Posted: 12:27 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, 2013
"He's fast right? Why don't they run him more?"
This was said to me at least 3 times by the 12 year old boy sitting in the row in front of me at Heinz Field. How do you respond to that? How does it make you feel knowing that a random 12 year old Pitt fan is smarter than our entire coaching staff?
David Watford had a 19 yard rush. He also had rushes for 14 yards, 8 yards and 7 yards. How many rushes did the Hoos RBs have of that length? Two. Kevin Parks had a 12 yard rush on his 2nd carry of the game and a 7 yard rush later in the first quarter. On the game, Watford had 6 rushes. Removing sacks, he was by far our best rusher, and he had 6 called rushes.
One of the benefits of rushing the QB is that it adds an extra player to the offense. When Watford hands the ball off to Kevin Parks, he is essentially removing himself from the play, meaning the Hoos are playing 10-on-11. When Watford runs by himself, or uses the read-option, the defense still needs to account for him (and Parks), which means the Hoos are playing 11-on-11. That is to the offense's advantage. And yet we did that just 6 times.
Watford threw 37 passes. Counting sacks and scrambles, there were either 41 or 42 called passes. This isn't a situation where the Hoos were down big, and were forced to throw to catch up. Yes, the running game wasn't working, but the passing game wasn't working either. Granted, it is a small sample size, but the read-option was working. For the most part, the read-option has been working all season, we just seem unwilling to call it consistently.
There were a lot of drops. Mike London said there were 10 drops. I'm not sure if that number is correct. Some of the "drops" were passes that were off-target and were difficult catches. Still, there were far too many drops. But the passes that aren't off-target and aren't dropped are still a problem.
For the game, Watford averaged 8.2 yards per completion. That is actually higher than his season average of 7.5 yards per completion. The Hoos are dead-last in the country in yards per completion. Watford is 114th in the nation in passing efficiency. The Hoos WRs can't catch. The QB is inaccurate. Even the completions aren't helping all that much. And yet we're throwing the ball 40 times. That makes no sense. I think this is a case of Steve Fairchild trying too hard to be "cute". He wants to be a smashmouth, power rushing football team, but the OL isn't allowing that to happen. So he tries WR screens and RB flare passes and quick outs.
These plays do not go to Watford's strength. He is too slow getting the ball out, and he isn't accurate enough. A WR screen works if the WR has time to catch the ball and make a move or two to get by his man. A RB flare pass works if he can catch the ball and turn upfield before he's hit. This isn't happening. One reason is Watford's inability to put the ball where it needs to be when it needs to be there. Another reason is that these are the only passes we're consistently completing, so there isn't space for the receivers to work with.
Watford threw 1 quick slant that I recall. He threw it 2 yards behind Jennings. Disregarding the incredibly high chance that Jennings would've dropped it anyway, this is unacceptable. Quick slants are one of the best ways to get the ball out ahead of a pass rush, and get the ball to a guy who's already moving upfield. This play was run once. Perhaps that is because Watford isn't accurate enough to throw it. And if he misses that pass, it could easily be returned for a TD the other way. So we throw safe passes.
Watford is very athletic. His biggest strength, at least at this point, is his legs. And yet we refuse to use that weapon more than 6 times a game. This is a fail on the part of Steve Fairchild. Changing the OL isn't going to solve that problem. Changing the WRs isn't going to solve that problem. Until Fairchild figures out what this offense can and can't do, and begins game-planning to utilize the players he has in the best way possible, this offense isn't going to get any better.
I haven't yet mentioned the defense. That is a fail on my part. The defense was, simply, unbelievable. Every time it seemed like Pitt was gaining a bit of momentum on offense, somebody on the defense came up with a big play. Often that was freshman Max Valles, who finished with 2.5 sacks. Maurice Canady had a big game, although he does need to get turned around when the ball is in the air. A couple of completions where made on passes where he had great coverage, but the WR was able to haul it in because Canady didn't ever see the ball. This includes Devin Street's TD reception.
The entire defense was great, but Ant Harris, Brent Urban, David Dean, Jake Snyder, Eli Harold and Henry Coley deserve mention for their efforts. Pitt had over 500 yards of offense and 58 points a week ago. They had 199 yards of offense and 14 points this week. That is championship level defense. And with just 2 seniors on the defense, they are only going to get better.
As always, some notes: