Paul Chryst took the podium again for his weekly press conference. Here are a look at the top ten things he said, as I see them.
10. "I think it's our job to make sure that whatever the game is that we're prepared to win it. If it's a shootout, we've got to be prepared to win it. If it's in bad conditions, we've got to be prepared to win it. That's the way I choose to look at it."
Let's face it - Pitt won't often be in the types of games like they were against Duke last weekend. But when you're stuck in a shootout, the only thing you can do is shoot last - and that's what Pitt did. I don't think many people are happy with the defense in that game, but at the end of the day, it was a win and they made enough plays to come out on top.
9. "But Tom [Savage] absolutely does have an arm that can get the ball to guys on all spots of the field, and that does help."
And in the end, that's really what separates this offense from the one we've seen the last few years. I was a fan of the way Tino Sunseri played last season, but Pitt never had a legitimate deep passing game under him and I think that made things easier for opposing defenses. Savage's arm provides an entirely new dimension we haven't seen in a while.
8. "We talked about going down and playing 60 minutes"
Not enough, apparently. Pitt got off to good starts defensively at the beginning of the game and second half, but faded. The offense was practically nonexistent in the fourth quarter. Pitt definitely didn't play a full 60 minutes, even if that was the plan.
7. "In the fourth quarter, we didn't do anything offensively to get the momentum back."
That's one thing that didn't get a lot of coverage. Pitt's defense was bad, but after clicking most of the game, the offense disappeared in the fourth quarter and just couldn't stop the bleeding. In a game when they scored 58 points, only seven came in the final quarter - and those came at the hands of the defense on Anthony Gonzalez' pick six. The Panthers' drives in that quarter went as follows: Three and out, three and out, and a botched punt before Pitt secured a first down and ran out the click. Yikes.
6. (On the tight ends) "I like the group. J.P. [Holtz] isn't playing as many snaps as he did last year, but I think in many ways J.P. is better."
Holtz is really experiencing a disappearing act of sorts. He played a lot last year when Hubie Graham was banged up, but has really been hidden a bit with the emergence of guys like freshman Scott Orndoff and Manasseh Garner. So far he's only got two catches for 18 yards on the season. Garner has five catches and a TD and while Orndoff only has two catches, both have been for TDs. I'm sure we've not seen the last of Holtz, but Pitt has some other talented guys at tight end.
5. (On if there was a specific reason James Conner got more carries than Isaac Bennett) "I thought he ran well and earned the right for more carries. I didn't think Isaac was bad, I thought both of them had some good runs and both of them missed some runs. I think the way the game goes, James had a really good drive where he had three back-to-back-to-back good runs. That's going to be the way the season goes."
It's going to be interesting how this shapes out going forward. Conner has been more impressive thus far but Chryst likes to use more than one back. I think they both continue to see carries but as long as Conner runs like he did against Duke, it's hard to justify taking him off the field.
4. "The special teams didn't alleviate for the defense. We didn't play off each other in the sense of picking up another side of the ball. We did for a second when Ray Vinopal made two great plays on special teams with a wet field to get the onside kicks."
Lost in the talk about the performance of the defense was the special teams. I covered it here, but they really had a bad game. I found it interesting that Chryst gave Vinopal an unsolicited plug and I'm sure that was to take some of the heat off of his poor play at safety. Smart move by Chryst, but there's no way anyone is forgetting about Vinopal's play on defense.
3. (On if teams are starting to focus more attention to wide receiver Tyler Boyd) "No I don't think so. You really probably don't get a feel for that until you play a team again or if you have a similar team that you saw previously on your studies."
Lolwut? Sorry, but if opposing coaches aren't noticing Boyd and focusing their efforts on him at least a little, they're simply not doing their job. He's the biggest weapon Pitt has offensively and to not start game planning against him would be the height of idiocy. Coaches are definitely paying attention to him.
2. (On if there were any injuries to report from Saturday's game) "We'll see where guys are at. Gabe [Roberts] didn't finish the game, so we'll have to see with him. The reports are good with the guys coming in, but I think we have a couple where we'll have to wait and see this week. [Bryan] Murphy didn't play and we thought he had a chance to play last week so we think we should get him this week, and Bam [Bradley] didn't travel so he needs to get healthy."
I said it before, but Pitt's been relatively healthy so far. Losing Bam hurts as I like the linebacker depth Pitt has and Murphy's loss is a big one, too. But it sounds like he'll be back against Virginia. The injury to Roberts is something to watch. He's not a starter, but the backup at a pretty important position at center. Off hand, I'm not sure who the emergency guy would be there if Rowell went down with an injury and Roberts couldn't go.
1. (On if he's considering coaching the special teams differently) "If I felt for a second we were shortchanging it, if we weren't looking at it, especially in times like this, you have more power. I've been on staffs where you have one special teams guy and when they struggle it's all on him, whereas we have a bunch of guys. I'm not saying we have the best way, because we have to be better there, so as coaches you tell yourself that you have to be better. I don't question that part of it right now. The punt return, we have to do a better job on the operation, and when covering kicks, the ball has to get up in the air a little bit more. Then we have to make tackles when we have the chance to. We just have to keep working at it, but I'm not worried about the way they're getting coached."
I don't know - I get what Chryst is saying, but it really makes little sense not to have a coach dedicated at that position. And the hogwash about not wanting to put it all on one guy is nonsense. Other units have one head guy so any deficiency is going to be pointed out to a singular coach elsewhere. It's one of those things that no one notices until something bad happens. I'm strongly of the belief that there needs to be a coach for that unit.