Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph spoke with the media for the first time since Pitt's 14-3 win against Virginia two weeks ago yesterday. Here are a couple of highlights from Rudolph, and what he expects from Virginia Tech this weekend.
- The biggest key for Pitt this weekend will probably be avoiding turnovers. That's usually imperative for any team trying to pull off an upset on the road, but it'll be especially important for the Panthers. Virginia Tech leads Division I-A with 13 interceptions on the season, with true freshman Brandon Facyson leading the way with four.
"I think they're making plays," Rudolph said. "When they get opportunities they're taking advantage of them. They create confusion and uncertainty and then off of that, people are giving them some chances. But, shoot, they're taking advantage of them. Guys are making plays on balls."
That Hokie secondary could be bolstered even more this weekend if Antone Exum decides to return after rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered in January.
- The Hokies can mix up their defensive coverages sometimes. The depth chart shows a 4-3 alignment, but a lot of times they sub on an extra defensive back to go with more of a 4-2-5.
"Some of that's personnel-driven, what the team they're playing against is playing, but they have three guys that play linebacker pretty darn well in a 4-3 set," Rudolph said. "They can play with that personnel a little bit off of that, and then they can do a little bit based on who we have in the game."
- Pitt offensive line had its worst game of the season against the Cavaliers, and the Panthers allowed quarterback Tom Savage to be sacked seven times in the win. Rudolph, though, said he didn't pin all of the pass protection struggles on the offensive line.
"When you've got a team that's playing you tough, all that strain and that finish, most of the time, is the difference between being successful or not," he said. "That's just kind of been the emphasis. Each guy's got to be their best on a play if we've got a chance to be successful offensively. I definitely wouldn't hang it on the o-line, that was as much backs running and tight ends fitting things on the edge. It was across the board that we didn't get it done."
- Despite the success Virginia was having in the pass rush, the Panthers stuck with a lot of five- and seven-step drops on passing plays (some of that was necessitated by the fact that they couldn't move the ball on the ground, so faced third-and-long more often than they would have liked). Rudolph said he adjusts playcalling within the game, but also needs to trust his players and stick to the gameplan at a certain point.
"I think you've got to trust your guys to be the best, I don't think you can change everything," he said. "But they did a nice job of pressuring us and there were times where we just had breakdowns and weren't able to hold up."