Saturday's 58-55 win against Duke showed that Pitt still has a ways to go in terms of shoring up its problems defensively. We talked to offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph after practice today, though, and he said the offense can still get better too. Here are a couple of notes from Rudolph and receiver Devin Street.
- Most notably, Rudolph obviously wasn't pleased with the way his offense played in the fourth quarter against the Blue Devils. In that quarter, the Panthers had -12 total yards. They ran the ball 12 times for -28 yards (skewed because of the botched punt), but James Conner had four carries for four yards. Rudolph said he didn't think Duke was doing anything seismically different on defense, but rather Pitt players got a little sloppy with their details.
"I think more to the fact that we weren't consistent," he said. "It was a guy here, a guy there. Offensively, you could have 10 guys doing a great job, you could have one guy off and there it is, it's a one-yard gain. That's where it kind of showed up, whether it was a read by a tailback, whether it was a missed block, a penalty, there was just too much there at the end."
Rudolph also said he wasn't sure if Conner was a little too worn down at the end.
"That's a good question," he said. "I felt that he was able and ready to go, but there could've been a little bit of that in there, but I think guys need to get used to that a little bit when it is on their shoulders. Regardless of how tired you are, maybe what's going on the play before, you've got to get it done that given play."
- It makes sense that, as the season goes on, defenses will likely try to put more emphasis on stopping receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. This should open up some running lanes and shorter passes down low, but Rudolph said there will also be times when the two receivers just have to go out and be better than the guys that are covering them.
"I think you have the ability to have an answer to whatever you see," Rudolph said. "Sometimes those answers are the ball going different places, and sometimes guys just have to win in a situation."
- Rudolph echoed what Paul Chryst said Monday about the running backs splitting the carries. Conner had 26 to Isaac Bennett's 12 Saturday, but it'll be a game-to-game thing moving forward.
"I thought James took advantage of some runs early and that's why he had more carries," he said. "I thought Isaac had a couple of tough looks where it just wasn't clean, but we have all the confidence in the world on both of those guys. We'll just keep working it like that. I thought they played off each other pretty well."
- Rudolph wasn't necessarily surprised by what he saw from Tom Savage Saturday, but did say that the redshirt senior just continues to get better week after week in a lot of aspects of his game.
"It's stuff that we saw and we continue to see in practice," Rudolph said. "I just felt great that he was able to put that consistency in a game and tie it all together. He works, it's always about the next play. I thought he really took a step in that respect and really felt comfortable."
- Street said that he felt like the offense came into this year with something to prove. There were obviously a lot of question marks at key positions coming into the season, and a lot of people (me included) thought the defense was going to be the strength of this team early on in the year (whoops).
"We saw that there was some question at wide receiver, but we know what we have," Street said. "We knew Tyler Boyd was going to play. There was some controversy with the quarterback, we knew Tom was going to be able to go out there and play. It's just about going out there each week and proving it. We're not done yet, we've still got a lot to prove."
- One note on the defense: safety Jason Hendricks hinted that some of the defenses struggles could be tied to the transition to new defensive coordinator Matt House's scheme, particularly with the linebackers.
"The linebackers, they have different jobs, different fits, the language is a little different, but I think the guys are working hard to get better at it," he said.
Now let's take this with some context. There are a lot of factors in the defensive struggles, but this is the first time I recall a player even getting at any significant differences between this year's scheme and last year's. Hendricks (echoing Chryst) also said that a lot of the issues can be traced to guys trying to do too much. Basically, they see a teammate they thing is out of position and they go over to try and help, but really all that does is make two guys out of position.
"I think people are just worried about other people," Hendricks said. "You need to worry about your job and your job only. If you do your job, then the person next to you is going to do their job."