And...we're back. After a bye week, Paul Chryst held his weekly press conference on Monday. Here are the top ten quotes/developments as I see them:
10. (On New Mexico's option offense) "There are some specifics to New Mexico’s offense. Any time you face an option, you have to stay true to your responsibilities. And there are some things that carry over from the first game. We’ve got to tackle better.
Oh, the tackling...more on this later today.
9. (On what improvements can be made from the Florida State game) "I think defensively, it’s tackling better, contesting receivers and making the quarterback uncomfortable. Now there’s a chance it can be a whole different game, but at some point we’re still going to have to tackle, at some point we’re still going to be in a situation where we have to make a play.
If Chryst was being honest here, he would have simply said something to effect of 'We don't have that much time.' In all seriousness, a lot obviously went wrong. And there's that magical tackling word (sense a theme?). One thing I found interesting was that Pitt actually did try some blitzes against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston to get him uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough and Winston was about as poised as a quarterback could be. My hope is that Pitt saw the blitzes they threw at him simply didn't work and that while other quarterbacks likely won't be as composed as Winston, that some other ideas are in the works.
8. (On if there have been any injuries during the off week) "I think right now we’re in pretty good shape."
Good news here, though I would have been curious to know specifically about Isaac Bennett and if he's closer to 100%.
7. (On the challenges New Mexico presents to the Pitt defense) They do a good job of running the football and making the defense susceptible to play-action passes off of it.
Man, that's news to me. Judging the Lobos' passing stats, you don't get a feel for them being able to pick up big gains through the air. They average less than 100 yards passing per game and while it's something Pitt definitely needs to watch, how successful they've been at play action passing is probably up for debate.
But, hey - that play action ... yeah, safe to say Pitt needs to watch for it after seeing this from @TomahawkNation:
6. "We weren’t very good on first down. We need to stay ahead of the chains. That will help. We were bad on third downs.
Yeah, Pitt was awful on third downs against Florida State, converting on only two of eight attempts. More on first downs in a separate post.
5. (On whether Lafayette Pitts or Tyler Boyd will return kickoffs) "We like Lafayette and thought he did some really good things for us last year and haven’t seen enough this year to say anything different. We have two guys who we think are good return men but who are also playing a lot of snaps, so it also depends on what’s happening in the game to decide on who goes in next."
Fully agree with Chryst here that we haven't seen enough out of Pitts back there. And, as I've said since Day 1, I like what he can do in returning kicks. Boyd to me, though, showed a bit more in open space and I'd prefer to see him handling the bulk of them if that continues.
4. Manasseh [Garner] hadn’t played in a year. We’ve got redshirt freshmen who didn’t play in games last year. There are a lot of guys who getting those snaps under their belts helps. Now they need to get better."
I know that fans hate talk like this as it sounds almost like an excuse, but Chryst is absolutely right here. Pitt is not only playing lots of new faces, but giving them significant roles. Garner, Savage, Conner, Boyd, Blewitt, Bisnowaty, Clemmings. Just a ton of inexperience on offense and it's going to show.
3. (On Tom Savage and others who played their first game) "I think it helps that he has a game under his belt now. It’s been awhile since he’s gotten hit, made a throw on third-and-10 or managed the play clock.
I'm very interested to see what Savage does in a step down in competition. Frankly, I've not been real high on him but I do think this is a game he should excel. If he comes out with only a so-so performance, questions about his game are fair at that point. But to be fair to Tommy, he's not played in an actual game in years and while the practice time had to make him a smarter player, there's nothing like getting back in there. He deserves some time but if he doesn't have a good game here, look for the questions to mount.
2. I don’t want people to give up on this team. [The atmosphere] can be really, really good. That was energizing."
1....I thought there was a great atmosphere. It’s our job to make sure that fans stay excited. We appreciated it, and we’re going to need all of the students. Our players were talking about the energy they felt from that. Now it’s our job to pay them back for what they did. We’ve got to give them a bit of pride."
Rational fans I don't think Chryst has to worry about. More to the point, I think Chryst and Pitt need to worry about keeping the casual fan involved. As a whole, the diehards will always be there - and even if they leave momentarily, they'll be back. But Pitt needs to avoid a disastrous season to build momentum with the casual fans. The ones that only get out to an occasional game ... the ones that find the ticket price a good value to bring a family. If Pitt can get some of those fans to become more interested, attendance at games won't be such an issue. Thing is, it's winning that will solve that and Pitt needs to just go out and win ball games.
You can watch the press conference on the Pitt athletics department website.