Pitt looks for O-line consistency to provide boost to ground game
Pitt offensive line coach Jim Hueber said goals he sets for his players go beyond trying to prove critics wrong.
When Hueber was asked whether his linemen played with a chip on their shoulders in the victory against Notre Dame, he protested. Hueber said revenge isn't a motive.
“I want them to play with a little bit of an edge,” he said, alluding to the controlled anger that often sets athletes apart. “I don't know if you get anything out of trying to get retribution or revenge.
“The point you need to prove is if I do it right, it's going to work. If I do it right a lot of times, we are going to be successful.”
The inexperienced line has been hampered by back injuries to tackle Adam Bisnowaty, who missed the Georgia Tech game two weeks ago but returned for Notre Dame, and guard Cory King, out for the past four.
Getting the line to work cohesively and violently — a combination good lines manage to achieve — has been difficult.
“We want them to play with an edge where we feel we can attack people and get something done,” Hueber said. “I thought they did Saturday night (against Notre Dame). I thought there were flashes of that.
“Consistently, we are still not where we need to be.”Lost in the Notre Dame celebration was the per-attempt averages of running backs Isaac Bennett and James Conner (3.4 and 3.5, respectively). Conner scored twice on short, tough runs, but the longest of the game was 11 yards by Bennett. In fact, neither Bennett nor Conner have had a run longer than 12 yards in six of Pitt's nine games.
As a result, Pitt is averaging only 3.5 yards per rush (11th in the ACC) and 121.3 per game (12th). Help could be on the way Saturday when Pitt faces North Carolina, which has the weakest run defense in the conference (194 yards per game).
But there are other hopeful signs.
Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said his unit wasn't perfect, but his two favorite plays were 5- and 6-yard gains by Bennett late in the fourth quarter when Pitt was trying to preserve the lead by keeping the ball out of Irish hands.
“Being able to get a first down at the end to finish it out, I think they grew a little bit from that game,” he said.
Another good sign is coach Paul Chryst's belief that Conner is fully recovered — mentally and physically — after fighting through a shoulder injury. Conner has been limited to a total of 94 yards in the past six games.
“The first game back, you are always a little bit, ‘It feels OK, but where am I at with it?' ” Chryst said. “Certainly now it seems to be full health. He's pretty good.”
Center Artie Rowell said Conner should reassert the toughness that made him one of the top backs in the ACC early in the season.
“I think his game is being a strong running back and hitting holes,” he said. “There may have been a week or two where he got away from maybe trying to create things on his own.
“My opinion is he needs to find a hole and just hit it. With him, he's going to run people over. Four (yards) might turn into eight, which might turn into 12.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- As college football training camps open, defenses fall under microscope
- Pitt, McConnell-Serio agree to new contract through 2020-21 season
- New football coach Narduzzi is learning, along with Pitt players
- Pitt’s Young welcomes return to power forward
- Akron defensive lineman Hargrove commits to Pitt
- Preseason honors piling up for former Pitt tackle Bisnowaty
- Pitt’s Blair faces court date on DUI charge