Pitt football head coach Dave Wannstedt meets with the media prior to the most recent edition of the Backyard Brawl.
10. How is Pitt preparing this week?
"Today (Monday) will be a Tuesday for us. We just moved everything up one day. We won’t have as much contact (hitting) with the players as we generally would have. We’ll back off a little bit. We’ll go out in shells today. It will be a full practice and we’ll go full speed, we’ll just back off the contact a little bit. At this point in the season, you can do that."
It's going to be interesting to see how Pitt responds. We all know they don't do well with extra rest, but short rest? I don't know, it's going to be interesting.
9. About the rivalry:
"When I played in the game, the rivalry was what it is because they were 70 miles down the road. We would see their players in the off-season, they would see us and the coaches recruited against one another. That was really the force behind the rivalry. Now all of a sudden, you have the Big East Conference and if both teams are good enough, as we are this year, to be competing for the championship then that just adds to it, making the game more exciting and that much more meaningful."
Nothing to add here - well said.
8. On recruiting West Virginia’s Don Barclay and Robert Sands:
"Don Barclay had an uncle that played at West Virginia. We wanted him, and we made him an offer. I remember making a home visit down with Robert Sands in Florida. I thought we were in it. We wanted him. He was a good player and he ended up going to West Virginia."
Yeah, if Pitt had Robert Sands how much better would you feel about Friday's game? 'Tons' is an understatement.
7. Penn State Vs. West Virginia:
"As a player, Penn State was obviously a huge rivalry because it was in-state. But as a player I can remember getting ready for the West Virginia game no different than preparing for Penn State."
I'm kind of surprised by this, but I think he's saying this because he doesn't want to disrespect WVU. From everything I've read, I've always heard that Penn State was a much bigger rival in the 1970s. And no, I'm not old enough to remember.
"We’ve kind of been doing it both this year and last year. The third series is when we try to rotate them depending on how many plays the first series takes. We played Dion Lewis a lot more last week. Once we got into the game a little bit, we felt that Dion Lewis had a little hotter hand and was seeing things quicker, so we went with him more. He had 22 carries, and Ray Graham had 10 so we kind of went in the direction with Dion."
Lewis has really picked it up lately and had another good day Friday. Early this season I thought that Graham had deserved to start. Now, I think Lewis should be the guy. That's not contradictory, it's just a matter of who is playing better at the moment. It's not as if Graham has been bad, but I think Lewis is playing a bit better. I'd like to see him continue to get more carries on Friday.
5. About Pitt's disastrous special teams last week:
"Really, it’s (pass interference calls) always a combination of different things. Usually, the biggest mistake is that the guy isn’t normally looking back at the ball, and he was doing that. They want to see four hands in the air – that’s the expression that the officials use. When one hand gets caught down here, which it was, they’re going to call it. We have officials coming to practice, and they’ll be here tomorrow. That will be a point of emphasis. We’ve watched the tape, and you learn. I’m glad that we went through that and had the chance to make a point of emphasis. We’ll get it squared away. I’m very confident that it wont be a problem this week or the rest of the year."
I'll agree with Wannstedt that it's a judgment call. But the thing is, all of those plays on Antwuan Reed really looked like pass interference. He had a long day for sure. You'd like to think it won't happen again, but that's the first place Geno Smith's going to be looking for sure. And if he's not able to capitalize on it, Zach Collaros probably will.
4. How did special teams do after the UConn debacle?
I thought our special teams bounced back strong. I thought Kevin Harper did a phenomenal job kicking off. All four of his kickoffs had over a four-second hang time. The last one, when the game was on the line, was 4.6 seconds. Our coverage units were a lot better. Dan Hutchins punted the ball well. Cameron Saddler had as good a punt return as he’s had all year – he broke the one for 23 or 24 yards. Overall, I thought our special teams bounced back like it needed too.
Welllll...I guess it wasn't a complete disaster, but the opening kickoff sure was. I don't care if there was a block in the back, a hold, or whatever. There's got to be someone available to take down the returner. After the disaster that was the UConn return, how on earth can you allow something like that to happen the very next week? And Dan Hutchins missed a very makeable field goal that was 42 or 43 yards. Special teams has a ways to go still.
3. And speaking of Dan Hutchins...
"Dan Hutchins is capable of kicking 50-yard field goals depending on the conditions."
I don't even know how to address this.
2. So what will decide Friday's game?
"It will probably come down to the team that doesn’t make the biggest plays, but probably the team that makes the fewest amount of bad plays.
"On offense you have to minimize the negative plays whether it is sacks, tackles for a loss behind the line of scrimmage, or penalties. These types of things from an offensive standpoint are a concern. In the first half against South Florida we were 0-for-5 on our third downs. One time I think we were third-and-22 and another time I think we were third-and-eighteen. You have no chance, and they were after sacks and penalties."
Man, I could be way off on this, but doesn't this sound like a setup for super conservative playcalling? I really hope that's not the case, but it sure sounds like it. Wannstedt is right to a point that Pitt needs to limit its mistakes. But I can see the offense handcuffed so much that there are no shots downfield, etc. And that's not what Pitt needs.