HUTCHINS HONORED, LOUISVILLE KICKOFF SET
For a second time in three weeks, Pitt's Dan Hutchins was honored by the Big East as its Special Teams Player of the Week. Hutchins averaged 50.2 yards on five punts Saturday, and two punts inside the 20, was perfect on all six extra-point attempts and added a 24-yard field goal as well.
After Wannstedt's press conference, Pitt's kickoff for Louisville on October 30, was announced as a noon kickoff.
WANNSTEDT, PITT SUPPORT RUTGERS DEFENSIVE TACKLE ERIC LEGRAND
Before opening his weekly press conference, Wannstedt took a moment to send his thoughts towards Rutgers, specifically defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who had surgery to his C3 and C4 vertebrae, following a tackle on a kickoff in Saturday's Rutgers win over Army.
"Very, very unfortunate injury," Wannstedt said. "I corresponded with Greg Schiano yesterday. From our team, and our players, our thoughts and prayers are with Eric, and very hopeful that he makes a full recovery."
ROBERTS, STREET, SADDLER EARN PRAISE
In addition to Special Teams Player of the Week Hutchins, Tristan Roberts and Cameron Saddler were invited to speak with the media on Monday. Roberts made his first career start on Saturday, finishing with four tackles and a team-high two tackles for losses. Saddler finished with 96 return yards, including 76 yards in the first quarter alone. Saddler's 31-yard punt return set up Tino Sunseri's 15-yard touchdown pass to Ray Graham, to give Pitt a 14-7 lead.
"The most encouraging thing other than the win, was to see some players--counting on these guys when the opportunity presents itself--to step up and perform," Wannstedt said. "But you have to wait for that time to come. Tristan Roberts had an outstanding game, made some really good plays. Devin Street made some really big plays. I was really pleased with Cam Saddler, how he bounced back from up at Notre Dame--the whole punt return scenario. It's a combination of guys that continue to make progress."
Wannstedt also praised the coaching staff's defensive player of the week, Dom DeCicco.
"Dom played safety and nickle back, and played as good as he's played all year, without a doubt."
TURNOVERS GOOD, PENALTIES STILL A PROBLEM
Pitt did not turn the ball over against Syracuse, while forcing four turnovers. Entering the Syracuse game, Pitt was -2 in turnover margin, now they're +2.
Despite the 31-point win, Wannstedt said penalties continue to plague them, and are still a concern. The Panthers committed 10 penalties for a total of 99 yards, and are still averaging 8.5 penalties a game for 63.3 yards a game.
"The penalties were good in the first half," Wannstedt said. "We had a sinking spell in the second half. I wasn't happy with that."
In addition to mentioning Street, Saddler and Roberts as a few new faces who stepped up on Saturday, Wannstedt also mentioned Buddy Jackson's name as a player who stepped up Saturday. Jackson totaled two tackles in punt coverage, which resulted in 1 total return yard.
"He's taking on that challenge," Wannstedt said of Jackson. "Buddy's involved in our nickle, our bandit and some of our third down packages, and he's our third corner today if something were to happen. I'm very encouraged that he's become a very dependable player on special teams. He's participated in everything."
Nate Nix, who according to Wannstedt ends up with the most "production points" as a result of his special teams play, is almost strictly a special teams player. Wannstedt said Nix approached him about the idea of playing more on special teams, since he wasn't starting at linebacker. Nix has excelled at special teams since then. Jackson is excelling on special teams in the same manner, and Wannstedt is encouraged with Jackson's progress.
"He's always had great ability," Wannstedt said. "Ithink just being consistent at the job at hand is what's been lacking. This year, so far so good."
NEW LOOK OFFENSIVE LINE ON RIGHT TRACK
In its first three games, Pitt averaged 126.3 yards on the ground, while the passing game produced three touchdown passes and four interceptions.
After three games with an offensive line that now has Lucas Nix at right guard, and Jordan Gibbs the starter at right tackle, the running game has averaged 177 yards a game, while producing six touchdown passes and just one interception. The personnel change on the offensive line--with each passing game--looks like the right move. Saturday was also the first game the line did not commit an illegal procedure penalty, even though Pitt is still being plagued by penalties as a whole.
"We've taken some steps forward," Wannstedt said about the group. "(Syracuse) brought quite a bit of pressure. Our guys did a good job handling it. This week will be even more difficult. The guy forced to make the biggest adjustment is Lucas Nix, and particularly on the run game, because we do so much pulling with our offensive guards. He's been forced to make some adjustments, and every week you see him making decisions on the move. That's the key. We're getting closer."