Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph met with the media after Pitt's practice today to talk about what he saw in the Panthers' 49-27 victory against New Mexico as well as what he expects from his players heading into their first ACC road game against Duke. Here are the highlights...
- Overall, Rudolph said he was pretty pleased with the Panthers' offensive execution against New Mexico, and why shouldn't he be? The Panthers rolled up 527 yards of total offense, including 283 on the ground. If they get that kind of production every game, they'll be just fine (spoiler alert: they probably won't). Still, there were a couple of things Rudolph would like to see improved.
"I thought ball security wasn't great, that's something we've got to improve on," he said. "Decision-making, at times, [wasn't good]. There were some things that looked just the way you want them to look, which is exciting. Now, you just go right back to consistency with it, more consistency than the week before. I thought we got better, but I think it's going to be that grind each week to try and get a little bit better each week."
With regards to the ball security and decision-making, that would obviously point to James Conner's third-quarter fumble, which turned into a New Mexico touchdown, but the game was already out of reach by that point. Lafayette Pitts letting the ball hit him on the punt return would probably also qualify as ball security, and those mistakes would hurt Pitt more against better teams.
- And the decision-making part of the quote is probably, at least partially, referring to Tom Savage's two interceptions. Rudolph had a bit more to say about those, and particularly the first one.
"I just think sometimes, there were a couple that were tough looks, and there's times maybe we can do a better job helping him," Rudolph said. "Then I think sometimes it's got to be OK just getting to the next play. It's OK, we'll go to 2nd-and-10 and we'll be all right."
Rudolph did note that he liked the way Savage bounced back on the sideline, and he was just fine the rest of the way.
"I tell you what, he handles himself extremely well," Rudolph said. "He's been there before, he's done it. He comes off and he's right talking to the guys. They don't have to worry about going over and talking to him."
- Rudolph said he anticipates Conner and Isaac Bennett sharing carries for the foreseeable future. Through two games, Bennett has 23 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and Conner has 21 rushes for 153 yards and two scores.
"I like the competition," Rudolph said. "I think they play off each other pretty well. I'm comfortable with it. If something emerges different, it'll emerge. But I think right now you just continue to roll with how they're playing. I think they need each other. I think they push each other, which is good."
- Pitt will face a different challenge defensively this week against Duke. Florida State and New Mexico both ran similar 3-4 fronts (similar in their scheme, not their effectiveness). But Duke runs a slightly unconventional 4-2-5 defense with an extra safety. That'll be another challenge for Savage and the younger players as they prepare for a completely new scheme for the first time this season.
This is also the first time this season that Pitt has a normal Saturday-to-Saturday turnaround. The Labor Day opener and open date in week two made for a slightly unorthodox start to the season, schedule-wise, but now the Panthers are into the grind of the regular week-to-week season.
"This is a normal week now," Rudolph said. "They've got to experience that, they've got to be able to absorb it quicker. It's just going to be a little bit new from the first couple of games."