Posted: 9:00 a.m. Monday, Sept. 16, 2013
Well, that feels a lot better, right?
Pitt fans rightfully had a lot of questions after the Florida State mess. And as I said afterwards, there still are plenty of questions since we can't really judge Pitt based on a blowout win over a bad team. But the success of the offense, if nothing else, was encouraging.
Getting the first win under their belt was the first challenge and now a different one presents itself in the team's first road game.
First things first, Duke looked extremely impressive in their first two games in wins over NC Central and Memphis. But after Georgia Tech came to town and delivered a 38-14 beatdown to the Blue Devils, they fell back to earth a bit.
Frankly, Duke probably isn't a great team. They got away from being the regular doormat of the ACC last season, but while they won six games, even that mark was a little deceiving. Outside of a 33-30 win over North Carolina, the Blue Devils didn't defeat a single FBS team with a winning record.
Make no mistake about it - this is a game that Pitt should win. There are a lot of questions about the Panthers as well, but if you're Paul Chryst, these are games you need to win.
Duke's defense will be a big question mark. They were dominated against their two lesser foes, but gave up 38 points to home this weekend. The bigger question for the Blue Devils, though, will be the play of redshirt junior quarterback Brandon Connette. Starter Anthony Boone went down with a collarbone injury a couple of games ago and Connette has been playing in his place. Boone's collarbone isn't requiring surgery, but he won't be playing against Pitt.
Connette doesn't have the look of a gunslinger, but has been serviceable. So far on the season, he's 34 for 57 for 375 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Helping him on offense is running back Jela Duncan (196 yards, 5.8 ypc, two touchdowns) and wide receiver Jamison Crowder (23 catches, 240 yards).
For Pitt, it's all about building on last week's win. Like I said, with the two Tom Savage interceptions, the four turnovers, and the seven penalties, the Panthers didn't play a perfect game. They did, however, mostly play well and the team has to continue to improve.
The key thing for the Panthers will be to see how all of their young players react to the first road game of the year. Guys like Tyler Boyd, Adam Bisnowaty, James Conner, Scott Orndoff, and Chris Blewitt have all been big parts of the offense and it will be interesting to see how they react in enemy territory.
At first glance, the game could present some challenges. But with teams like Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech still lurking, this is one of the easier games on the schedule.