sack..."
Again, Pitt ran the ball inconsistently because there was little that was done to make them successful. There were far too many straight runs up the middle. Why weren't there more draws when Bennett had some success with it on that one run? Why weren't there any direct snaps to running backs to get them the ball in space? Why weren't there any trick plays involving a guy like Tyler Boyd that can run in open space (other than the one reverse he got)? Rushing straight up the middle repeatedly was the wrong way to go for Pitt.
3. (On the hit wide receiver Devin Street took at the end of the Virginia Tech game): "At first glance, I questioned what we were seeing and brought it up with the league. The league told us it was clearly not [helmet-to-helmet]."
2. (On helmet to helmet hits): "I think a lot of these aren’t intentional. I really don’t think a lot of these players are trying to target. I don’t think they’re trying to be malicious. I really do think it’s tough to officiate."
Totally agree with Chryst here in that it's a difficult call to make as an official. We saw just how tough it was to call on Saturday. After seeing the replays, it's clear that it wasn't a direct helmet to helmet hit as the brunt of it seemed to be taken on the shoulders. But as I said before, I do think the helmets made contact (though, freely admitting that it's impossible to tell for sure on the replays shown).
1. (On whether running back James Conner and Devin Street will practice this week): "We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t think today we’re planning on doing anything with them, but we’ll see as the week progresses."
Losing one would be tough ... both would be a significant blow. Old Dominion is a team that Pitt should beat without those guys, but it's no guarantee. No Street would mean that things are tougher for Tyler Boyd and no Conner means that Bennett better be not only healthy, but productive. Street, for what it's worth, said afterward that he would play. But we'll have to see if that holds true.