I bailed on recapping last week's press conference with Paul Chryst. He didn't say a lot of interesting things and, frankly, the week was just flat out too busy. That said, I wanted to get back to it this week with so many interesting things that happened in the Florida International game on Saturday.
Let's get to it - here are the top ten quotes from Chryst as I saw them.
10. "We were stopping ourselves, we were inflicting the wounds."
Ah yes, those wound-inflicting Panthers. What a disaster. All of Pitt's mistakes ... the fumbles, the terrible punt, the interception before the half - those things are going to happen. Fact is that all teams are going to have games like that. You just hope they got it out of their system and the good thing for Pitt is that they still escaped with a win. They not only learned a lesson about being a little more careful out there, but in the end, it didn't even cost them.
9. (On Iowa's good run defense) "You’ve got good players and a good scheme, that’s always a key part of it. You’ve got to work to get yards on them."
I've got more on this later this week, but Iowa's rushing defense is top notch. Like Pitt, their competition has been a little suspect, but they've been one of the better run-stopping teams this year. As I wrote in the preview, a lot could depend on Pitt's ability to pass. Speaking of which...
8. (On the passing game) "You want to be a balanced offense because there’s going to be games where you’re going to need to be able to run the ball to win and there’s going to be games where you need to throw the ball to win."
Precisely - and that's been one of my few gripes with how this season has played out. At some point, Pitt is going to need to throw the ball. But so far, the run/pass play ratio has been out of proportion. Pitt was playing catch up a lot of the first half against Florida International, but could have aired it out a bit more later. And against Delaware, the game was over before it started. I really thought it was vital to get Chad Voytik more work throwing the ball because sooner or later, the team is going to need to do that. And sooner might mean this week if the running game has some trouble.
It's really hard to call into question what Chryst has done so far this season, but that's one thing I'd have liked to see a little more - passing in the weaker part of the schedule.
7. (On player remarks of having underestimated FIU) "I don’t love hearing that. I think that it’s always first and foremost about us as a team. Any time you get an opportunity to play, it’s a great gift and we’ve got to maximize that. If he [James Conner] said it, I believe him. I have to do a better job of making sure guys see the reality of everything. But if he said it, I believe him."
So, apparently, some players (at least James Conner, anyway) said after the game that they didn't take the opponents seriously enough. That's really frustrating to hear, particularly since Chryst said before the Delaware game that he didn't think the team was even taking them lightly ... and they're in the FCS. Fact is that regardless of what Chryst might think about his own players, it's pretty easy for them to get lulled into a false sense of security.
And, really, if you're the players, it's mind-boggling to me that they can take anyone seriously after getting a fight from Old Dominion last year and losing to Youngstown State the year before. These guys are not so good yet that they should be looking past anyone, to be honest - and hopefully the 16-0 deficit in last week's game proved that to them.
6. (On the David Durham injury) "We’ll kind of see this week. Today he won’t do anything. We’ll see where he’s at. Hopefully it’s nothing long term. I don’t believe it is.
Durham didn't play last week due to a shoulder injury and according to Sam Werner of the PG, he didn't even make the trip. To be fair to Durham, he's not been a superstar for the team. But he is a starting defensive end with experience and his loss is certainly a blow to the depth there. Getting Durham back would be big this week, but if he didn't even make the trip, it makes you wonder if he could be out for a little while.
5. (On using James Conner on defense) "He’s still part of it. He’s had a couple of decent work days the last two weeks. Nothing has really changed, we just haven’t gone with him."
Well, I mean, something's changed right? The plan coming into the season was to play him on third downs and, after the loss of Ejuan Price, maybe even a little more. But to date, Conner hasn't even taken a snap on defense. A couple of things here. First, Conner's workload has been such that, frankly, he can use the break from playing defense. Second, Pitt just hasn't needed him there a whole lot so far. I don't know - I'm not sure the Conner on defense experiment is over but I'm reminded of something I said before the year began ... that his use would be dictated in part of what he does on offense. And turning into a back that's getting Heisman consideration is certainly the type of thing that can make a coach change his plans.
The running game is just so important for Pitt and it makes little sense to trot Conner out on defense to risk injury and wear him down even more going up against physically-imposing offensive linemen. And here's the thing - the competition is only getting better as the season goes along. You'd think that if Conner were lining up on defense, the staff would have let him get his feet wet early on. But now that we've not seen that, it just makes me wonder how much (if at all) we'll see him there the rest of the way.
4. (On naming a starter at center against Iowa) "We wanted to look at [Alex Officer and Gabe Roberts] last week, and do the same thing. I think what it does is it forces them to truly grow. If one’s approaching it like ‘I’m the guy’ and the other one’s not, I think they both need to [keep working]."
I'm fine with Chryst's approach here., but generally, I think you want starters to know they're starters and working with the first-team guys as much as possible. It's good to let the starter get as much work with the snaps to work out the kinks but I don't think he's sold on either guy right now. And while I see his point about not wanting someone to get too comfortable, that's something that's easily remedied by benching him if he gets too complacent. To me, it's not really a valid reason. The biggest takeaway here is that he's just not too sold on either one right now - I'm just hoping that changes at some point soon so the line gets solidified.
3. (On the running game needing to improve) "The numbers are misleading on a lot of things. We can be cleaner. We can do a better job of the receivers blocking, we can do a better job getting through the second level, getting on our pulls. I mean, there are a lot of things we can get better at in the run game. The numbers, they look good, but we’re not where we need to be on it."
This is coachspeak at its finest, boys and girls ... and guess what? I'm perfectly cool with it. Pitt's running game, last I checked on Saturday, ranked in the top five in the nation. James Conner, early though it may be, is even getting Heisman hype. It's really hard to pick a flaw in the running game right now outside of the case of fumbleitis we've seen. But Chryst doesn't want the guys to get complacent here and outside of a handful of coaches, most would tell you that even their best units need work.
2. (On Chad Voytik being benched) "[Chad Voytik] never got into a great rhythm. There were some things that I thought we could be doing to help him get into a rhythm. And I love the way that he competes."
1. "I thought that he just needed to sit back, see the game, and realize that it’s just a game. You don’t need to make it more than it is. I thought he did some really good things, but I also wanted to get Trey [Anderson] some meaningful snaps going in, but there wasn’t a great moment in the first half to do that...Don’t make more of it than what it is, but you obviously appreciate what it is."
I don't even really know where to go here. And your guess is as good as mine as to what that last sentence even means. Here's the thing - As I've written before, Chryst has never really been all that enamored with Voytik. That was made evident by the late announcement of him as the starter as well as 99% of his comments about him being a hard worker and competing. And to be fair, while Voytik has been adequate, he's not lit the world on fire with his passing.
That said, the insertion of Trey Anderson just made zero sense. It's even more mind-boggling as Chryst again (as he did after the game) referred to wanting to get Anderson some snaps. You do that in a blowout - not smack dab in the middle of a close game that the team was in danger of losing. This has more to do with Chryst not trusting Voytik's abilities than it does in wanting to get Anderson work IMO. The biggest problem, though, is that Voytik is the best option and Chryst really shouldn't be experimenting with Anderson ... who is even not that great of a backup quarterback option to be fair.
Just. Play. Voytik.
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