This past weekend we had the same issue with turnovers that we had the week prior and it unfortunately led to our demise. There were a lot of positives though. The run defense was exceptional. We were up 14-13 with three minutes left in the third quarter, and then our three turnovers led to their three touchdowns. We got down in a big hurry and the game was out of reach at that point. The defense played well against the run. We let some things go in the throw game, but they have a good quarterback and a good core of receivers. They will get yards, but we need to tighten some things up. John White ran hard and Jon Hays showed promise for his first outing and has things to build on. We've got to continue working on our primary issue, which is taking care of the football. Once we get that resolved we will be a good football team, but time will tell.
This is the third encounter that I've had with Pitt since I've been here - the Fiesta Bowl and last year's opener. It was a great ball game last year with Brian Blechen making an interception in overtime. We are going back to their place this year. They have an outstanding tailback (Ray Graham), maybe the best in the country. He is second in the country in yards per game, but he's first in total yards gained. He is a great back. Last year they had Dion Lewis, but I was looking at Graham and thinking he was really good. The challenge for us is that he is getting about 150 yards per week on the ground, but he is also their leading pass receiver. He is doing a lot of good things for Pitt. They are big up front on offense, and their receivers have good size. Mike Shanahan and Devin Street are big kids. They have weapons on offense. They mix it up on defense, they use a three and four man front, a four-deep secondary, a lot of quarters and some zone pressure. It's a good challenge for us. They looked exceptional against South Florida in a rout at their place, but they are coming off a tough loss to Rutgers. They also played well against Notre Dame. They are a good football team, no question about it, and it should be a challenge.
It's pretty extensive. That was one big negative from the game. DeVonte Christopher is questionable with an ankle injury. Keith McGill has a shoulder injury and is questionable. Charles Henderson is out for the year with a knee injury, which is unfortunate. Jordan Wynn is still on the shelf (non-throwing shoulder) and we may have a further update on him this week. Tauni Vakapuna is out with an ankle injury, it looks like he is not going to be able to make the trip. Jacoby Hale is out with a concussion for now. We are leaving a day earlier than usual because of the two-time zone difference, so that gives players less time to get cleared.
On Pittsburgh last year to this year:
There are a lot of differences offensively. Last year Jonathan Baldwin was their go-to guy, this year their tailback is leading them in receptions. They're a physical team, not fullback oriented and less of a power run game like last year, but more a spread run game.
On the early start:
Fortunately it's fall break, so we will practice at 10 a.m. this week and try to acclimate to the time frame for kickoff. We will wake up and have pregame and it will be kickoff in a big hurry. We had planned to go out a day early since making our arrangements last summer, and with the early kickoff that makes it more important.
On addressing the turnovers:
We do every drill known to man, and practice it the same way. We pay very close attention to it, and that won't change. We do all we can do, and it's something we've got to tighten up. Sometimes if you talk too much about it, everyone gets on pins and needles, but we just have to be fundamentally sound with how we take care of the football each week.
On the punt return game with Henderson out:
Griff McNabb is doing a nice job for us. His #1 order is to catch the football, and he is very sure-handed. We have to start looking at alternatives in case of emergency though.
On Brian Blechen playing safety:
We will probably see him in both locations again this week. Trevor Reilly and Brian Blechen are our wildcard players. The offensive scheme we see will determine where we play them.
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