SUNDAY MORNING HANGOVER
As can be expected after such a loss on Friday, it was a little bit tough getting things going when the team came in for practice on Sunday. Head coach Dave Wannstedt had to take some extra time to meet with the team as a group before carrying things over to the field. Eventually, he said, they were able to have a productive practice.
"It was tough starting off for everybody," Wannstedt said. "As we got into it, we actually put the pads on, and we got after it pretty good. The last half-hour of practice, was energy back, and the kids were coming back."
Senior Dom DeCicco placed some extra responsibility on his shoulders, and took his stance as a team captain.
"It was one of the toughest times to walk in (to the practice facility) since I‘ve been here," DeCicco said. "We have a chance to still be a part of a championship team, even though we might not get the BCS. There's still a lot to play for. We put a lot of time in. It's going to be our last two games together; just make it the best we can."
THOUGHTS ON TCU
Some of the biggest news of the day had nothing to do with Pitt's loss on Friday, nothing to do with Dave Wannstedt's job security and nothing to do with Pitt's bowl implications. TCU held a press conference little over an hour after the completion of Dave Wannstedt's press conference to announce it was joining the Big East, starting with the 2012-13 school year.
Though his press conference was prior to TCU's announcement, Wannstedt was a little hesitant on making any comment about the conference's newest member. Though it was a golden opportunity to stretch to his Dallas Cowboys roots, Wannstedt only issued the following.
"I know that TCU is an outstanding program," Wannstedt said. "I have not talked to Steve Pederson or anyone about it. I don't even know if it has officially happened. At this time, I don't have any other comment."
THOUGHTS ON JOB SECURITY
With a 6-5 record after being picked as the preseason favorite in the Big East, Pitt did not live up to its preseason expectations. In some cases, coaches are fired or asked to resign when expectations are not met. Such is the case at Miami where Wannstedt's close friend Randy Shannon was fired just hours after a loss at home to South Florida on Saturday, a team Pitt beat a week ago 17-10. Pitt was throttled by the Hurricanes in Week 3, 31-3. Miami finished 7-5 overall, second in the ACC's Coastal Division.
Wannstedt was posed the question at his weekly press conference, and said he is confident that he will remain in his role as head coach at Pitt. First, he said there's only one thing on his mind.
"Try to win Saturday," Wannstedt said.
He added on to that a little bit.
"I'm not concerned with that, we're just trying to beat Cincinnati; trust me," Wannstedt said. "We're not going to graduate very many players, and we have a lot of recruits committed. We have a good, young team coming back."
In reference to him saying they are not graduating many players, he is referring to Pitt's class of 11 total seniors, not graduation rates.
The only injuries to report on were Cameron Saddler, who Wannstedt said twisted his back in the first quarter against West Virginia. He practiced Sunday, and is expected to be ready to go for Saturday. The only other noticeable player missing from the starting lineup was right guard Lucas Nix, who did not start on Friday, and was held out for the first series of the game."
"There was a reason for that," Wannstedt said. "Just something in-house."
Cincinnati has a three-headed monster at quarterback, running back and receiver.. Zach Collaros had started some games prior to this season, but after a full season under his belt, leads the Big East in passing yards (279.4 yards a game) and touchdown passes (25). Running back Isaiah Pead needs 68 yards to cross the 1,000-yard mark for the season, and the Bearcats have quite a duo at receiver, in the 6-3, 204-pound Armon Binns (72 rec., 1,072 yards, 10 TD) and the 6-0, 176-pound speedster D.J. Woods (56 rec., 890 yards, 8 TD)
"They make plays," Wannstedt said of Cincinnati's skill players. "Armon Binns, D.J. Woods, they are explosive, and (Collaros) does a great job of making decisions."
Pead was also a one-time Pitt recruit.
"He is a very productive back in high school, and he's very productive now," Wannstedt said of Pead. "They will hand the ball off, they are very balanced. He's not one dimensional. He can run routes."
CORNERS PUT UP TO THE CHALLENGE
With Binns and Woods waiting in the wings, Pitt's secondary may have its toughest test yet. This test couldn't come at a worse time, as the secondary has had to pick up the pieces after the last two games.
Antwuan Reed and Ricky Gary combined for five pass interference penalties at South Florida two weeks ago. Friday, converted receiver Tavon Austin beat each one of them for a touchdown reception--a 71-yarder against Reed, and a 12-yarder where he was wide open in the end zone, against Gary.
"We got to get them coached back, and fast," Wannstedt said. "Binns is the most productive receiver in our conference right now. Everything I hear right now is that he's going to be a high draft pick. Ricky Gary has played steady all year. He got caught in the one jump ball situation on Saturday. Antwuan needs to bounce back a little bit. He's played steady. We have to keep coaching him up. He's got good ability. He's got good want-to. We have to keep coaching him up and get more out of him."
Wannstedt said he is working both Buddy Jackson and K'Waun Williams into the mix more, but also said not to expect any changes in the starting lineup just yet.
"We're not going to make any wholesale changes, but we're going to play as many guys as we can," Wannstedt said.
IMPORTANCE OF GETTING TO A BOWL
Though Pitt has no control of which bowl they go to, regardless of the win or loss, Wannstedt did say that he looks forward to the opportunity of getting another month of practice with this team. With possible bowl games in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl (December 30), BCS Fiesta or Orange Bowl (January 1 or January 3 respectively) or the Beef O'Brady Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama (January 8), Pitt would have close to a month of extra practice, regardless of the bowl scenario.
Wannstedt did not comment specifically on any of those bowls, but on paper, those three look to be the likely destinations, pending a win or loss by Pitt on Saturday. In either case, instead of getting a couple weeks like Pitt had last year for the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Panthers could be looking at an extra month of practice, then just a couple months off before spring football starts. Wannstedt said he would welcome the extra practice time.
"You cannot get enough of that," Wannstedt said. "With spring practice, you get the pads on, and you count the spring game. You're looking at ten, twelve full-speed true practices, Anything that we can get done, in addition to training camp--where you're limited--in addition to spring practices, is valuable. The bowl game will be served in those areas in terms of player development."