SDWC: Do you believe Pitt will be able to runthe ball successfully against NCST or will the have to throw it early to create running opportunities?
Paul Zeise: Well, I think that is going to be a great barometer of where this team is. N.C. State has a good front seven, certainly better than Buffalo, Navy and YSU, but Pitt's offensive line has had three games to come together and I think that this will be a great test. I don't think that N.C. State should be able to push Pitt around so the Panthers should be able to run the ball early and often. If they can't, the good news is we've seen they can be successful with their short, controlled passing game and that is something that can take the pressure off of the line and Dion Lewis if it isn't working early. I honestly expect that won't be the case and Pitt will be able to have some success running the ball.
EatPitt: What is an Elijah Fields and when will he win the Heisman?
Paul Zeise: I don't know that a safety has ever won the Heisman, though I could be wrong. Elijah Fields played well last week, now he needs to build on it and he needs to get better every game. Last week he wasn't challenged (outside of a handful of times) in the passing game so this will be a big test for him and the rest of the secondary as well. Remember, Buffalo threw the ball with a lot of success against Pitt so that unit needs some redemption in this game.
Pitt_s_It: Pitt's defense was supposed to be the strength of this year's team. Are the defensive backs weak or is the line and linebackers over rated? This team has given up a ridiculous amount of yards to small time teams.
Paul Zeise: I thought the defense played well last week against Navy. To only give up about 125 yards rushing to that team -- and 14 points -- is pretty impressive because they just know how to run that scheme and they seem to be able to move the ball and score on anyone they face. So I'd wait to declare the defense bad or overrated before we see a few more games. As bad as the game was at Buffalo, it really was more a case of missing tackles than anything schematically or with missed assignments. I did say in the preseason that the secondary was a question mark and that unit still has a lot of questions to answer.
to_the_crib: How's Hargrove coming along. Is he practicing?
Paul Zeise: No. He's still in shorts and working with Buddy Morris and James Smith every day so he must not be close to returning.
to_the_crib: Nice to see Shanahan on the field last Saturday. He made a huge play on the opening kickoff that hasn't been talked about much. Is he 100%? In other words, can he play WR for us or is his hand still a work in progress?
Paul Zeise: Yes and the way Dave Wannstedt talked about him the other day, I think he is going to be involved in the passing game some as the fourth receiver. Mike was really one of the best receivers at camp, at least in terms of catching the ball and it is nice when your possession receiver happens to be about 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 or whatever he is as well. I think he can help the offense in a lot of ways so adding one more weapon is never a bad thing.
nice_try_jerk: A kid a couple of rows behind me at the game and his friend said they heard Tino Sunseri being booed, and Tino's mom FLIPPED OUT. I didn't hear it. Did you hear anything about Tino being booed?
Paul Zeise: No, unfortunately in the press box it is hard to hear a lot of things, well other than the stadium singing Sweet Caroline. Of course, I heard plenty this week about Pitt fans -- being the meanies they are -- booing Navy!!! The shame ...
Doug_Lesmerises: Who do you consider to be the best coach in the Big East? It is easy to say Coach Kelly at Cinci but I continue to be amazed at Coach Edsall at UConn. How do they run the ball so well year in and year out while recruiting only "2 star" players? That Baylor victory was very impressive.
Paul Zeise: I think Randy Edsall is an excellent coach and he certainly gets the most out of his talent year in and year out ... but recruiting is a part of the evaluation as well and if he is only getting 2 stars every year, well, he's failing in that department. That's why I lean towards Brian Kelly, I think he's a better recruiter and it is ridiculous what this team is doing considering how much talent on defense they lost.
MemphisRed: Love the Chats! Can't wait to see what the Panthers are able to bring to their first big test of the season. Will have the game on the U, but just wondering what will the atmosphere be like on Saturday? Will the crowd be a factor? I know we have not played there since like 1988 so does anyone remember that game around the Post Gazette?
Paul Zeise: Well I suppose Bob Smizik might have been there for that game but he is retired, so unfortunately, no. And from what I understand there is a good crowd expected but, perhaps I am wrong about this, when has anyone ever talked about N.C. State being one of the tough or most hostile road venues around? I mean, in that conference we hear a lot about Virginia Tech, Clemson and FSU as being tough places to play, but I don't recall ever hearing much about N.C. State. So I don't think the crowd will be that much of a factor, no more than a normal road game.
Jim: Paul, am I the only one that's not at all impressed with N.C. State? With wins over Plum and Hempfield should be really be at all concerned about Saturday?
Paul Zeise: Count me with the unimpressed. I've said it all week, Pitt is better and Pitt should win this game. And if they don't, I think it says something about the program in year 5. These are the games you have to win, even on the road. I think all signs point to the fact that Wannstedt has this thing rolling the right way -- they are 13-4 in their last 17 games, they've won like seven of eight road games -- so there is no reason to believe they will handle their business. But if they don't, well, let's just say it would be a bad loss. It won't be easy because the Wolfpack are well coached and recruit many of the same kinds of athletes that Pitt does, but the Panthers, player for player and depth-wise are a better team. Just go win the game.
theWellHungarian: Hi Paul-- Can we expect to see Hyno get more involved in the offense. He is a beast carrying the ball and punishes defenders whilst running and is a great change of pace from Dion or Ray Graham.
Paul Zeise: I don't know if he'll do much more than he did last week -- perhaps a few more carries than three -- but again, in the pecking order of playmakers they want to get the ball, too, he's a little bit down the list. I think it was kind of fun to watch him lower the shoulder and finish runs while running guys over. That's the one thing I said about last week's game -- the way he was running, you hand him the ball on the goal line and let him power into the endzone, don't kick the field goal.
Doug_Lesmerises: What do you think about "my" AP poll tactics? I find it refreshing.
Paul Zeise: I think being as the AP poll is meaningless these days (now that it doesn't count for anything more than just, well, it doesn't count for anything) it is indeed admirable that you take it so seriously and do so much research. Maybe you can help some of your colleagues who vote in the Harris Poll ...
Doug_Lesmerises: Which Panther WILL break Wilson's "NO INT" streak? Fields, Decicco, G. Williams? I'm going with Mick Williams (to the Crib).
Paul Zeise: I'm going to guess Greg Williams ...
NeonDion: I saw Rod Rutherford coaching on the sidelines last weekend, does he deserve a little credit for Stull's success this season?
Paul Zeise: Well considering that he is working with the linebackers, no.
Homey: I agree with your analysis of the FG on 4th and 1 last week. However, I remember writing 2 years ago when we kicked the FG with a 10-7 lead in the 4th quarter against WVU in the same situation. I seem to remember your defending the decision at that time. Have you changed your opinion since then, or has my memory failed me?
Paul Zeise: I would say that it was different circumstances all together, particularly since WVU proved the year before it could indeed drive 98 yards or whatever to score. And in this case, Pitt was already up two scores. The other thing was, at that point in the game -- given Pitt's offense was not going to be allowed to score a touchdown by the refs (OK, joking, sort of), my point was a field goal there set them up for a game-winning kick (16-14 win) if the Mountaineers did indeed score a touchdown. Also, kicking a field goal ensured you would have a chance to win in regulation and not go to overtime. In short it was a much different circumstance against a much different caliber opponent so the two situations aren't similar. Pitt should be able to get a yard against Navy.
princell: Paul, who is the the REAL NC State? The team that lost in the 7-3 shootout with South Carolina or the team that hung a combined 110 points on the powerhouses Murray State and Gardner Webb?
Paul Zeise: I think it is hard to tell. When you play two Division I-AA teams back to back, well, one would expect a team to score a lot of points. I think the offense is better than it showed in the opener, so I would expect Pitt to need to score some points to win but I don't think this is as high-powered offense as it appeared to be, despite a good quarterback.
theWellHungarian: Is Romeus as good as gone after this year and if so is our depth deep enough where he will be, not easily, but adequately replaced?
Paul Zeise: I don't think there is another Romeus on the roster, if that is what you are asking. He has turned into an excellent two-way tackle, not just a pass rusher like a Lindsey. Perhaps Shayne Hale, who has been slowed by some injuries, could turn into that but he's got a long way to go. I'd say if Romeus has a big year, yes, it is probably a good guess that he'll look at his options and figure out he needs to move forward.
AlexVanSvelt: Hey Paul, thanks for doing the chat. I got here late. Has anyone else mentioned the fact that there was a smattering of boos on the home side when Sunseri came into the Navy game? It was pretty audible. Why are Pitt fans such hypocrites?
Paul Zeise: Yes, someone did but I did not hear it so I can't comment much on it. I'm not sure why anyone would boo Sunseri, though, what has he done, good or bad, to illicit any emotion from any fans?
theWellHungarian: I watched NC State's first game of the year against South Carolina and they stink ... Pitt should handle them easily, no?
Paul Zeise: I don't know about easily, but yes, Pitt should win this game. Like I said, Pitt is better than N.C. State.
WannyBall: Why is Pitt moving so many guys around? Greg Cross was moved back to QB for one week to run scout team and by the way how did he do??? Aundre Wright was moved to DB for one week due to injuries. And now Chris Burns to DB but it may only be temporary.
Paul Zeise: I don't think Pitt is moving that many guys around. The idea with Burns is to get a guy who is a good athlete and is behind two younger players on the depth chart into a position which he will be able to contribute down the road. As for Cross, my feelings on how mishandled his career has been are a matter of public record.....
WannyBall: Whatever happened to Chris Burns??? He was great in camp last year and has now fallen far on RB depth chart.
Paul Zeise: It wasn't as much about him as it was about how well Dion Lewis and Ray Graham played. So now he moves to defensive back and let's see what happens with the rest of his career.
Zap_Rowsdower: NCState starts two freshman in the seconday. I predict Bill Stull will complete 20 out of 24 passes (with 4 dropped ) and wins BE player of the week.
Paul Zeise: Well, if he does that then I think Pitt wins going away. But I do agree with your larger point (i think) that Stull and Jonathan Baldwin should be able to connect for a few big plays this week against that secondary.
mason_for_heisman: I live in NC and am going on Saturday. The weather is supposed to be rainy-do you know whether Dion Lewis is a mudder?
Paul Zeise: I don't know that we've seen him in the mud. But he is a North-South guy so that is a good start. And I'm sure Henry Hynoski and Shariff Harris are mudders, so Pitt will be able to run the ball even if the conditions are bad.
WannyBall: Why did Wannstedt back off on trying to get both Mason and Gunn on the field together and make Gruder the 4th LB?
Paul Zeise: Because he likes Max Gruder, knows he is the future at weakside linebacker and wants to keep him in the lineup. Also, I'm not sure Gunn is really as healthy as he needs to be so it won't shock me if Mason gets the start in the middle again. Remember, it is a high ankle sprain and he hasn't been able to go full speed yet so we'll see how much he can play. At any rate, I think all four will play (when Gunn is healthy) and we will see Gunn and Mason side-by-side in some cases. All four will play.
slang: It looks as if the weather on Saturday will make for sloppy conditions. Which team might benefit from a wet field?
Paul Zeise: A great question. Like I said, Pitt's tailback, fullback and at least one back-up tailback are all north-south guys and I think Pitt is a more physical team up front so I'd say the Panthers, particularly if Russell Wilson can't find his footing to scramble and move around in the pocket.
KijanaCarter: Any word yet on whether or not Gunn will play this week?
Paul Zeise: No official word and we won't get one until game time. That is just how the staff, like most coaching staffs, deals with injuries. We've gotten some cryptic answers about his health but I do know he didn't go full speed so far this week so that is not a good sign.
moron: Do you think the Big East stands a legitimate chance of placing two teams in the BCS? I can easily see Cinci and pitt going undefeated and 11-1 respectively.
Paul Zeise: No chance. There are just way too many built in biases, starting with the fact that neither Pitt or Cinci would be able to bring the kind of crowd and ratings that some of the big name programs from other conferences would. I mean, if you are the Fiesta Bowl and your choice is a 10-2 Ohio State team and an 11-1 Cincinnati team, who are you taking?
Zap_Rowsdower: How do you think Burns will do in the secondary and do you think he is better suited for corner or safety?
Paul Zeise: He is a good athlete and he is intelligent and he has a good work ethic, so I think he'll eventually find his way. They are trying him at both safety and corner and I'd say this -- given the depth chart, his size and the fact that he is not a burner, he might fit in better at safety than corner.
BCSPitt: Paul, give us a final score for Saturday's game?
Paul Zeise: OK, 100-99. Or maybe 10-9........(every week there is always one even though I've said a million times, if I knew that I'd be living in Vegas and be known as the next Sam Rothstein.....)
Big_John: I keep reading complaints that Pitt is not i the top 25. But do they deserve to be, they have not beaten anyone yet, not that other teams have either like PSU, but I would be shocked if they make it week even with NCST win. What is your take, I just don't see NCST state a "statement" game. Not to mention Pitt seems to tank when they break into the top 25.
Paul Zeise: A lot of it depends on who loses in front of them, really. If Pitt wins easily and a few teams in front of them lose, then yes, I could see them being ranked. It would be good for Pitt to get there, but the thing the Panthers need to do is win yet another game it is supposed to win.
slang: Paul, it's good to see Tino getting some work, just in case. Too bad they do that more with Stull behind Palko, huh?
Paul Zeise: Yes, you are right, had Billy been allowed to throw one more time in the blowout of YSU in 2005, Pitt would have scored at least 31 points in the Sun Bowl......
BCSPitt: Paul, do you see NC State coming out a little flat after Pitt smacks them in the mouth a little in the first quarter? In other words, after two straight games against I-AA schools, will they be shocked by our strength size and speed?
Paul Zeise: That is a great question but I have to believe that Tom O'Brien will have them ready to play. He is a good coach that way, his teams rarely -- outside of 2004, I forget, was it Syracuse or Temple that beat B.C. late in the season to help Pitt get into the BCS? -- have letdowns. But I do think they are stepping way up in class from the past two weeks but they should be able to adjust quickly.
slang: So the weather is good for Pitt but bad for its fans (like me) who will be at the game. I guess I'll take that trade, wouldn't you?
Paul Zeise: Yes, I would assume you'll take sitting in the rain to watch your team win over sitting in the sun to watch your team lose every day of the week.
Pitt_s_It: With the recent commitment of the Q-B from eastern Pa., is Pitt still after the Q-B from St. Ignatius Cleveland?
Paul Zeise: Yes, he is a pocket passer and a traditional quarterback. I'm not sure they have actually offered him yet but it seems like they are headed in that direction.
Idiot: Thanks for your time. I was just wondering if the Panthers were planning on using the Wildcat at any point this year? They had some great success with it last season.
Paul Zeise: I know the package is installed and it is ready to go. Now I supposed it just needs the right time and place to be used.
WannyBall: Pitt's CB's are not very tall. Whatever happened to a bigger guy like Buddy Jackson???
Paul Zeise: Jackson broke his jaw over the summer and has not returned yet, though he seems like he is getting close.
Paul Zeise: Well folks, the hour is up. It was fun, we will do it again next week!