Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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.


Brian Ising said...

The last time we were ranked this high through 6 games and favored to play in a major bowl was 1982. Seriously. Call me optimistic, but I'm a little excited about that and about the rest of our season.

Yes, I expected us to be 5-1 at this point. But I expected a loss at USF and a close win at Navy. Instead, we covered the spread by 20 points in both games and looked very impressive. I expected to be 5-1 but still ranked below WVU and USF. Instead, we already have a win over USF at their place and WVU has fallen out of the rankings and has not looked good.

You can argue that we haven't exceeded expectations yet, but the game that we lost (BG instead of USF) and the performance of the rest of the Big East has certainly put us in a better position than most of us expected to be in at this point.

Of course, I'm not ready to throw a parade either. As Smizik wrote last week, we are still Pitt, and it has been over 25 years since we have had a 10-win season. But I am holding out hope that this is the year we make up for a quarter-century of disappointments.

johnny said...


When I read your last sentence, "I'm excited but I still remember who and what we are" I imagined it read in a Dennis Green voice.

The Panthers are what we thought they were!