And away we go with Dave Wannstedt's weekly press conference -
10. Thoughts on injured Rutgers player Eric LaGrand:
"Before we get into the press conference, I would like to say something about the unfortunate tragedy they had at Rutgers. A very unfortunate injury. I corresponded with Head Coach Greg Schiano. From our team, our thoughts and prayers are with Eric LeGrand and we're hopeful that he'll make a speedy recovery.
9. About Rutgers coming back:
If you look at their team, three of their wins came in the fourth quarter with their defense making big plays and turnovers, giving them the opportunity to win.
Obviously Coach Wannstedt wouldn't and shouldn't say this, but if Pitt takes care of business, they shouldn't have to worry about this. Sure, Rutgers was able to come back against Army, but, well, that was Army. Rutgers also has lost to Tulane and won by only five against FIU. This really shouldn't be an issue for Pitt as hopefully, if they play like they did last week, the game should be out of reach in the fourth quarter. That said, I don't expect another blowout.
8. Value of kicking game
A lot of times, things happen on special teams. If you kick the game winning field goal or return a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown, those are the type of plays that get recognized. When you're a punter and a kicker like Hutchins, his punts have good hang-time and his directional kicking is great, those things go unnoticed by the public. But in the big picture of winning games, hidden yardage is important as anything we do on offense or defense.
Hutchins has been valuable, indeed, He's fairly reliable kicking field goals and he's the best punter in the conference. I don't think he has the range to be an NFL kicker, but he's one of those guys that can do both adequately and since he's such a good punter, he could find his way onto an NFL roster.
7. On young and old players:
This is one of the things I really like about Wannstedt. His recruiting is building quality depth and the team can afford to redshirt most of its freshmen - even quality ones. There's been a lot of talk about how young the team is, but there are very few underclassmen that are starting...only about 6-7 I believe.
6. On the offensive line:
"I think it's like the quarterback position as well as a few other positions on the team -- we've taken a few steps forward. Syracuse brought quite a bit of pressure and our guys did a good job of handling it. Next week will be more difficult.
Personally, I might glance at the offensive line during the game, but that's about it. I'm not one to follow the entire line during each play unless there's a new starter or if I notice a lot of breakdowns. The fact that I haven't noticed Tino under complete stress or the running backs getting blown up in the backfield is probably a good thing.
5. On players stepping up against Syracuse:
"Recapping last week's game, the most encouraging thing other than the win was to see some players step up into roles that we've been counting on. Tristan Roberts had an outstanding game at linebacker, he made some really nice plays. Devin Street made some really big plays on offense. I was pleased with Cameron Saddlerand how he bounced back from Notre Dame.
It was nice to see Cam have that nice return and of course Street's play set the tone. Street is really looking like a good receiver and I'd like to see more of him this year. Obviously, I don't think he should start in front of Jon Baldwin or Mike Shanahan, but he's a great third receiver. And even though we've struggled with the deep ball this year, I'd like to see Sunseri take a shot or two downfield with him.
4. On Tino Sunseri's Progress:
There are a number of guys that continue to make progress, like Tino Sunseri. He's making good decisions but the most encouraging thing to me is that he's protecting the football.
Fully agreed - Tino may not be passing for 300 yards, but protecting the ball the way he does is equally as valuable if not more so. Tino has three interceptions through six games and nine touchdown passes. For a young QB, he's got a world of poise back there and while he's not the most accurate, he'll continue to get better.
3. Throwing the deep ball:
"It needs work. We really haven't hit the deep balls like we did last year with (Jon) Baldwin and former tight end Dorin Dickerson. Some of it is coverage, some of it's the throws, some of it's timing. The throw he (Tino) had on Saturday, he had pressure in his face and he let the ball go a second or two sooner than what he should have.
Oh, that deep ball again. I think this is the only major chink in Sunseri's armor. He can be inaccurate at times, but he's really seemed to be off when going deep. Like Wannstedt says, I think it just needs work - a lot of it.
2. Getting rid of turnovers and penalties at Syracuse:
"For turnovers, definitely. But our penalties, I was not happy with them in the second half. I did like how the offensive line didn't have a procedure penalty, especially playing under the circumstances. That was big.
I didn't realize there were no offensive line penalties, but the team still had ten of them for 99 yards. That's inexcusable.
1. Syracuse as a must win:
"I hate to say it was a must win, but we needed to get a good start to this conference race.
I understand Wannstedt not wanting to say so, but trust me, it was indeed a must win. Here's another piece of news, just about every other game left this year is a must win. Truthfullly, Pitt can afford to lose one more game and still have a shot at winning the conference as long as that game isn't against Cincinnati or West Virginia. Those two teams are capable of running the table. So even if Pitt were to lose to someone, like Rutgers, they can still win the tiebreaker by beating both of those teams. Of course, though, it all comes back to the fact that if Pitt can't beat Rutgers then can they really beat WVU or Cincy?