Pitt's offensive line moves on after season-opening blowout
Pitt offensive line coach Jim Hueber brought his players into the video room the day after the loss to Florida State, turned on the recorder and — no matter how much it hurt — forced them to watch.
After a brief session, Hueber shut off the machine and switched the topic to New Mexico, the Panthers' opponent Saturday at Heinz Field.
“We had the game out of their system so fast after that game, there shouldn't be any lingering effects,” he said. “Just don't let them dwell on it.”
Hueber said he can't do anything about outsiders bringing up the three sacks of quarterback Tom Savage, but he is thankful for this much: Fans' attention are diverted in other directions these days.
“The thing that saves you is the Pirates are hot, the Steelers were opening,” Hueber said, laughing.
However, there remains a constant buzz from Pitt fans on social media. Plus, Pitt attracted its largest crowd in eight years at the Florida State game, and Hueber said support from the student section was impressive.
“Our guys can feed off that,” he said.
Yet what fans want to see when Pitt meets a decidedly smaller New Mexico team is the line carrying the offense to more than one touchdown — its total against the Seminoles.
Pitt didn't allow a sack until the third quarter — two more came in the fourth when the game was out of hand — but the first forced Pitt to settle for a field goal after having a first down on the Seminoles' 25.
“You want to keep (the quarterback) upright. You want to keep him clean,” Hueber said. “If you don't, there is always the chance for something to go wrong.”
Hueber was pleased that his linemen set the game aside and are not feeling sorry for themselves.
“You can't see anyone with their lip stuck out,” he said.
Indeed, junior guard Matt Rotheram said this week he thinks the line can be better than any he has played on since he arrived in 2010.
That's the type of attitude Hueber seeks. He doesn't want to hear about his players' inexperience, even with three first-year starters.
“These guys now have had a year with me,” he said. “They have to go out and play like they have been around before. That's why they are lined up with the first group. The more they get to play, the more your expectations are that you won't have mistakes.”
Hueber said he is thankful his players' mistakes are mental rather than physical. The latter would constitute an even bigger problem.
“We don't have any problems with the physical effort,” he said. “You can grind them. You can push them, but that's one thing they have to have (on their own). It's innate, the way we play. You can't hide. We're not going side by side. We are coming after you.”
Note: Coach Paul Chryst said the only player out of Saturday's game because of injury is backup cornerback and kickoff returner Brendon Felder, who had his foot in a boot earlier this week.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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