I did this for Georgia Tech, then ran out of time during the short week for Austin Peay (and let’s be honest, you really didn’t care to find out much of what was going on with the Governors). But I’m bringing back a look at the Hokies’ matchup against Pittsburgh this Saturday at Heinz Field.
Here is what’s going on with the Panthers …
** They’re not doing so hot. Pittsburgh is 0-2 after two pretty ugly losses, their worst start since Dave Wannstedt‘s first season in 2005.
The first loss came to FCS Youngstown State at home, an embarrassing debut for new head coach Paul Chryst.
The second, last Thursday, came to Big East foe Cincinnati, and that one wasn’t close. The Bearcats led 34-3 at one point and got 117 rushing yards on six carries by quarterback Munchie Legaux, who got a lot of his yardage on the edge. Overall, Cincy ran for 259 yards. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked six times and only engineered a scoring drive in the fourth quarter against a soft Bearcats defense.
Granted, that game came on five days’ rest for the Panthers — and you know how Frank Beamer feels about that — but it was ugly nonetheless. When your biggest accomplishment is that nobody else got suspended before the second game of the season, that’s not a good sign.
** Running back Ray Graham has at least been a positive so far. The first-team All-Big East selection from last year, who earned the distinction despite missing the final four regular season games with a knee injury, ran for 103 yards against Cincinnati. The senior had 71 yards in the opener and sounds like he’s getting lose to returning to his pre-injury form.
The Panthers are mixing in other backs. True freshman Rushel Shell was the leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school state history. He was suspended for the opener by Chryst (along with five others who are back), making his debut Thursday and running eight times for 31 yards.
In fact, Graham, Shell and Isaac Bennett combined for 32 carries and 158 yards against Cincinnati, one of the few bright spots. For a Hokies group that had some rush defense breakdowns in allowing 159 rushing yards to Austin Peay, that might be something to watch.
** Although the first two games don’t show it, Chryst knows how to coach an offense. As Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator, he helped lead the Badgers to back-to-back Rose Bowls in his last two seasons. Wisconsin, as old-fashioned of a school as there is when it comes to offense, averaged a school-record 44.6 points and 467 yards per game last season.
But, he has a major task at fixing a Pitt team that is a prime example of what cycling through coaches can do to a program. You don’t go from Wannstedt to Mike Haywood to Todd Graham to Chryst in a little more than a year and not have it affect anything. And remember, Chryst is a first-time head coach. It could take a while for him to figure things out.
That said, the Panthers currently rank 111th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 13.5 points per game. That’s not pretty, no matter what the situation.
** It’s not like the defense is holding up its end of the bargain. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Jerry DiPaola noted these stats for Pitt through two games. The Panthers have ….
- allowed 845 total yards, including 463 on the ground
- allowed 17 of 29 third downs converted into first downs
- given up 8 touchdowns
- no interceptions or fumble recoveries
** Here’s a good recap of the Cincinnati game by Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He goes through each of the position groups. Not a whole lot of positives for the Panthers there.
** As I mentioned in yesterday’s rankings post, Saturday’s game will be televised by ESPNU. It starts at noon. The line opened at 9 but was up around 11.5 or 12 as of my typing this late Sunday night.