Make sure to check out my post below regarding Pitt's future football scheduling. Here are a couple of quick notes from today's media sessions with players and defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable.
- I wrote in today's P-G about Paul Chryst's assessment that the five starting offensive linemen are the best ones he has, as well as a couple of other notes.
- Pitt's defense unveiled it's dime formation for the first time Friday night. Bryan Murphy, Tyrone Ezell and Aaron Donald were the down linemen, Shane Gordon and Todd Thomas were at linebacker, and the secondary was a full house with K'Waun Williams, Lafayette Pitts, Jason Hendricks, Jarred Holley, Andrew Taglianetti and Ray Vinopal all on the field. I think this defense has a couple of advantages against spread and pass situations for Pitt. One, it gets all four safeties (arguably Pitt's deepest position) on the field. Two, it's a good way to mix in Thomas, who is a little bit of a more athletic option at linebacker, as he comes back from injury.
"I think it really worked well. I think it surprised [Syracuse] a bit, initially," Taglianetti said. "I think as we continue on with our schedule and hit teams like Notre Dame, South Florida, I think you’ll see a lot more of it."
The Panthers held Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, the Big East's leading passer coming into the game, to 19 of 30 for 185 yards, so I'd be inclined to agree with Taglianetti about its effectiveness.
- The Panthers gave up a methodical 70-yard touchdown drive on Syracuse's first possession Friday, but really buckled down after that. After the first drive, the Orange gained just 235 total yards, and never even got within field goal range. Huxtable said he liked the way his guys bounced back after a rough start.
"That was pretty demoralizing, that first drive," Huxtable said. "They came to the sideline, we made some adjustments and the guys handled it really well. They just kept battling back and battling back and they responded, and I’m really proud of them."
- I'll have more on the running backs in tomorrow's paper, but freshman running back Rushel Shell was limited to just one carry Friday. Shell missed significant practice time last week with some back spasms. The same problem cost him time early in training camp, and apparently it flared up again last week. Shell said he felt physically ready to play Friday night, but the missed practice time left him way behind mentally.
While back spasms can always be sort of tricky issues — Shell said he's been dealing with it since high school, but they've just flared up a bit recently — he said he didn't anticipate them being a recurring problem going forward.