There's no need to look past Florida International next week. It, like everything else, shouldn't be looked at as a pushover game. We've seen enough of those situations in the past to know better. However, Paul Chryst is changing the culture of this program. We're seeing it so far this season. A win over a team that they should beat, to start 3-0, and the progression continues.
3. Gabe Roberts. Hopefully, Artie Rowell's knee sprain isn't too serious. But credit the offensive line, and credit Gabe Roberts for stepping in, and doing very well. Two years ago, I'm not even sure who would have been able to step in. Even last year for the bowl game, Tyrone Ezell was the next guy to go in,on the offensive line. Tonight, we as two instances, maybe three if you can't T.J. Clemmings going in. Snapping the ball is something that's often overlooked in football. The center has so many more responsibilities, on top of that little thing called snapping the ball, starting the play. Roberts coming in and doing what he did not only helped Pitt continue the flow of the game, but also showed the depth of the offensive line.
2. Anthony Gonzalez. When Tyler Murphy ripped off that 51-yard run in the first quarter, which led to the go-ahead touchdown (and what would be Boston College's only lead of the game), the defensive coaches did a good job adjusting after that drive, putting Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez in position to make plays, to help slow down Murphy's attack. Gonzalez led all Pitt defenders with six tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. There's no question Gonzalez' background as a quarterback helps him here. But also credit Pitt's defensive staff for adjusting on the fly, putting him and Thomas in position to make plays. Certainly is a confidence booster on many levels.
1. James Conner. 35 carries, 214 yards, one touchdown. Through two games, he's carried the ball 49 times for 366 yards, an average of 7.5 yards per carry. The most impressive stat, is that he only has five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Add to that his 183 yards per game, and Pitt's 355.5 yards per game in two games, and it's becoming by clear that not only is Paul Chryst doing what he wants to do, philosophically, but it's taking off faster than we expected. There's still 10 regular season games to play, but this year's team is off on the right foot, literally.
I thought after Murphy's 51-yard run, it was going to be a long night. The defense kept it together, and they responded after that drive. All it really took was that next defensive series, forcing a Boston College punt, after pinning them deep in their own territory. The defensive staff made some great adjustments, allowing the linebackers to come in and make plays, but it was a group effort. And keep in mind,it all starts up front. There's no Aaron Donald this year, but after that long run from Murphy, that front four really settled in, and controlled the line of scrimmage. Pitt didn't even blitz that much either, further proof that the front four was simply playing sound, fundamental football on their individual matchups.
* Special teams. Ryan Winslow isn't booming 80-yard punts or anything, but tonight alone, he had one of five punts downed inside the 20, another that was a touchback. Chris Blewitt had four of seven kickoffs go for touchbacks. And aside from that, he had three field goals of over 40 yards, including a long of 49. It doesn't seem all that weird now, when Chryst offered Winslow and Blewitt scholarships in the Class of 2013.
* The plus/minus game is really working in Pitt's favor right now. In two games, the defense has forced five interceptions, while first-year starter Chad Voytik threw the first interception of his career tonight. That's a plus-four after two games, and it's been awhile since Pitt as ahead in that category, two games or not.
* Terrish Webb leads the team with two interceptions. In addition to that, I felt he was in good position in run support tonight, aside from Murphy's big run. I like the way he's been developing, even from last week to this week.
* Another guy I feel took some steps tonight is Chad Voytik. 10-20, not Heisman type numbers, but I liked the way he was taking chances as the game wore on. Early on, it looked like he was zeroing in on Tyler Boyd. That can be good and bad. Good, the fact that he knows Boyd is a playmaker. That's easy to zero in on a guy like that, when you know what he can do. But there were two completions he had, that we're very accurate throws, and a sign he's on the right path. One, the first half completion to Mansseh Garner that went for 33 yards. Voytik got drilled on the play, but Garner was in double-coverage. He came away with the catch, but Voytik hung in there and put the ball in a spot where Garner could easily get to it. The other was Boyd's first touchdown grab. The safety was supposed to hover in that play, something BC was doing a lot, especially with Boyd. Voytik read it well--putting it in a spot where he knew Boyd could get to, but also out of the safety's reach.
Not to mention, he ran the ball eight times for 58 yards. If there's one thing I really didn't know about him, or maybe I knew and just didn't see it since this is his first year as a starter, he loves to get his uniform dirty. His offensive line is keeping him off his back, so that may be part of it, but we're also seeing that he loves to take off and run, almost throwing himself at defenders.
* On that note, Pitt hasn't allowed any sacks in two games, while producing six sacks on defense. That's already an improvement from a year ago. Yes, only two games, but it's already developed to this point. The coaches seem to like the package of putting Jaryd Jones-Smith at left tackle, with Adam Bisnowaty at left guard. We didn't see this combination until the second week of training camp. What seems like an experiment to test this group in a situational type of thing, looks like a brilliant find. On top of that, Jones-Smith doesn't look like a redshirt freshman. Bisnowaty doesn't look like someone who's trying guard for the first time.
* For as young a team as this is, they overcame adversity in three different instances. One, the defense rebounded after that long run from Murphy, immediately on its next series. Voytik easily shrugged off that interception. He really zeroed in on things after that pick, focusing less on just getting the ball to Boyd, taking what the defense gave him. Three, the offense could have folded after losing Artie Rowell. I can't say enough about the job Gabe Roberts did after coming in.
* Lastly, I liked the way last year that some freshmen came in last year in various roles. Already in two games, we're seeing these guys that are now sophomores, already stepping up and helping this team. What Conner and Boyd have done in he heir careers has been well-documented. Voytik looks even more confident from Week One to Week Two. Bisnowaty already looks more seasoned. You have a valuable reserve in Roberts, would should easily step in at guard next year. Jaymar Parrish is a guy who quietly had a big game. I could go on and on about the versatility of his position. As if Conner's running isn't enough of punching bag, you have Parrish blocking for him. He may not get the hype Conner does, but I'm willing to bet Conner is going to praise him a couple times this week. He might not get many passes his way, but in like the comfort level Scott Orndoff has. On defense, Shakir Soto has stepped in to the starter role pretty well. Matt Galambos looks like an upgrade at middle linebacker. Reggie Mitchell, I can't recall teams throwing at him in two games, and that's a guy who didn't even play last year. Bam Bradley is settling in on his role. Terrish Webb is taking some big steps. And don't forget Chris Blewitt--he's becoming a big part of this team already.
I wasn't sure of how quickly this sophomore class would develop this year. I figured there would be some growing pains. I also figured there would be some growing pains. There may still be some growing pains despite the 2-0 start. But I think if we're learning anything about this team after two games, it's that this sophomore class is ahead of schedule, they have a lot of football ahead of them, and most importantly at this juncture, this sophomore class is a lot more than just Tyler Boyd and James Conner.