Pitt football head coach Paul Chryst addressed the media this week and here's a look at the top ten things he had to say over at the press conference:
10. "Offensively, we were on edge early, but I thought we did a better job as the game went on."
That 'on edge' refers to Tom Savage's early interception on his first attempt of the game, obviously. Fortunately, it didn't hurt Pitt as New Mexico wasn't able to capitalize but those types of plays (especially on the road) can really get things off to a bad start. Duke isn't a great team, but one way they'll be able to win the game will be taking advantage of some turnovers and Savage has to be more careful - more on this later.
9. “I thought we did a better job of tackling. The first half in particular, we did a really good job on defense of being disciplined with our assignments. When we had opportunities to tackle, we tackled better."
Gotta say that the tackling had to be better - if only because I didn't notice it being bad. I was at the game and whenever you're not watching on TV, you don't catch everything. But I can't recall the mass number of guys not finishing tackles as was evident in the Florida State game.
8. "Any time you take a team on the road, there’s a change in the schedule. Sometimes maybe the older players are more engrained in the schedule at home and it’s a bigger change. We have to make sure they have their IDs to get on the plane, we have to make sure they know to pack. It’s all of those things, but it’s the truth. It’s something different."
The road factor is big for this week. Chryst referenced the older players here, but to me, it's the younger guys to watch. Playing in front of a road crowd is going to be new for all of the freshmen with big roles this season and while it may not be the most hostile of environments there, a road game is a road game.
7. (On the fumbles) "That’s one thing that we have to clean up fast is the turnovers."
The turnovers were the one downside to the big win on Saturday. Anytime you have four turnovers and only force one, more often than not, a team will come out on the losing end. That wasn't the case on Saturday because Pitt scored so many points, but Chryst knows that if they continue to be careless with the ball, it will come back to bite them - particularly against better teams.
6. (On playing freshmen) "Obviously it depends on a lot of variables like who’s here already and who are the freshmen. It’s your job as a coach to make sure that your best players can play"
One thing that's been discussed a great deal already is the number of freshmen playing key roles for Pitt. While that could mean the team will continue to go through growing pains this year, it's also encouraging that Chryst will put the best guys on the field regardless of their age.
5. "Right now, knock on wood, we’re pretty good. We came out of the game alright. Bam [Bradley] went through warm-ups and didn’t go, but hopefully that’s better now. There is nobody right now that won’t practice as of my understanding."
It's early, but so far, Pitt has been relatively healthy. They didn't have Bam and a few guys like Bennett and Conner probably started the season less than 100%. But overall, Pitt's been pretty fortunate on the injury front.
4. "Right now we think Dorian’s a guy that is certainly ready to contribute, and we think there are ways that we can use him. It may differ from game to game, but certainly when we play a guy we want to make sure that we’re committed enough to make it a worthwhile year for the young man."
I wrote about Dorian's redshirt already being burned so I won't rehash all of my thoughts about it. But the one thing I was glad to hear was that Chryst wants to make it worthwhile and get him on the field. The other thing that I didn't mention is that there's a chance an injury on the line would have forced him into action anyway. I'm all for getting him playing time as long as Pitt gets some mileage out of him.
3. (On if other freshmen will lose redshirts) “Right now, I don’t think so.”
This was interesting. Coaches often won't speak in absolutes and while, technically, this isn't an absolute, it is interesting that Chryst spoke pretty freely here. The safe answer would have been about it being dependent upon what the starters and backups ahead of them do, but it doesn't sound like any of the other freshmen that haven't already played will get on the field. A little more on this in a separate post.
2. (On QB Tom Savage) "We have to do a better job. We’re not protecting the football. He knows that. We’ve got to do things to make sure we’re helping him. You want guys to go out and play and turn it loose, and you don’t want a quarterback any different than that."
1. I think he’s done a pretty good job. It’ll really sound like a broken record coming from me, but you could take every game and take plays where you can say ‘if you play like that, we have a chance.’ Then you see things where you can clean up and things that you can’t let happen, and in both games I think he’s done that. I haven’t been around a quarterback that you don’t have one or two plays [you want back], but I think he’s working through things.
Savage has been, predictably, a mixed bag. The interceptions against Florida State were a little more understandable, but the two against New Mexico (particularly the first one) weren't encouraging. Here's the thing - Savage also goes out and makes plays. Tino Sunseri cut back on his interceptions last season and Savage has already thrown as many picks as Sunseri did all last year. But Sunseri also didn't make as many plays and that's the one thing that makes it easier to live with Savage's flaws.
I said before the season started that Savage's stat line wouldn't be able to touch Sunseri's - and that's held true. But to be fair to Savage, the one area where he's excelled is in creating big passing plays. He may be able to clean some things up as Chryst talks about, but I'd be surprised if we see the interceptions simply go away.