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September 4, 2012"There are some areas that need to get cleaned up," said Pittsburgh Head Football Coach Paul Chryst in a gross understatement.
Let the omniscient eye of Coach Chryst take you through the problems one by one.
(1) Take care of ball on offense
"Ball security is huge," said Coach Chryst. "That changes the game."
Though Pitt committed two turnovers (both fumbles) the Panthers bemoaned the first as it came on the season's opening drive.
Nearing the conclusion of a 54-yard drive recovering running back Ray Graham let loose a costly fumble.
Instead of starting up 7-0 after a turbulent two years in Pittsburgh the Panthers yielded an opposing touchdown.
As a favored team the key is to crush the underdog's hopes early. Don't let thoughts of upset grow. Do not let confidence occupy the corpuscle ordinarily reserved for doubt. When Pitt made this mistake the game started to snowball.
The Penguins ran all over Pittsburgh, especially on third down.
"We tackled quite a bit in fall camp," said Coach Chryst. "I thought guys looked a bit hesistant. Also, I thought Youngstown State executed their offense pretty well. I love their running back."
Youngstown State's running back Jamaine Cook collected 84 yards rushing on 21 carries.
"We had some opportunities that could have changed the sticks," said Coach Chryst. "At the end of that game everyone could take ownership in it. There are areas we could get better at. It is tangible. It is on film."
The University of Pittsburgh football program has not started 0-2 since 2005. Notre Dame doubled 'em up 42-21 and Ohio University clipped Pitt 16-10 in overtime. They finished 5-6 without a quality win.
"You hope to make the most improvement from game one to game two and we certainly need to."
(3) Getting off the ball on defense
One thing UC Head Coach Butch Jones always harps on is 'pad level.' So much of football relies upon leverage and lower pad levels. Whilst facing YSU Coach Chryst just didn't see what he wanted in this respect.
"Pad level, on both sides of the ball," said Coach Chryst. "It is the first step by our two linebackers. It is leverage by a defensive back."
Coach Chryst rattled off several other bothersome observations but always ended positively. He feels that he and his coaching staff have identified the problems. They just have to fix them now.
"That is why you watch film," said Coach Chryst. "That is why you coach. If you came in after game and told them to get better, but had nothing for them to see it would be faith. You can always get your pad level down. What is your body position like when you were making the tackle? Things that were kind of boring, but really do matter."
Hardened fans groaned at the absence of player names. 'How can I learn the new players without names?'
"We didn't take the names off," said Coach Chryst with a wry smile. "We just didn't put them on."
When a room full of journalists failed to chuckle Coach Chryst gave a more serious answer.
"I think it is one team," said Coach Chryst. "It is a clean slate. I think it is kind of cool. The players and some people don't like it. But that is alright."
Over eighty percent of Pitt Rivals subscibers voted to place names back on. That Pitt has eight new defensive starters this year justifies their concern.
"I think players in general bounce back off of all games pretty quick," said Coach Chryst. "There are times where adults could probably learn from that, the coaches. This group had the right response. They certainly weren't happy with what happened but they are ready to change it."
"You self critique yourself during the game," said Coach Chryst. "There are areas where we can all get better. There are areas I know I can. Every coach can do that. Every player. This is a journey. You hope every week you are making improvements."
In a short week or preparation Pittsburgh hopes to completely turn around their fortunes. Playing at Cincinnati can be difficult enough. The Bearcats have been focusing all their energies on this one opponent for almost 10 months now.
It is on national television, opening night, in front of a frenetic fanbase that just arrived at campus. "My experience in the past, the big games, you know about them, but that lasts about one step," said Coach Chryst. "And then you are into your game. You compete. That should be enough."
If ever there was a game you need to be completely prepared for this is the one. Otherwise the Panthers are walking into a slaughterhouse.
Coach Chryst demands an attention to detail that simply evaded Pitt in the opening weekend. The areas outlined by the Pitt staff are ball security, tackling, and defensive push.
"These are key elements, basic elements in football and we didn't execute very well," said Coach Chryst. "We have to get better."