Paul Chyrst stepped up to the podium for his final press conference before a regular season game this week. The big topic I was interested in was, of course, the timeout Chryst called before the fake punt Syracuse was setting up. But the question either wasn't asked or it didn't make it into the transcript.
Still, here are the top ten quotes from the presser:
10. (On why running back Isaac Bennett got the most time in the second half at Syracuse): "I think it was a combination of the way the game was going...Nothing dramatic happened that we said James [Conner] isn’t doing this and we thought Isaac at certain times has been good at a lot of different things so I think it’s more of Isaac was doing good stuff and we didn’t have enough kicks at the can where we had to spell Isaac.
I haven't had much of a problem with the running back rotation this year. Sometimes it looks a little curious when one of them will break off some nice runs and then head to the bench, but realistically, part of that is just getting those guys breaks. Chryst's formula of playing several backs worked at Wisconsin, so really, who are we to decide that it can't work?
9. (On how Miami’s offense changed once running back Duke Johnson got hurt): "I thought he was one of the top backs in the league and nobody wants to lose their best players but I think they’re every bit as dangerous now."
Chryst obviously doesn't want to give any bulletin board material here, but this is a bit off. The Hurricanes definitely aren't as good as they were without him. As I said in the preview, the running game has been a bit substandard in two of Miami's three games since Johnson went down and their offense just isn't as good without him.
8. (On a warm-climate team coming to Pittsburgh and facing the weather): "I don’t know if I really know…I think it’s one of those things where after the game you can talk about it, it has nothing to do with playing."
lolwut? I don't know, I get what Chryst is trying to say here in that we don't really know how much of a factor it is, but I definitely think it can affect the way some players play. Once the thought of playing in the cold weather creeps in, I have a hard time believing it can't affect some guys.
7. "I thought at the time, the blocked extra point [at Syracuse] was a big play because at the time you always tell your players to play the next play instead of having your head down [following a touchdown]. To get a push like that, it was a factor on the missed field goal."
That's a great, great point by Chryst. We don't know how true it is, but the block could absolutely be in the head of the kicker on that field goal.
6. (On the status of senior offensive guard Cory King): "Holding out hope that he can play."
5. "Adam [Bisnowaty] won’t go this week so he’ll be out for the rest of the season. Scott [Orndoff] won’t be able to go and Ejuan [Price] won’t. A couple of those [other] guys, we’re waiting to see if they’ll be able to go the rest of the season. Those three won’t be going though."
4. "Devin [Street] and Shane [Gordon] weren’t able to finish the game so we’ll see where they’re at this week. Other than that we should be good to go."
The injuries, as we've mentioned before, are mounting up. The loss of Bisnowaty and possibly King again just makes the line that much thinner. And if Street and Gordon can't go, either, it's hard to like Pitt's chances.
3. (On Aaron Donald): "He’s having an unbelievable season and the more stuff he gets, he’s getting mentioned for different awards, I like that part because I think it’s really well deserved because he’s doing it on the field. He’s playing at as high of a level as anyone I’ve been around and I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some good ones."
Nothing to say here other than Chryst has been around some really good football players. That's some kind of praise from the head coach there.
2. (On quarterback Tom Savage’s toughness and what that shows to the rest of the team): "I think it can [galvanize] the team and he’s shown that throughout the season. I think everyone respects that about him and he’s not just talking about this team or his teammates being important to him; he truly wants to be out there and he’ll do anything. If you have any type of pulse, that’s got to feel good as a teammate and not just guys on offense because I think guys on defense recognize it and the team recognizes it."
Totally agree here. Savage probably hasn't gotten enough credit for bouncing back but he's been playing behind a really shoddy (and injured) offensive line and has held up pretty well despite being under a lot of pressure. He's not only holding up, but at times, making plays to lead Pitt to wins and I think that's where the separation between he and Tino Sunseri is. I always thought Sunseri was over-criticized because he was behind some bad lines, too, but Savage is making plays to help Pitt win and I think that's where Sunseri fell a little short. I wouldn't call Savage a great quarterback, but he's been pretty decent this year - especially when you consider the woes on the line.
1. (On how to defend against Miami’s team speed): "They absolutely have that speed. Receivers can blow the top off of coverages and their tight ends can run."
I'm really curious as to how Pitt will defend Miami. Against fast receivers against Florida State, they sat back and played off the receivers probably a bit too much in order to counter their speed. If they do the same against Miami and the Panthers get torched, there will be some angry, angry fans. Stephen Morris is no Jameis Winston, so playing off of the receivers and forcing him to make throws might not be a terrible strategy to start with. But if it doesn't work and Morris picks apart the defense with wide open receivers, I'm hoping some adjustments will be made.