The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

October 19, 2013

Pitt QB hoping to avoid sacks

PITTSBURGH — Pitt quarterback Tom Savage sat down with coach Paul Chryst this week and reviewed each sack Savage has taken during the first five games of the season.

The film session took awhile. There wasn’t a choice really, not with 21 sacks to dissect. What Savage saw wasn’t an offensive line in need of a reboot but a quarterback who needs to do a better job of helping out his teammates.

“I need to get the ball out of my hands and improve,” Savage said. “You just have to be prepared for the defense, know what they’re going to do and anticipate.”

That’s something the Panthers (3-2) haven’t done enough of in their last two games. Pitt survived seven sacks in a victory over Virginia on Sept. 28, even if Savage left in the fourth quarter with a concussion. He managed to stay on the field during a 19-9 loss to Virginia Tech last weekend. His reward? The job of enduring eight sacks by the Hokies.

Old Dominion (4-2) could give Pitt a chance to work on things, though the Monarchs aren’t just any ordinary FCS team. The program is in a transition year as it prepares to move to the FBS and a spot in Conference USA in 2014.

Not that the Panthers need to be reminded of the pitfalls of underestimating a lower-division school. Youngstown State spoiled Pitt coach Paul Chryst’s debut in 2012, controlling things all the way in a 31-17 victory.

The Panthers have quickly rebounded, though the sting of that embarrassing misstep remains. When pressed on if he thinks his team is mature enough to not play down – or up – to the competition Chryst just shrugged his shoulders.

“I hope we’re making progress,” Chryst said. “We’re going to find out.”

Five things Pitt needs to be wary of as Old Dominion looks to prove its plan of moving on up is well ahead of schedule.

Keeping Savage upright: When given time, Savage has proven to be a playmaker. He possesses one of the biggest arms in the ACC, perhaps one of the reasons why he’s taken so many hits. After lighting up Duke for 424 yards and six touchdowns in a 58-55 victory, he spent a large portion of the next two games trying to buy time in hopes of creating another big play. All it did was give a pair of talented defenses a chance to chase him down.

“There’s times when you can escape and make a play, and there’s times when you just have to stand in there and take it,” quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger said. “And I think Tom has continued to learn and develop.”

Hot Heinicke: Old Dominion QB Taylor Heinicke, who won the Walter Payton Award last season given annually to the best player in the FCS, remains one of the most dynamic performers in the country. Heinicke is averaging 348 yards passing per game and is also the Monarch’ second-leading rusher, though he also sustained a concussion in a 21-17 win over Liberty two weeks ago.

“They really spread the field, and he can get it to a lot of spots because he has a strong arm,” Chryst said. “He’s an accurate passer.”

Dominant Donald: Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald hardly seems phased by the double teams thrown his way this season. Donald has at least one sack in each of Pitt’s five games and his eight total sacks are more than 19 teams have so far this year.

Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder called Donald “one of the best defensive linemen in the country” and added neither Virginia or Virginia Tech “could handle him.”

On the run: Pittsburgh’s inability to generate a consistent rushing attack has heaped even more pressure on Savage. Freshman James Conner went down with a shoulder injury against Virginia Tech and replacements Isaac Bennett and Rachid Ibrahim managed just 48 yards on 12 carries.

Conner will likely sit out this week, leaving it up to Bennett to carry the load.

“I’m playing my role,” Bennett said. “When he was in there, I was more of a second-and-long or third-down back. But it’s all good, and I just have to do what I can to help the team like catching balls and protecting Tom.”

Taking a break: Old Dominion is the first in a stretch where the Panthers play three of four games against nonconference opponents.

“It’s nice to be in the rhythm of the season,” he said. “Each game is a unique opportunity, and I don’t think you feel more or less pressure.”

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Dodgers Pirates Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers

    Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
    Polanco, hitting just .133 in his previous 11 games, smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth to put Pittsburgh in front for good.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • ACC Kickoff Football ACC schools get optimism from stability

    Welcome to the new Atlantic Coast Conference.
    It’s where a founding member is out, a fast-rising program is in, Notre Dame is there, too – sort of – and nobody else is leaving.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • aaaba 0721 Martella’s sweeps past Delweld

    A six-run rally in the first helped guide Martella’s Pharmacy to an 8-1 win over Delweld in Game 3 of their best-of-5 AAABA League semifinal series at Point Stadium, sweeping the series in the process.
    That rally also continued season-long trends for the clubs, according to their respective managers.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • warshel_0721 Warshel selecting UPJ

    For Kelci Warshel, the call to attend Pitt-Johnstown was based on the availability of her desired major – nursing.
    Taking an opportunity to join the university’s women’s track and field program was a very nice add-on and one that the Richland High graduate is ready to jump into ...
    ... Or hurdle over.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitt picked sixth in cluttered Coastal

    Florida State was an obvious choice as a favorite in one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s divisions.
    In the other one, the pecking order was nowhere near that clear.

    July 21, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs

    July 21, 2014

  • American Legion Region 7: Bedford gets past Clearfield

    Bedford’s Jake Stover had two hits with double and three RBIs in a 9-6 win against host Clearfield in the Pa. American Legion Region 7 Tournament.

    July 21, 2014

  • American Legion Region 7: Claysburg edges Beech Creek

    Claysburg’s Mike Mock went 2-for-2 with a two-run home run in the fourth inning to help his squad get by Beech Creek 7-6 during Sunday’s winners-bracket game in the Pa. American Legion Region 7 Tournament.

    July 21, 2014

  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo