Thursday, October 30, 2008

Notre Dame

The first game that Jones and I ever attended together was the Pitt/Notre Dame game in 2005 when we were destroyed. Despite losing most of the day was pretty fun. We went and saw Gameday (we were actually the first ones there), Jason was getting drunk on vodka and gatorade while our friend Brad said his screwdriver was too strong and didn't finish it, we also met a guy who was tailgating from the Pirates game the night before. I've done many things in my life and that was the first and only time I've ever gotten a Beast Ice from a drunk stranger. I will give him credit though, he was talking about how Revis was the best corner in the country........I think he was right.

But since then we haven't seen the Irish. If you're looking for a great preview, PantherRants is making my job very easy. Their preview is great and you need to go read it. They summed up everything I was thinking much better than I could.

I'm trying to get a podcast set up with a very big Notre Dame fan this week, so hopefully that happens, but if not all it means is that you don't have to hear the thoughts from a Domer who doesn't even go there.

That is the main reason that I hate Notre Dame. It's not their arrogant fan base, it's not the fact that they're over hyped, and it's not the fact they've embarrassed us every time I've seen them play us at home. I hate Notre Dame because of all of the fans who love them despite them never stepping foot in Indiana.....ever. Just because they were good 30 years ago doesn't mean you should like them. Just because they are catholic does not mean you should like them. How many people do you hear say, yeah I like Providence basketball because I'm catholic and so are they. It is a bunch of BS. I hate the movie Rudy, I hate their "play like champions today" motto, and I hate every single person that roots for them continually without any type of affiliation with their university. I make fun of people living in Monroeville who hate noon kickoffs, but I really should be making fun of the people who say "I didn't go to college but I root for Notre Dame because I'm Catholic even though I haven't been to church in 30 years".

This is not the Notre Dame of 20 years ago. All they are now is a mediocre football team that hides behind the "we can't get recruits because our standards are too tough" excuse. That is all b.s. if you ask me. If they want a guy, they will get him. They've just had garbage coaches. If you want to impress somebody Notre Dame, work out a deal to join a conference and keep your garbage NBC deal.

My cousin said it best. "When I'm with you (dpj), I root for Pitt, when I'm with my dad I root for Penn State, and when I'm by myself, I hate Notre Dame."

I do believe that we will be in for a tough game. I hope that if Bostick plays he has an incredible game to shut up all of the jerk fans who feel that if they like one player (stull) they must hate another player (bostick). I also hope that when Wanny said he believes they're gonna throw a ton that he is just inviting them to run on us. If we go nickel or dime, I could see ND burning us on the running game.

My prediction: Pitt 17 - Notre Dame 34

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cat Basket Podcast Number 20

Our immediate thoughts after the Rutgers game.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Game Thoughts From Studzy

Here is a recap from Studzy who was in attendence for the debacle yesterday:

Ok.  I’ll do what is called a compliment sandwich to recap the game, seeing as how I did not wake up with any knowledge of how to make ice sculptures or know how to play the piano.  Fortunately, I still refuse to watch Napoleon Dynamite, so that’s good.  This is where I analyze the team’s performance and point out a good thing, then a bad thing, and finish with a good thing.  But it’s gonna be like a Primanti Bros sandwich, where the bread completely falls apart.  So here is my day as I remember it:


I was on the field for the pre game ceremonies, carrying a broken Cat Basket sign.  Some (rude youth) had broken the carrying stick so I had to “beast” it for 20 minutes. Wasn’t that bad.  But this gave me a chance to see the fans from the field… lemme tell you… Ho-ly (smokes).  Perhaps it was our 5-1 record. Perhaps it was the last two games.  Perhaps it was the ranking.  But the fans… Wow. Just wow. The fans were stellar.  The student section was completely packed. I knew it would be, but from the field, it looked monstrous.  Pregame atmosphere? We had it in spades, people. 


And then the kickoff.  Hotrod took the kickoff and ran, giving us good starting field position.  Then, Shady Shady Shady.  What a monster.  I can’t say enough about him, so I’ll just give you his stats, along with one of his notable plays.  FOUR TD RUNS and 146 yds. Also three receptions for another 34 yds.  The one play involves an act that defies physics.  Shady got his corner on the left and somehow tiptoed the line and dozed off a 30 yard run.  Ladies and gentleman, the man is fast.


The first drive lasted seconds and I missed most of it because I was sprinting back to my seat from the field.  Then Rutgers got the ball and we start the meat of our compliment sandwich:

Our O-line looked relatively solid, for the most part, which is a good sign.  Stull had some trouble throwing early, but that’s fine.  All in all, our offense seemed to do just fine. We put up 34 points which is exactly what you want from a team with our talent level (at least considering the first few games).  The problem was our defense. Scott McKillop did his thing.  He destroyed people and got a dozen or so tackles.  He’s everywhere.  Our frontmen, though horribly undersized, held their own.  No, the problem was our secondary.  I mean come (expletive) on!!!  Aaron Berry had an early INT, but that was it from him.  Jovani Chappel…  I know you and I have shared a drink or two, but you cost us the game.  You let up two big plays in the first quarter that sucked the momentum right out of the stadium.  Mike Teel, the giant jersey QB, let off a couple of bombs.  After he let the first one, Pitt went three and out and he did it again, and just like that, we were down 14-7 after opening possession and wouldn’t you know it… after a big drive, we turn it over on downs after a botched field goal “trick” play.  In all honesty, it was a great time to make the play, but can’t we throw at all?  So yeah…

On the next (accursed) play, Teel throws another bomb… and after that, we miss a field goal.  But this time we block the extra point! 20-7! Could it be another Iowa? We’ll see.  But I digress.  Here are the stats copied and pasted on the three drives by Rutgers:

2 plays, 66 yards in 00:55.

1 play, 80 yards in 00:36.

10 plays, 71 yards in 09:54.


After their third TD, it was shady shady shady again.  Three plays for 78 yards and a TD. Boom. 14-20. there is hope!  Nah… Teel gets the ball and picks us apart (with the help of a few penalties) and wouldn’t you know it… Our secondary let us down again.  Chappel again, if I’m not mistaken.  Move the dude to linebacker. He cannot cover at all. 

This goes back and forth again, but we give it to Shady on the 1 yd line and we pounded it in.  Then Rutgers scores… again… but we get a field goal, so that’s good. And we roll into half time down 34-24.



At this point I will inform the reader that I am taking a break from writing this to put on pants (begrudgingly) and get some breakfast.  If I do all this in one sitting, I know for a fact that I will either kill myself or throw up on my laptop, and then kill myself.  Either way, I’d kill myself.



So the scarlet Rutgers get the ball to start the second half and we absolutely stuff them.  What a big defensive showing.  And wouldn’t know you it?  We blitzed!!!  At this point, RUTGERS PUNTS FOR THE FIRST TIME ALL GAME!!! I’ll remind you that it is the second half.  Shady drives this one home with a little help from Baldwin.  These kids, man… thing’s are looking good.  We are down 31-34, and after another big defensive showing, they are punting again!!!  Someone next to me said as the ball was falling, “Now for the scariest time to be a Panther fan.”  Eerie, because even though Berry caught it, he ran up the left and got stripped, giving Rutgers the ball on our friggin 35.  They bang this one home and it’s 41-31.


This drive might have been the scariest thing to happen on Heinz field if you are a panther.  After nearly going three and out, Stull floats a pass over the middle and is drilled, helmet to helmet, but no penalty.  The ball hits the ground after not going more than 8 feet above ground, and panthers walk off the field, and then everyone notices that my Bill Stull hasn’t moved.  And he won’t move.  Not until 10 minutes of silent murmurs and two kneeling teams does anything else happen.  He was carted off the field very slowly and only managed to raise one fist and the crowd cheered.  I saw his face as he was driven to the tunnel, and that is not the look of a person that is with us.  Get well, Billy. 

And then Rutgers punts after a very physical and angry Pitt defense just has their way.  And hold your breaths, because now comes Bostick.  Here is something I noticed between the two QBs:  Bostick likes throwing to Turner, which is a BIG (really big) MISTAKE.  But he also gets the best out of Nate Byham.  He gets one pass to him and Byham just takes 30 yds.  Then Bostick throws what should be a fade route from the 25 but it doesn’t make it to the 15, and it falls into a swarm of linebackers, one of whom takes it back to our 15.  Shady on the tackle.  But at this point it is really inevitable and the fans empty out shortly after Sweet Caroline.  By the end of the game, there were no more than 500 people in the stands to watch Pitt flounder back to the locker room…  So that’s it. Teel threw a school record six touchdowns, and Kordell Young ran in for two more, to give the game a final score of 54-34.  We also blocked another extra point, somehow.


And to conclude my compliment sandwich, I’ll leave us on a positive note.  This game was not as important to us as Navy or South Florida.  If we had to lose to another completely worthless team, it might as well be this one.  Still, we are in contention for the Big East and we are only 5-2.  It’s not the worst thing in the world.  Oh wait, South Florida lost to Louisville?  Aw crap…


Sorry if this article isn’t what you are used to reading, but it is from the standpoint of the least informed member of the catbasket, and you can all look up the stats yourselves.  What I wanted to give you was the impression, and I hope in that regard, I have succeed. Godspeed. Oh, yeah, get well soon, Billy and Rob. I hope to hell that leg isn’t broken…


I know everybody is expecting me to come and really tear into Wanny after yesterday's embarrassment but I'm not. Everything that I can say about him has already been said a million different times by people much more eloquent than me. All I will say is that this has happened over and over again. Whenever we are about to turn the corner and get the fanbase engaged again he loses and usually in spectacular fashion. I now don't see another game on the schedule that we can expect a win in, hopefully we at least put up a fight in South Bend.

I'm really past the point of trying to dissect why Wanny does the things he does. All these things lead back to the basic problem, he is a horrible coach and is in way over his head. I wish I could say that game has passed him by but it isn't like he had glory years. He is slowly eroding away this program into a laughing stock and we are all on the ride. I heard someone say something to the effect that Wanny is just Greg Robinson with more resources and that is dead on. There is never going to be a turnaround under him and getting to the 3rd level bowl for the Big East is a joke. We had one of the easiest schedules possible and we are losing easy games like this one. I don't need to hear the bs that Rutgers is our "bogey team" because they are atrocious. Our defense made Mike Teal look like Colt McCoy and it seemed like a simple adjustment would have stopped all of this. 

So here is where we are at 5-2 with two losses to Bowling Green and Rutgers. What good is possibly going to come from this season other than more jokes and a low end bowl. Wow I should be excited because as well all know it takes years and years of poor losing football to get good. I can't wait until the presser where Wanny passes this loss off as a good showing and deflects the blame away from himself. That is the problem there is no accountability at the top for stuff like this so there is no hope of it ever stopping. I have a feeling Wanny will still get a contract extension and his ass kissed by his supporters who have such low expectations for this program that anything seems passable. Remember we used to go to bowls all the time but that guy got ran out of town by a small-minded and backwards thinking fanbase/administration. 

I really don't know what to do as a panther fan anymore, currently we have a once in a lifetime player but his run here is ruined by bad coaching. Shady is amazing and I'm happy to have seen him play here but 20 years from now we are going to look back at this era and laugh. I don't even want to gloat about being right about Wanny, I just want to finally win. 

This is the new showcase loss for the biggest loser in college football. Enjoy it moustache face.

Quick Update

So neither Dave or I saw the game yesterday because we were at a wedding but we will have a report from somebody who was there. Also we recorded a podcast this morning about the general implications of the loss. I will be writing a column tonight about what this horrible loss means.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Prepping for Rutgers

Tomorrow will mark the end of an era. It will be the first game that I've ever missed at Heinz Field. I was a freshman at Pitt in 2001 and even though 7 years later I'm still a student, I was proud to say that I made it to every home game. My old roommate is getting married so Jason Jones and I will be attending the wedding. Luckily Jones will have access to a TV so he should be able to check out most of the game.

I was going to write a nice big preview for this game, but yet again PantherRants has done a great job looking at things in their preview.

I will just throw some opinions out there for this week. The world is finding out that Mr. Teel is not a very good quarterback. He has been luckily enough to hide behind the talent of Ray Rice and Brian Leonard. However, with them gone, Rutgers has come back down to earth. They have had 3 decent seasons, but nothing great enough and nothing sustained long enough for us to forget how awful they were before that little 3 year run.

One concern I have is our potential game plan due to the weather. Rutgers' greatest strength is stopping things in the middle. That includes runs up the middle and passes over the middle. I hope Wanny, Cavanaugh, and Bennett have been paying attention to how big Rutgers' weaknesses are. Hopefully the rains hold off so that we can be more dynamic and unpredictable with our offense to keep Rutgers guessing.

Defensively we should be able to stop Rutgers without any problems. They have a big offensive line, but this isn't the first time we will be sending our DLine out against some giants. This is one week where if we get a 10 point lead early on, that could spell the end of the game. The best way for us to win is to put the ball in Teel's hand and make him beat us by throwing. I don't think there is any scenario where Teel has to win the game and he can actually come through.

We owe Rutgers a big beating for the embarrassment we've had the past few seasons. While I don't know if the team feels like they need to punish Rutgers because of our past failures, I don't see any way we lose this game.

My prediction for this week is Pitt 31 - Rutgers - 13.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Predicting the Rest of the Season

So here we are at 5-1 and ranked 17th in the nation by the AP and in the Bowl Championship Series rankings. Plus we are sitting atop the Big East and have our destiny in our hands. This is an exciting time to be a Panther fan but now it is time to find out what we actually have. Remember on the preseason podcast I picked us to go 11-1 but also remember this I'm usually wrong about everything. So let's get to the predictions:

vs Rutgers- This seems like another win and with our momentum over the past two weeks I could see this being a slight blowout. Rutgers is not good at all and I can't see them being enough on defense to shut down Shady. Percentage chance of winning- 95%

at Notre Dame- I'm concerned about this game just because of the atmosphere and the implications on the rest of the season. ND is extremely uneven and I'm not convinced that they are a legitimate threat but going into South Bend is always a tough game. Beating ND on national tv would be a great showcase for us and could give us more juice in the rankings. Percentage chance of winning- 75%

vs Louisville-The Cardinals have looked a little better than I expected but then again I expected them to lose 7 games. This is a home game and it could be fairly cold with the usual sloppy mess that Heinz Field becomes late in the season. I think the colder it gets the more conducive it will be to our style of football running the ball. Louisville has an ok defense but again I think we can overpower them. Percentage chance of winning- 85%

at Cincinnati- Now the Bearcats have been playing slightly better than average football up to this point. I don't think they are an elite Big East but then again I don't think that term exists. Historically in the River City Riverboat River Rat River Phoenix Rivalry we have played extremely well. This year will be no different because that trophy is ours and this is the most important rivalry in the nation and not an odd marketing ploy by two athletic departments. Percentage chance of winning- 75%

vs West Virginia- To me this is the toughest game left on the schedule just because it is a rivalry game. That being said I'm convinced Stewart is going to drive the Mountaineers into the ground. Hopefully the Thursday night upset curse doesn't continue and we can get up big time for this game. This game will definitely mean much more for us than it will for them. Still you can never know what to expect in the Backyard Brawl. Percentage chance of winning- 60%

at UConn- I expected this game was going to be the hardest left on the schedule until I watched UConn play Rutgers. Now the way I see it the Cincinnati and WVU games will decide who wins the Big East as I can only see UConn continuing to slide. Traditionally, UConn kills us though so this one could be a little bit of a crap shoot. Percentage chance of winning- 65%

So there you go I think we have every chance to win out, I'm not going to stand by my prediction for the final record other than just saying I said it in August. This schedule is not rough at all and this season is there for the taking. Thank you Big East for being so terrible other than South Florida and us. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cat Basket Podcast Bonus Episode

We had this episode in the can since the bye week before the Navy game so I thought I would just throw it up to listen to.  Just a little bit of a buffet of Pitt football. Enjoy!

P.S. I just wanted to say thanks for reading and giving your opinion after this weekend. DPJ's columns really sum up my thoughts on the Bostick sitaution as well. I'll be back tomorrow doing my thoughts on the rest of the schedule. 

The Postives of the First Six Games

Since we are constantly accused of being negative and not being able to enjoy success I thought I would write this column today. This has been a wild ride of a season already and now with the heart of Big East season coming it is only going to get crazier.

A big positive has been that the team didn't give up after the bad loss against Bowling Green. Many teams would have packed it in and accepted another sub-par season but this team has fought through poor early season play to get 5 straight wins. This really speaks to the player leadership that is present on both sides of the ball. No way will this team lose out like we did two years ago.

Shady has continued his once in a generation level play after a poor start to the season. He is saving his best performances for the biggest games and our continued success on the offensive side of the ball will be mainly due to him. 

Scott McKillop is making a case for the Butkus Award and a 1st team All American season. Just like last year he is the engine for the defense and is really cementing his legacy as a Panther. We are lucky to have a player of his level anchoring the defense. He has been one of the best players of this millennium.

Another big positive has been the emergence of a few first year players. Robb Houser has come in and after a slightly rough start in the first game, developed into a very good center. He has really developed into a good run blocker and a steady pass blocker. Jonathan Baldwin over the past two game especially has shown the level of talent that everybody knew about when he committed here. Plus he is finally getting adequate playing time to make an impact. On the other side of the ball Greg Williams has stepped in and played great since Adam Gunn went down. Williams has been a pleasant surprise and is playing up to his billing as a high profile recruit. 

I never thought I would type these words but it seems like Matt Cavanaugh is finally getting it. This overall coaching style still leans towards the conservative but in the past few games we have a more adventurous play-calling style on offense. The quarterback play has limited what we can do in terms of the passing game but Cavanaugh has found a way to still create successful gameplans. Defensively Phil Bennett is slowly putting his personality on the defense and I think the more we see his style the better the defense is going to get. 

Lastly I would like to give a big positive to the improved play of Joe Thomas since the 3rd game. In the running game that right side of the line has become very dominant. Thomas has been a big part of the improvement in the offense and the improvement in Shady's numbers. I have been very impressed and  excited that he has come through all the adversity and is starting to have a successful season.

Again we are 5-1 so enjoy the top 20 ranking but don't start planning a trip to a BCS bowl just yet. We haven't been ranked like this for a while and its very exciting. Sorry I can't be ready to throw a parade for us winning 5 games when in this schedule at worst we should have 5 wins, I'm excited but I still remember who and what we are.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"I have no idea why we did it" (part 2)

On our 3rd offensive drive of the 2nd half against Navy, we winning 42-14. We had decided to pull Shady and Hot Rod from the game, yet Bill Stull remained in at quarterback. 6 of the 8 plays were running plays and the name of the game at this point was kill the clock. After a fumble by Conredge Collins, Navy took over and scored a touchdown with only a few minutes left in the game. With a 21 point lead and only a few minutes left, running out the clock seemed like a simple task. To our surprise though, on our 2nd to last series, Pat Bostick replaced Bill Stull. On every play from here we ran the ball to kill the clock. The remaining Pitt fans who stayed instead of trying to beat the traffic were shocked by the move to put Bostick in.

Here are the reasons of why we were all shocked to see Bostick in the game:
1. We have 2 other quarterbacks (Cross and Smith) who are not eligible for a redshirt.
2. Through out the camp (after naming a starter) and during the season, Wannstedt has said that the plans were to redshirt Bostick and allow him to gain an extra year of eligibility and to develop more as a quarterback.
3. He entered the game at a point where he was not going to throw the ball or do anything to help him improve as a quarterback.
4. When we were struggling in the early games, we did not make the change to Bostick to try and give the team a spark.
5. Wannstedt has continually said through out the season that Greg Cross will play and that we need to get him in there more while not making any mentions about Pat Bostick's playing time.

As far as why Wannstedt made the move, I have not heard from the coaches so I don't have any specific information, but here are some things he said at the press conference today.
"If we expect to win this season, Pat needs to see some playing time."
"We will do what it takes to give our team the best chance to win"
"We put him in there becausePat needs to be prepared to play every week" then he said "Pat is prepared to play every week".
When he was asked about the possibility of redshirting next season Wannstedt said "It's too early to talk about that"

Lastly, the biggest thing that Wannstedt told us, was something he did not say. Wannstedt would not say if Pat would play again this season.

Before I move forward, I just want to say that everything from this point will be mostly my opinions. I'm sure Jason Jones agrees with me on most of the stuff as we talked about this at length after the game, on the drive home from the game, and through out the day today.

Pat Bostick was not a great quarterback last season. That is not saying that he won't be great later, but given the situation last year, he did not perform well. Last season our offensive line was terrible. They prevented us from succeeding more with the passing and running game. Also last season, Oderick Turner and Darrell Strong were two of the laziest football players at any level of college football, yet they were not reprimanded for their laziness, penalties, and ineffectiveness. One key moment I remember was throwing deep against USF last year and Turner quit on the route despite being open. We replaced Moe Williams with Turner, ran the same play, and Williams ended up scoring on a long touchdown pass. Lastly, the staff took the ball out of Pat's hands last year. If anyone got a 10 point or larger lead on us, it was over because we were not going to open up the offense.

This season Jason Pinkston, Robb Houser, and John Malecki have all done a great job on the line. CJ Davis has been very steady and Joe Thomas has improved throughout the season and is playing better than Mike McGlynn did last year. Also the return of Derek Kinder and Nate Byham from injury as well as the arrival of Jonathan Baldwin and Dorin Dickerson (from lb) has allowed Stull to have a tremendous set of receivers. Kinder, Porter, McGee, Baldwin, Dickerson, Pelusi and Byham are a dynamic group who you can rely on. The group of Turner, Porter, Williams, Pestano, Strong and Pelusi just don't match up. Outside of Porter and Pelusi, the rest of the guys were disappointments with how they finished last season.

The coaches have changed after the Bowling Green loss too. We have seen less bubble screens and long yardage draws. Now we are seeing nice passes to the running backs over the flat, deep passes to Baldwin, more usage of the tight end, and more play action than we have seen all season.

The odds have been entirely in the favor for Stull to succeed this year compared to Bostick last year.

Stull has done a decent job this year though. I think Stull is the type of quarterback that Wannstedt looks for. He can manage the game and is going to be consistent from week to week. He won't be an explosive playmaker, but in our offense he doesn't need to be since we have strengths in other areas.

That being said, this is the 4th year Bill Stull has been in the offense. He will turn 22 this year and was given adequate time to develop under Matt Cavanaugh and was able to learn from Tyler Palko. Compare that to Pat Bostick from last year. He was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. He was playing in an offense that he had never played in before. He had missed time due to the family emergency and did not see any action throughout the first 3 games. He had a set of poor receivers and a poor offensive line.

The big things last year that everyone harped on was Pat's conditioning, his arm strength, and the hitch in the throwing motion. After attending many practices and seeing Pat quite often, it is very evident to me that Pat is in much better shape than last year. He entered camp 30 pounds lighter than he finished the season last year and has continued lose weight through out the season. Also through his work with Buddy Morris and Matt Cavanaugh he has developed better arm strength and improved his throwing motion.

Even though those improvements have been made, people are not able to see them because he hasn't played this season so their perceptions are only further cemented in their minds. Another problem is that since Wannstedt said we had an "open qb competition" this off season, people think that since Bostick didn't win the job he must not be a very good quarterback.

This is where a major problem comes into play. Even though he is our #2 quarterback, there is no reason to blow his redshirt opportunity to hand the ball off 3 times and kneel the ball once. If Wannstedt was really serious about doing this, he could have had Pat come in for each of the games that ended with us kneeling the ball and had him do it instead of Stull or Cross.

But here is where we stand right now. If you read this blog you know that I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. While I am a Pittsburgh homer, I often disagree with many of our fans. One of the biggest things I hate about our fan base is this paranoia that we need Pittsburgh guys for everything. After Ben Howland left and when Jamie Dixon was rumored to leave, people talked about John Calipari, Skip Prosser, and Sean Miller all taking over. The key between those three is that they all have Pittsburgh connections. After an amazing 7 year run under coach Dixon, he has proved that he has a great mind for the game and should give the fans a reason to believe in him. After the USF game, a message board poster wrote "all of you guys want to give all of this credit to Jamie Dixon, but why don't you do the same for coach Wannstedt". My honest response is that because we've lost many games we should have won, we have underachieved for the last 3 seasons, and we have only won 3 games that we should not have (USF, WVU, and Cincy) under Coach Wannstedt. While we continue to improve, if we should keep winning and eventually become a consistent, dominant team, I will give Dave Wannstedt the same respect I give to Jamie Dixon.

This mentality goes farther than just coaches though. There are many fans who believe that we should only get kids from the WPIAL and stay within the wall around Western Pennsylvania. Part of this goes to the fact Walt Harris did not spend much time recruiting here and had a bad reputation with many of the local coaches. Rutherford and Palko received amazing support from the fans after they settled in (yes they were booed early in their careers here) as the starting quarterback. They were both from Western Pa. At the beginning of this year when the "quarterback competition" was taking place people were bashing Bostick as if he were the reason that our entire season went wrong last year. It wasn't just talking about the way he played, rather they attacked his character, his desire to play, and his appearance. If you want to compare Bill Stull to Pat Bostick, then that is fine, but do it with how they play, not this other made up stuff that you read from unreasonable "fans".

Now we have Bill Stull who has led us to a 5 - 1 record and has us going in the right direction towards earning a bowl bid and hopefully winning the Big East. However, instead of talking about the success of the team, we have to discuss the Pat Bostick situation because of a questionable coaching decision. This has led to more negative talk from our "fans".

Bill Stull is a WPIAL kid and I often feel that because he is a local guy he is given more leniency than Pat was given last year. This also applies to our freshman quarterback Tino Sunseri. He has all of the chips in his favor from fans from Pittsburgh. First of all, not only is he from the WPIAL, but rather he played for Central Catholic. Secondly his father went to Pitt. Lastly, we are often in favor of the back up quarterback in Pittsburgh and it appears that Tino is filling that role. I don't buy for a second that after 6 games into a planned redshirt season that Tino is ahead of Bostick. What I do believe is that a select vocal part of our fan base wants to believe that Tino is ahead of Pat. For them I believe their natural hope is that Stull succeeds this year and next, and then in 2010 Tino takes over as our starting quarterback.

Here is one of the best examples I can give you. Pat Bostick was our starting quarterback for the majority of our season last year. You would think that our fans would see that his name is Pat Bostick not Pat Bostic. If people continually spelled Bill Stull's name as Bill Stuul, or Stall, or Stall, or any other variation, people would make a huge deal about it. Instead I think people see spelling Bostick as Bostic as some type of natural dig at the kid. It's the same group of people who were mad at Tony Dorsett for changing the syllabic emphasis in his last name after he left Pitt.

People will allow others to be thrown under the bus for the simplest reasons. I just can't believe that our base isn't standing up to the certain fans who base all of their beliefs on where a person comes from. The local players don't deserve a free pass because they are from the area. Dave Wannstedt does not deserve a free pass because he played for Pitt. As a fan base we have a right to want to know the truth of why certain things are done. When you say all season long that you're going to redshirt a player and then put him in for 4 meaningless snaps at the end of the game, that raises a red flag. When the other coaches are saying they are completely surprised by this and that they had no idea it was coming, then I think it is something that we should really look into.

Again, we are 5-1 and should be enjoying this win. While we are happy that we are 5-1 (which is where I thought we would be at the beginning of the season), we have also seen things that have made us a little nervous and skeptical. Losing to Bowling Green and barely beating Buffalo, Syracuse, and Iowa are certainly reasons for that. However, beating USF and soundly defeating Navy are things we should be proud of and use for reasoning that we are headed in the right direction.

It is just sad that after a big margin victory we are discussing Bostick's redshirt instead of focusing on Rutgers because of a small coaching move that may end up to prove significant in a year or two.

I may have upset some of you with this column, but I felt that I needed to say something because I don't feel that Pat Bostick has been treated fairly by some Pitt fans. I also feel that some fans turn a blind eye to things we do because of a non-questioning policy when it comes to Wannstedt. Lastly, I like everyone else reading this want what is best for Pitt. If Pat didn't need to play this year, then he should not have. You make a move when it is necessary, not just because you can do it. 4 insignificant snaps may just have shaped one 19 year old's future more than anything else thus far in his life.

"I have no idea why we did it" (part 1)

That is not my response about seeing Pat Bostick play 4 meaningless snaps on Saturday, that is word for word the response I received in a text message from one of the coaches about 20 minutes after the game.

This is an issue that I believe has showed just how fragmented and biased Pitt fans can be. Jason and I were lucky enough to attend the spring practices and fall camp. I have even been lucky enough to be a part of the Monday press conferences. From the moment the season ended last year, we all knew that Bill Stull was going to become the starting quarterback this season. While Wannstedt did say that there would be an open competition, it would have taken some amazing circumstances for Pat Bostick, Kevan Smith, Greg Cross, or Tino Sunseri to win the starting job. Even after Stull was announced as the starter for the season, everyone who has any contact with the staff and team was well aware the plan was to redshirt Bostick and Sunseri this year.

What I hope to do with this 2 part column is to just describe what has transpired over the last few years in terms of quarterbacks, player management, reaction by the fans, and thoughts for the future.

Let's start with summer 2006. It was then that the highly touted recruit Pat Bostick announced that he would attend the University of Pittsburgh. He was one of the first verbal commitments that the Panthers received and along with the early commitments of other players such as Chris Jacobson, gave the Panthers a great start to building another great recruiting class under Dave Wannstedt.

Following the 2006 high school football season, Pat Bostick was named the 2006 Gatorate Pennsylvania Player of the Year. This was also right around the same time that following a disappointing season from the Panthers, rumors began to swirl that Pitt commits Pat Bostick, Dom DiCicco, and Nate Nix would switch their commitments from Pitt to Michigan State. Despite the rumors, Bostick re-affirmed his commitment and on signing day was the first Pitt recruit to fax in his letter of intent to join the University of Pittsburgh.

Summer 2007 - Pat Bostick enrolls for the summer session at Pitt. By the time he arrives, he has the playbook completely memorized and has even began compiling plays and ideas that he has come up with to present to the staff as potential options to use. When he came to Pitt he came here knowing that the plans were for him to redshirt and prepare as the quarterback of the future that would take over after then junior Bill Stull graduated following the 2008 season.

August 2007 - Pat Bostick returns home due to a family emergency. Due to the gravity of the situation, Pat returns home to stay with his family during this emergency. The reason of why Pat went home was not released due to the wishes of the coaching staff and Bostick family. Since there were no reasons as to why Pat left, internet rumors began to swirl that Pat was soft and not ready nor committed to being a Pitt Panther. This is where all of the Bostick negativity begins.

After spending a few days at home and with the situation improving, Pat returns back to campus and resumes practicing with the team. Despite people feeling that he had lost the support of the team, everyone involved with Pitt football felt that Pat did the right thing by going home to be with his family. The rest of camp is finished without any other major incidents for Pat Bostick.

Eastern Michigan - During the opening game of the season, a defensive linemen for the Eagles takes a cheap shot at Bill Stull and injures his hand, knocking him out for the entire 2007 season. He is replaced by Kevan Smith who primarily hands the ball off and is restricted to one of the most conservative offenses in all of college football due to his inexperience.

Michigan State - Kevan Smith plays poorly against the Spartans. His poor play and a crucial drop by Oderick Turner cost the Panthers a win in East Lansing. Most notably for Smith, a pick 6 thrown in the 2nd quarter gave MSU all of the points they needed to win. At this point, Panther fans start becoming restless and people begin to call for Pat Bostick to replace Kevan Smith as the starting quarterback.

UConn - After a miserable first half of football, Pat Bostick replaces Kevan Smith as the quarterback. On his first passing attempt, the ball is intercepted. He finishes the rest of the game as quarterback with pretty much the same results we had seen from Kevan Smith. Pat Bostick entered the game when the Panthers were down 27-7 and ended up finishing the game 27 of 41 with 230 yards passing and 1 touchdown.

Virginia - Pat Bostick makes the first start of his Panther career. After a failed on side kick to start the game, Virginia jumped on the Panthers and had a 20-0 lead after 8 minutes of play. Bostick finished the game 18 of 31 for 181 yards with 1 td and 1 int.

Navy - In a game featuring all offense, Pat Bostick completed 71% of his passes going 20 of 28 for 191 yards with 1 td and 1 int. The Panthers ultimately fell to the Midshipmen after Darrell Strong dropped a 4th down pass from Bostick in the 2nd overtime period.

Cincy - Pitt gets it's first win against a ranked opponent under coach Dave Wannstedt. The Panthers were underdogs in this game and defeated the Bearcats 24-17. Bostick played solidly going 18 for 29 with 167 yards passing with 1 td and 1 int. He also completed a 2 point conversion after Pitt's last touchdown.

Louisville and Syracuse - Pitt plays an average football game in both contests. The Panthers fell after Shady fumbles on the 1 yard line following a completion from Bostick to Turner. In the Syracuse game, Pitt wins a close game. In both of these games, Bostick did not throw an interception and had a touchdown pass.

Rutgers - Pitt's offense struggled all game long. In the first half Pitt was down 17-10 despite having their first five drives start in Rutgers territory. In the 2nd half, Kevan Smith replaced Bostick and moved the offense through draws, taking advantage of Rutger's soft quarterback coverage. Smith was never able to put points on the board however, and it was Pat Bostick that led the Panthers down the field on the final drive. With seconds remaining, Bostick completed a touchdown pass to Oderick Turner that all but ensured a Pitt victory. The play was however was negated by a completely bogus pass interference call. This would not be the last time Turner would be the victim of a phantom call.

USF - Bostick throws 2 touchdowns, 2 two-point conversions, and 3 ints in a shootout loss to the Bulls.

WVU - Pat Bostick leads the Panthers in one of the most stunning upsets of all time. He scores the only touchdown on a quarterback sneak in the 2nd quarter. That plus the early field goal by Conor Lee would be the only points Pitt needed to win the game.

Through out the season the offensive line was one of the weakest lines in the country. They gave up the most sacks of any team in the Big East, were the most penalized in the Big East, and did not provide the protection and separation needed to have a successful offense in both passing and running.

The receiving corps were one of the most underachieving groups on the team as well. Oderick Turner and Darrell Strong were not able to make up for the loss of Derek Kinder. They often did not finish routes, dropped easy passes, and led to the passing game looking much worse for all 3 quarterbacks that saw action.

The running backs were one of the bright spots on this team. For some reason Dave Wannstedt did not want to play Shady much. It took an injury to Hot-Rod before Shady really broke open in the Michigan State game. Following that, he was forced to use Shady more. Also discovered was that Conredge Collins was one of the premiere fullbacks in the country.

With the win against WVU to end the season, Shady returning for his sophomore year, and not losing much talent outside of Jeff Otah, the Panthers were given high expectations for the 2008 season despite knowing we were going to use a quarterback who only had 1 collegiate start.

In his first season, Pat Bostick finished with 1500 yards passing, a 61.5 completion percentage, 8 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

This 2008 season, we have all experienced the ups and downs. We suffered the horrible 27-17 loss to Bowling Green and saw the staff call the most conservatively called game in recent memory. We followed that up with close victories against Buffalo, Iowa, Syracuse, and USF. It wasn't until Navy that we dominated a team and won by a margin we all expected to.

So far this season with Bill Stull as our starter we have seen his strengths and his flaws. We are also 5-1 with him as our quarterback. This season he has a 58% completion percentage, 1283 yards passing, 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. This projects out to 2566 yards, 8 touchdowns and 10 int's for Stull should he stay on the same pace and have the same amount of playing time for the rest of the season.

This is the end of Part 1. Part 2 will start with the 4th quarter of the Navy game.

Cat Basket Podcast Number 19 Navy Road Trip

The first ever road trip podcast. We go over the Navy game and have two of our traveling guests. Everything about the game is covered including our thoughts on Redshirtgate.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Navy Game Thoughts

Well after a nice and much needed shower and nap I'm back to give some of my thoughts on the Navy game from yesterday. It was an odd feeling watching us completely dominate a team and have the scoreboard reflect the talent gulf between the teams. I could get used to blowout wins though if we want to start doing this than once every couple of years.

First off Shady is completely back on track in terms of becoming a top 5 running back in the nation. He took a nothing play at the end of the first half and turned it into huge gain. This is the beauty of the way he plays when he is at his best, Shady can succeed in a vacuum. Navy wasn't prepared to stop a player of his level and he really hammered them every chance he could get. 8.7 yards a carry in a game like this is exactly what we need to keep on winning.

Speaking of top level talent we are seeing the slow emergence of Jonathan Baldwin as an elite player in college football. The mismatches that the he causes every game have been the catalyst for the improvment in the offense. He needs to touch the ball more and more because only good things are happening when he gets it. Having Baldwin to make big plays the past two weeks has been a godsend for Bill Stull. 

As for Stull count me as completely disappointed. The only thing he has offered the offense this season is good decision making. He has protected the ball fairly well but last night he threw 2 picks and looked extremely uncomfortable. Against USF he had the same demeanor in the pocket. Stull can't make every throw due to his lack of arm stregnth so he has to have impeccable decision making. The passing offense really has the handcuffs on what type of plays Cavanaugh can call. Hopefully, Stull can get back to managing the game and allowing the weapons to make plays. 

Defensively I thought we handled the option much better. I was flipping out at the mistakes we continued to make in the first quarter but luckily that stopped throughout the game. This is the only time we are going to see this offense so I'm satisfied with stopping them and winning.

I really want to mention how great the atmosphere was. So many cool traditions from the Midshipmen and the fans couldn't have been more respectful. By far my favorite away game yet.

As for the elephant in the room the whole Bostick situation we will be going into detail on this over the next week. Let's just say The Cat Basket is a little bit angry.

Quick Update

We are back from Annapolis and later today we will go over every aspect of the game. A new podcast will be up in a couple of hours as well.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thomas makes it official.

As reported yesterday, Todd Thomas has announced his decision to join the Pitt Panthers. Hopefully his academics clear up and he can join the Panthers next season.

Todd Thomas will announce tomorrow

Like I've said before, I fully expect Todd Thomas to become a Pitt Panther. He has been high on Pitt for quite some time now. The big local 3 for us has always been DiCicco, Thomas, and Mason. DiCicco committed only a few days ago and Todd Thomas should make recruit #13 for the Panthers.

Thomas is ranked as the 23rd best WR prospect by and is widely considered to be a player that could make an early impact. The only concern with Thomas is his grades. If he tried to enroll right now he would be academically ineligible. Luckily though he has time to improve his academic standing to hopefully become eligible for next season. Usually when you see players is academic trouble this early, it is a strong indication that the player will have to spend a year at prep school. Hopefully though he turns things around much like Dejuan Blair did during his senior year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is 16 Days Enough?

So for the last couple of days this question has been running through my head thinking about the Navy game: Is 16 days long enough to build a defensive gameplan to beat the triple option? The only answer I continue to come up with is maybe. There is one thing we now know about this team in the past probably 10 games reaching back to last year, we can stop the spread. Navy is such a unique offense and played so well against us last year that I can't get confident about this game.

If the Navy offense is working on Saturday they are going to be getting big yardage and time-consuming drives. What killed us last year was the fact that they turned long drives into touchdowns. This year I think the goal has to be not allowing the points. It may be impossible to completely shut them down but you can keep them out of the endzone, hopefully the offense can score enough points to put the game out of reach. 

What I do know is that against USF this defense became Phil Bennett's. His style overrode the way we usually play defense and I'm extremely interested to see what he does against this unique gameplan of Navy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Notes from today's press conference

Since Pitt decided to allow the students a fall break which conveniently fell on Columbus day, I was able to get some news and notes from the Wannstedt press conference as we head into Navy this weekend.

Just like last year, we are very very concerned about their ability to run the ball. While he wouldn't come out and say that the fullback option is the key of their offense, coach Wannstedt certainly talked about it at length during the press conference.

He also made it a point to make us aware that while Navy's main quarterback is hampered by a hamstring injury, he feels that both of the Navy quarterbacks are capable of hurting us with the passing game. I found this very funny as Navy has barely thrown the ball much this season. Going back to the 70's, Wannstedt said that Navy is similar to Oklahoma of that era.

The one thing that scares me and something I hope we are prepared for is Navy's ability to adjust. Coach Wannstedt made a very good point of how their formations are very similar but their blocking schemes and run designs are very different. He also said that he does not believe that there is a defense that they have not seen. I hope that Wannstedt is not lying to us when he says we have to mix it up on defense to keep them confused and keep them guessing.

Wannstedt also said he was expecting a hostile environment at Navy this week. I don't necessarily agree with that. I have a feeling we will be seeing many Pitt fans making this short road trip. Given that Navy's stadium only holds about 35,000 seats plus Pitt selling out our allotment, I don't believe the crowd will be as big of a factor as he does.

I've had the opportunity to meet Coach Wannstedt several times, but at this press conference I noticed he was wearing a blue bracelet on his right arm. If any of you know what it is or what it is for, I sure am curious as to what it stands for.

All in all, this press conference was almost exactly the same as we have seen in the past. Very little detail was given, many compliments were handed out to our own players as well as to our opponents, and the standard lines were in full force. I expect next week to be the same style after we win against Navy. Should the outcome be less favorable, I'd expect to see a little bit of a different tone coming from Southside.

Murray possibly out for the season

Early reports from Southside indicate that linebacker Shane Murray will have to have surgery on his injured knee and will miss the remainder of the season. The Panthers and Shane were hoping to be able to hold off on surgery until the end of the season but the injured knee has not improved to where the staff had hoped he would be at this point. Also since Shane has dressed for a few games this season it looks like a medical redshirt will not be a possibility making next season his last. This also means that Austin Ransom will be the starting linebacker for the rest of the season barring any unusual circumstances.

Hopefully Shane can recover well and finish up his career with the Panthers on a good note next season.

Plus 1, Minus 1

There was no big surprise when Brock DiCicco called Dave Wannstedt to let him know he planned on joining the Panthers. Pretty much everyone figured Brock would be a Panther and the only question we asked was when he would announce it. Sure there was some doubts after the Bowling Green game, but almost everyone saw the writing on the wall once he canceled his trip to Wisconsin.

Brock makes recruit #12 for the Panthers and he will probably end up at tight end here. We are lucky to get him as he will probably red shirt next year and get time to learn the position as Nate Byham, John Pelusi and Dorin Dickerson finish up their senior year. Outside of Brock, we will have Mike Cruz and Justin Virbitsky lined up to take the tight end spot. I don't believe that Cruz will finish his career as a tight end so that should line up a nice battle between Virbitsky and DiCicco for the tight end job.

With this commitment, we are now 1 of 3 for the 3 guys who I believe are Pitt locks. The other two are both 4 star recruits: wide receiver Todd Thomas and linebacker Dan Mason. Thomas is an interesting guy as he is very talented, however his grades are questionable and while he may commit, he may not be on the roster next year.

Also of recruiting importance is that the 3rd rated QB, Tajh Boyd has decommitted from WVU. Apparently he now has 0 interest in joining back with the mountaineers. Not only have they lost him, but it looks like he will be going to either Boston College or Tennessee, both of which are having some problems within their own conference.

Another recruit of theirs, wide receiver Logan Heastie from Virginia is supposedly going to re-open his commitment. This is very interesting as he was a solid commit to the mountaineers and was one half of recruiting gems of this class with Boyd. A class that could have been huge for the mounties now seems to be falling apart.

Lastly, I wanted to point out for everyone worrying about that school out east that is "not our rival", that even though they don't have a loss, they are not doing well in the Pittsburgh area. They only have one recruit for next year that came from inside the "Pitt wall" that Wanny talked of building. I wouldn't worry about them too much though. They have a cupcake schedule while playing in an overrated garbage conference. Say what you will about the Big East, but at least we don't go around acting like we are the greatest conference in the world. Perception is not always reality. While the Big 10 may be considered a good conference, they are not. Outside of one good team at the top every year they are pretty weak, much like the Big East.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Weekend College Football Preview

Well since there hasn't been that much to write about since the great USF win I thought I would bring some non-Pitt content to the Cat Basket. Another weekend of college football is coming up and the Big 12 and SEC continue to be the only conferences that truly matter. Here are my picks and thoughts:
  1. (5) Texas vs (1) Oklahoma: First off this game isn't going to be on TV in Pittsburgh because they are showing the Big East Game of the Week. Let that simmer for a second, instead of getting the best college football game of the year so far they are showing a game from the worst BCS conference in the nation. Onto the game this is going to be a really close one with some amazing QB play. I'm going out on a limb and saying that Texas is going to win this game. I love Sam Bradford and I think he is the next big quarterback but I really like the versatility that Texas has on offense. Colt McCoy can do it all and I think his running will push Texas over the top. The winnner of this game will be 1/2 of the BCS Title Game.
  2. Notre Dame vs (22) North Carolina: UNC is going to smash the Fighting Horrible Arrogant Fan Base. Notre Dame is still an uneven team and I don't buy the hype that Jimmy Clausen has turned the corner at all.
  3. (17) Oklahoma St vs (3) Missouri: Another amazing Big 12 game but I think this is going to be a showcase win for Mizzou. Enjoy Chase Daniel playing the quarterback position.
  4. (6) Penn St vs Wisconsin: I have been convinced that Wisky is the best team in the Big Ten but I have been proven wrong the last two weeks. I'm not jumping off the bandwagon because the Badgers are going kill the BCS Title game dreams of the Nitters.
  5. (13) Vanderbilt vs Mississippi St: This is my upset pick of the week. I like Vanderbilt and I'm totally rooting for them to pull the impossible and win the SEC but this game feels like a trap. After the big win over Auburn I could see a let down and Mississippi St. is a tough team to beat on the road just like the rest of the SEC.
So there are some quick thoughts I have about the weekend just let me warn you that I'm usually wrong about everything.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Blue and Gold Homecoming

The Pitt/Navy kickoff on October 18th is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. More importantly than that is the fact that it will be Navy's homecoming. I'm not going to lie, I really don't know much about Navy's tradition and all that comes along with being a Navy fan. The one thing I do know is that there are plenty of Panther fans preparing to make the trip to Annapolis, MD.

The Cat Basket is just one of the few groups of Pitt fans that will be going to cheer on our Pitt Panthers for what should be a great revenge game for us. Joining the Cat Basket will be most of the leaders of the Oakland Zoo as well as many members from the Pitt Drumline.

If you were interested in going to the game there are still tickets available through Navy. I'm encouraging everyone who has the slightest of interest in this game to make the short trip and give our Panthers an added boost. Like I said, I don't know much about the atmosphere at Navy football games, but there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to travel well to this game. I'm hoping that we not only get a few thousand to go, but get a loud, boisterous few thousand to go and make an impact for our team. While we won't be able to out draw the Navy fans, hopefully we can reduce their advantage like we have seen other teams do to us. From what I've seen from Pitt fans, those that travel are very vocal in their support for the Panthers. That is why it is important that YOU join us and do your part to help our Panthers on the road.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

24 in the AP

Tomorrow morning when you're sitting at your desk and drinking your coffee complaining about another Monday at least you'll be able to smile because Pitt is back in one of the polls. The AP has ranked us #24 this week. Luckily since we have a bye it looks like we won't be dropping out next week either.

The unfortunate news is that we are not ranked in the Coaches Poll. In fact there are 7 other teams who received more votes than we did in the poll. I wouldn't worry about that too much though because with the bye week some of those 1 loss teams will quickly turn into 2 loss teams and hopefully give us some separation from them.

I fully expect us to come out angry and aggressive in the Navy game. The coaches feel we need to avenge last years loss and put a hurting on Navy. The best way to do that will be to run the same game plan against them as we did against USF. Last year we did the base 4-3, didn't adjust and worried too much about the pass. Against USF we committed more to the run and it worked well. Enough about game planning, Jason and I will have plenty of stuff throughout the next two weeks to write about plus we will have a couple of special podcasts up this week and next so keep checking back!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Morning Hangover Thoughts

Well it's a little over twelve hours after the giant win over USF and I'll try to do a cleanup of my thoughts from the live blog of the game. In one word I'm shocked about the outcome of this game, seeing as nothing from the previous weeks had shown signs of this gameplan. I was so impressed by everybody involved with Pitt football last night and finally we have a national profile again. This is going to be a great 16 days to prepare for Navy.

Matt Cavanaugh really deserves all the credit in the world for a perfect gameplan last night. We ditched the stupid wide receiver screen pass and replaced them with shovel passes and screens up the middle. He found a way to completely negate the speed of the USF defense. Also he didn't lose faith in a quarterback who looked shaky and overwhelmed the entire game. Finally, we are giving the playmakers a chance to win the game on the field and Cavanaugh really drilled it home last night with his playcalling.

Shady really announced that he was back in full form last night. After the early fumble I couldn't have been more down on him but it seemed that a switch flipped inside and he found that gear that had been missing in his game. His running in the second half is what won the game. Big 3rd down runs and the fact that he finished with touchdowns inside of the 20. Hot Rod also made some huge plays in the passing game to keep the clock running and getting first downs. The running game is only going to get better and more dominant as the season goes on which is a great thing to think of as a Pitt fan. 

Defensively we finally saw the team that we all predicted in the preseason. Phil Bennett finally dialed up the pressure and it neutralized the USF offense. The key to his attack was the blitzing of Scott McKillop up the middle of the USF offensive line. McKillop has become a legend at linebacker in the past two seasons and he is always at the heart of our defensive success.  He had a tremendous game and is just furthering his repuation as an All American and Butkus Award Candidate. A bunch of praise needs to go to the defensive line who did a great job of containing and putting Grothe on the ground. They are another group that had a coming out party last night. The pressure on the quarterback seemed to really help the secondary minus one broken play. 

One last bit of praise has to go to Conor Lee who has become a great clutch kicker. I have a feeling Lee is going to make a run at the Groza Award and being an All American. He is automatic which has helped us so much.

Overall what a great win and this is a new era of Pitt football. We have went through some intense growing pains but the corner has been turned. All respect to Wanny and his staff for a great gameplan and great motivation of his players.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thank God I was wrong!

I said that I just don't see us winning the game. I was wrong. The team played great.

On offense Stull made great key throws. Baldwin was given a chance to show what he can do and he certainly came through. Kinder is Kinder. He is consistent game in and game out, we are very lucky to have a wide receiver like him around. Dorin had a nice end around and gave us a critical 3rd down conversion. Lastly I want to mention Oderick Turner. I have been one of his biggest critics and was very happy to hear that he was going to have limited playing time due to his poor play. He, like the rest of the team proved me wrong. He had great catches, fought for yards, and looked like a completely different player. I said that his freshman year showed what it took for him to play well. He is the type of guy that needs to feel pressured to play well. Last year and this year he had one of the starting spots just handed to him and he didn't produce. This game he had to fight with Porter, McGee, and Baldwin for time and he showed that he can be a good player when he wants to be.

Shady deserves a paragraph all to himself and I'm sure he'll get full columns about the way he played today. The fumble he had early on really killed our momentum at a critical time. Instead of dwelling on that and pulling out some "Poor-me" attitude, he went back out there more determined than ever and played the like the back we saw last year. He carried this team tonight. He fought for the hard yards and did what it took to convert third downs. Shady was the all star and he deserves major credit for this win.

The defense did a great job today as well. Minus that drive where USF ran all over us, they played a great game. The line looked like the guys we hyped up all season. The linebackers were in position all game long. McKillop had 14 tackles today and gave the Panthers something to brag about as our All-American linebacker played like an All-American.

Conor Lee should get Big East honors again. He is the most clutch kicker we have ever had since I've followed Pitt football. When we talk all time great Pitt special teams players, Conor Lee and Andy Lee will be the top two that always come to mind.

The main people though who deserve some praise is the coaching staff. This is the type of game that fans were calling for all season. A game plan like today's would have beaten Bowling Green, and would have allowed for 14 or more point victories against Iowa and Syracuse. I don't know if Cavanaugh called the plays he wanted or if Wannstedt wanted an open, unconventional, unpredictable offense. Whatever the case, it worked and we need to stick with it. Phil Bennett also showed the defense I thought we were getting when he was hired this off season. Our blitz packages were effective all game long. We can't play afraid anymore. We know that when we take chances we will be successful and we will win.

Overall it was the best play calling we have seen from this staff ever. They trusted the players, and the players came up big when they had to. Kudos to everyone.

Like I said before, I was wrong, I am glad I was wrong, and I hope you all let me know that I was wrong.

Live Blog Pitt vs USF

7:28- Ok so we are almost at the pregame. Erin Andrews is in Tampa so we have that going for us, nice to look at not so nice on the ears with that insane accent. Mark May continues to get mocked on a weekly basis for his Pitt affliation. I'm extremely hyped up for this hopefully I'm not crying by the end of the first quarter. 

7:47- Awful first two plays by Stull. If he is playing like this all game I don't see what we can do on offense. They bailed us out with that running into the kicker penalty. Hopefully it gets better.

7:51- Offense looks as bad as I have ever seen. Stull is overhwhelmed and scared you can see it in his body language. We had no choice but to call that screen on the third down. The offensively line was completely demolished off the line. This could get ugly and get ugly fast.

7:57- Absolutely huge defensive stand. Bringing the heat on the third down was great. USF looks really sloppy tonight. If we get it together on offense this game could be ours. 

8:02- Two good runs by Shady and then nothing. Stull needs to calm down. This game isn't that far out of reach. As I was typing that absolute disaster. 7-0 Bulls good job coaching the special teams. 

8:06- Nate Nix blew his assignment on that punt. Some of the team looks scared of the atmosphere which is scary. You can see the fear in the body language.

8:11- THAT IS WHAT EVERYBODY WAS TALKING ABOUT. There we go Baldwin!!!! 7-7

8:13- Hopefully that play gives Stull some confidence. Baldwin is untouchable by any corner in the entire nation. Great play and great throw, we have been waiting all year for that.

8:15- Giant play by DeCicco, what a great time to make one. Momentum has completely changed. Come on offense.

8:17- Two good plays by Cross on first and second down. Stull still isn't settled down and that doesn't bode well for the rest of the game. Big time missed opportunity and a terrible punt by Brytus.

8:23- The defense looks much improved, Romeus almost had Grothe in the backfield. That play was just bad luck but I'm really excited about the way we have negated the speed of the USF offense. Hopefully this drive ends up with a field goal or better. Very promising.

8:28- Fantastic defensive stand and amazing special teams play. We are playing with great fire right now and we need to turn it into some yardage on offense. Awesome!

8:30- Shady may have just cost us all our momentum. He needs to stop that.

8:33- The defense looks exactly like what we thought preseason. USF looks slow and that is coming from our great defensive pressure. Shady needs to be benched. 

8:42- Best offensive drive we have had all year. Shady has really came back and had a great drive. Awesome play call on the fourth down with the pass to Collins. This is as effecient and as smooth as our offense gets. I have to praise that giant block by Thomas on the big run from Shady. Looking good.

8:49- 14-7 that drive was all Shady. What a great play and great job of keeping moving after the tackle. Baldwin has already made a huge impact on this game. What a great drive!

9:00- Grothe looks really bad and our defense looks great. We need to attack here!

9:08- Baldwin has dominated this game when the ball has been thrown to him. Another great drive but I fear Wanny is going full field goal mode. We need a touchdown it could be huge.

9:12- Wanny is the only coach I have ever seen who ices his own kicker consistently. Lee makes it though. 17-7

9:16- Best football we have played this year. We need to come out and attack in the second half though. This is not the time for Wanny ball but seriously this first half has been amazing.

9:47- The next offensive series is going to decide the game here. We had to expect USF to get it going and now its going to be up to Cavanaugh and Wanny to attack the USF defense. Again Wanny ball will kill us this half.

9:55- That drive didn't go well but we tried to open it up and make plays. This game has been a complete 180 from what the rest of the season has been. If we go down at least we have gone down fighting.

10:00- Huge defensive stand again. Where was this team hiding for the first 4 games? McKillop is a god amongst men.

10:05- Wow we really didn't need that. Stull needs to get rid of that ball. 

10:08- The blitz has killed Grothe all game. I love the pressure that we are bringing. This is an exciting defense. Good luck offense.

10:12- What an amazing play by Shady. Really great stuff.

10:23- I never thought I would say this but we are playing perfectly on offense to attack the USF defense. The screen passes are working perfectly and we are finding ways to get first downs while eating up clock. Cavanaugh has called a perfect game thus far. Those words shouldn't make sense in a sentence but tonight they do. 

10:29- Good drive it would have been even better with a touchdown. The defense needs to make a big stand. This is going to be interesting.

10:39- That was all fatigue and Thatcher being atroicous in coverage. So I guees Buddy Morris isn't the genius of fitness people want to pass him off as. Still it has been a great game and we are leaving it all on the field.

10:44- Shady is all the way back. Oderick Turner seems to have really responded to getting benched. Again where was this offense all year? Going for 2!!!!! Stull blew it but still, this has been such a great coming out party.

10:51- Amazing job by the defense. I take all that back that I said. Amazing defensive gameplan by Bennett.

10:58- Great job of running out the clock. Shady has really announced that he is still a national star. This win makes us relevant nationally again. 

11:01- This is the biggest win we have had under Wannstedt. The program is now on a different level then we have been in years. What an amazing job by Phil Bennett and Matt Cavanaugh, this is exactly what we needed. Unbelieveable!

11:12- As a closer this was the best called game I have seen under this coaching staff. Every thing we did worked and this is something we could totally build off of. Not to overrate it but beating USF on national tv at home is amazing. This is one of those moments as Pitt football fans we wait for. Enjoy every single second before the next game because Pitt football now means something.

Live Blog Tonight

I'm going to be back tonight for the primetime USF game. This time around I'm going to update at the end of every drive in order to present my thoughts in a more coherent manner. See you at 7:30 tonight.

It is a good thing that the games aren't played on paper

Actually, maybe it would be better if they were. We'd be undefeated and heading towards another victory. As you know I usually try to do some predictions before the game, much like Jason Jones. This week however the words were taken out of my mouth. If you want to read a good and humorous take on the game, check out Panther Rants preview. I don't have the balls to include the picture of Darrell Strong "saluting" the USF student section, but they have the photo over there, so go and check it out.

If you want to know what the worst part of tomorrow night is going to be I can try and explain it for you.

I will be getting out of class around 8:15 tomorrow because somehow my professor thinks that when a class is scheduled to end at 7:50 it actually means 8:15 so that he can get an extra 25 minutes into class. I mean it's not really like any of us mind being in class until 8:15. We're grad students I'm sure there is nothing else we'd rather be doing.

So at 8 tomorrow we have the Pitt game (espn), Survivor: Gabon (cbs), and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (fox).

At 9, they canceled the office so that we can watch Joey the Shark and Sarah Barracuda battle about taxes and other stuff. That will be on every single channel except for TBS (baseball playoffs) and ESPN (go Pitt).

So while tomorrow will be filled with football, it looks like I get to spend Friday finding Ramsay's and the full debate online while watching Survivor on the ol' On Demand.

So if you're not expecting too much from the game (like I am) I recommend you go onto youtube and watch some Pitt clips to get you in the mood and pumped up.

I really hope that we win this game and I believe that if our special teams plays well and if we prevent the big play, we can win this game. I just don't see that happening even if Selvie doesn't play.

My prediction: USF 38 - Pitt 20. They put it on us last year, but our defense is better this year. Our offense put up a decent amount of points last year, but their D is better this year too. I'm praying for a miracle, but I'm trying to be as realistic as possible. I really hope that tomorrow all of the readers leave comments here laughing at me for being wrong and Pitt pulling off the upset.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Predictions For USF

Quick turnaround for the team means quick turnaround for my predictions. National TV and a top 10 opponent make this game incredibly exciting. This really is it for the season if we have any hopes to be a real contender for the Big East title.  A win here changes everything about the program in terms of perception and the trajectory of this season.On to the predictions:
  1. The running game is going to have a big day. Shady is going to have his breakout game this season and Hot Rod is going to continue his great play. I feel like the gameplan is going to be as vanilla as we have ever seen it so the running game needs to be successful.                              Shady Stat Line: 35 carries, 185 yard, 2 TDs                                                                                  Hot Rod Stat Line: 10 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD
  2. On defense we are either going to have feast or famine. Our lack of pressure on the quarterback could be a blessing in disguise if the secondary has a great game against Grothe. Sheard and Romeus need to have a huge game tracking him down and not letting him break the big run. Quarterbacks that can do it all have killed us in the past and I'm not confident that this is going to change.
  3. Stull is going to have a much better game. I have a feeling that he will be able to bounce back and manage the game. It's not realistic to expect any sort of big statistical game from a QB in our offense but if Stull can complete over 65% of his passes and not turn the ball over it will be a good day. 
  4. Baldwin and Cross will be non-factors again. The coaching staff is going to play an extremely tight and conservative game. I don't expect to see any type of deviation from the run the ball up the middle and play field position football game.
USF is the class of the Big East and have already won a big game at home against Kansas. Wanny and co. are going to try to go into South Florida and keep the game close until the fourth quarter and win the game then. I don't know if that is going to work but I'm going to be a bit delusional when I give my prediction. 

Pitt 24 USF 21