Pitt likely to take a little octane out of offensive plan against SMU
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Pitt's "high octane" offense is likely to be a little bit slower Saturday when the Panthers play SMU in the BBVA Compass Bowl at Legion Field.
That's because interim coach Keith Patterson and -- for lack of a better term -- interim offensive coordinator Todd Dodge believe that Pitt's best chance to win is to possess the ball and keep the Mustangs offense off the field.
But that won't be the only difference in the offense as Dodge, the Panthers quarterbacks coach for most of the season, has put some of his own touches on it and his play calling will be a little different than that of former co-offensive coordinators Calvin Magee and Mike Norvell.
"I think we'll be a little more ball control, I think you will see that on Saturday. We will be a little bit different in our approach," Patterson said. "We're going to try and take time off the clock and not necessarily be methodical in the way we do things, but ball control is going to be a little bit more of who we are; you saw some of that in the Syracuse game.
- Game: Pitt (6-6) vs. SMU (7-5), Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
- When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
- TV: ESPN.
"Our philosophy will be, 'Hey, let's play great defense and punting the football sometimes is not a bad play.' That is kind of the plan we will try to employ this Saturday."
Dodge, who will call plays from the sideline, elaborated on the idea of slowing things down. The Panthers (6-6), he said, will try to control the ball but there will still be some series when they go uptempo against SMU (7-5). And no matter what, they will continue to operate out of the no-huddle.
"The tempo that we run will be different but we'd be crazy to try to change anything major because this is the offense we have and have worked with all year," Dodge said. "There will be little different types of flavor things that I may try to accentuate as we go through and utilize some different tempos, but those will be the biggest things.
"Structurally, it will be the same, but I'm a believer in less is more so we have gotten a ton of reps with a small number of formations and plays. But I feel good about our ability to attack every part of the field in the passing game."
Dodge said he plans on getting a lot of receivers into the game and, at times, use the short passing game in lieu of the running game depending on how the Mustangs defense is deployed.
One thing that will work in his favor is that the Panthers will have all of their receivers healthy with the exception of Cam Saddler, who is out for the year with a sternum injury. Dodge said that will be the first time in a while that the team will have so many options at receiver.
He also said his preference is to take more shots down the field and believes the Panthers will have some opportunities to do that.
"We're as healthy as we've been on in a while," Dodge said. "And my style has been to take a vertical [shot] when a vertical appears.
"SMU is outstanding in the secondary and [has] a lot of confidence in those guys, so they will give us some one-on-one opportunities. It is just a matter of trying to make all of our skill players aware of what my personality is."
A key to everything the Panthers will try to do on offense Saturday is quarterback Tino Sunseri. Dodge said he expects Sunseri to play well because the offense and his play calling will be tailored to the quarterback's strengths.
Dodge said he has a much better feel for Sunseri's strengths and weaknesses than the former offensive coordinators because he has worked so closely with him as quarterbacks coach.
"What I've done is gone back and taken inventory of what Tino really does well," Dodge said. "And I think I know best what he does well because I'm his quarterback coach and I've -- for lack of a better term -- taken a conglomeration of things that he has executed and those are the things that we are going to go into the game with.
"I think there is something to be said for the guy who is calling plays to be locked into the guy who is pulling the trigger. There is a different feel for Tino right now and being able to interact with me on the sidelines is going to be key."
First Published January 5, 2012 12:00 am