Pitt head coach Paul Chryst took to the podium after the Panthers' win over Old Dominion this past week. Here are the top ten quotes from his weekly press conference:
10. (On the challenge of facing a running team in Navy after facing Old Dominion’s spread) "You can’t overcompensate and play the run and give up some easy play-action passes."
Definitely agree that this is what Pitt has to protect against this week. I think they'll be fine against the option and they've done a good job of stopping the run this year. But the linebackers have to make sure they don't totally sell out for the run and give up pass plays.
9. (On facing the triple-option offense against Navy and Georgia Tech the next two weeks) "I feel good about our guys and we spent some time in camp on it. Our guys should have a good idea of what to expect to face on Saturday."
That's great to hear, actually. I remember reading something before a game where Chryst said the team hadn't yet begun preparation and hearing that made me a bit nervous. But good to hear Pitt practiced for it a little during camp.
8. (On the progression of the team half way through the season) "I think in some areas we’ve progressed. Certainly as a coach you feel best that you have a pretty good idea six games in of who you really are."
I mentioned this elsewhere, but yeah, we might not know exactly how good this team is because we need to see them against some more competition, but I'm pretty comfortable in saying this is a pretty average team. They're not elite and they're not at the bottom of the barrel. Unlike last year where you never really got a feel for who these guys were, I think it's a different story this season.
7. (On the play of the offensive line versus Old Dominion) "I thought they played better and I thought Isaac [Bennett] played hard. But they certainly did play better."
Totally agree - if nothing else, you could tell because Tom Savage wasn't on his back for most of the game. Hard to tell if the unit really improved, though. After all, lining up against Old Dominion is a lot different than doing so against Virginia Tech. Still, it was good to see them open up big holes and protect Savage much better.
6. (On Isaac Bennett’s confidence after his performance and handling 30 carries) "I was certainly happy for him but I wasn’t shocked or didn’t think he could handle that number of carries. I think he’d be the same way."
Yeah, watching Bennett has been frustrating this year. We've had two straight offseasons where he's supposed to have looked borderline superhuman and it took him a while to get going. But despite the inferior opponent, good to see him put it together for a big game. Here's to hoping that if nothing else, he gets a bit of confidence from it.
5. (On if they planned on having a set rotation at running back in the ODU game) "We just wanted to see how it played out. James was dressed and ready to go if we needed him but I thought Isaac was running pretty hard."
Glad to see Pitt not forcing Conner out there. It was an easy call since Bennett was playing so well, but good job out of Chryst to not play Conner if he wasn't 100%. Just as important, I think it was good to let Bennett be 'the man' for the night and as I said earlier, hopefully instill some confidence in him.
4. (On the competition at running back) “Isaac will get to run some more. It really doesn’t change where we’re at with it. James [Conner] will still contribute quite a bit and Rachid [Ibrahim] gives us some good snaps so I don’t see it changing anything and I’m really appreciative of what Isaac did Saturday, I thought he ran well.”
As I wrote about last week, Bennett had been playing himself into fewer and fewer carries. Obviously, he'll continue to play, but it will be interesting to see if he's earned more carries once Conner gets healthy enough to play. I expect that will be the case, but remember, that game came against ODU. Bennett has struggled a good bit this season against better competition.
3. (On Pitt winning games in a variety of ways this season) “Anytime you go out and play, the object is to compete and win and it’s good to say we’ve found different ways to win. You can build on that and then you look on the other side of the coin and say we have to be more consistent."
Something must be wrong because I'm finding myself agreeing with most of what Chryst had to say this week. But yeah, that's something I'd not even thought about all that much. Pitt won handily against New Mexico, had to win a shootout to beat Duke, had to come back against Old Dominion, and had to play incredible defense to beat Virginia. The record is 4-2 and there are questions about the team, but give them credit - they've won a variety of different ways this year.
2. (On Todd Thomas’ limited contributions in the ODU game due to scheme) “I’m happy with the way Todd’s progressed and I thought we had the right plan for what we we’re doing."
1. (On Todd Thomas) "It wasn’t like Todd doesn’t have the speed or wasn’t ready if something were to happen. ...Going in, we thought they were most dangerous in the pass game, having our DBs on them on one-on-ones so we wanted to use our people in that way.”
Obviously, Thomas not playing was a big topic of discussion. The frustrating thing to me is that if you were hoping to hear an admission out of Chryst that maybe it wasn't the way to go, you'll be waiting for a while. Per his first quote, he still thinks it was the right thing to do. I said it before but what the heck - here goes: Not playing your best linebacker in that situation makes little sense. Even worse is that Chryst says that he would have been ready to play if need be. After ODU threw for more than 300 yards, you might think that he was needed, but apparently the staff didn't think so.