Sunday, March 9, 2014
So you've been reading all week about Maine and what the Black Bears have to do to prepare for Saturday's nonconference game against Pitt, a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field.
Now let's talk a bit about Pitt, Maine's FBS opponent this year.
The catch phrase that's accompanied Pitt and first-year head coach Todd Graham is "high octane" as in a high-tempo, no-huddle offense that's designed to wear down its opponents. But Graham has told the Pittsburgh media that "high octane" isn't just a description of the Panthers' offense - it's also going to be the state of mind and body for the Panthers. From ESPN.com:
The goal is to get everybody acclimated to going fast.
"A lot of it is getting the guys to buy into the mindset," said (Pitt strength and conditioning coach Shawn) Griswold, who came with Graham from Tulsa. "They have done a good job of that. We are constantly on the go, constantly talking about tempo so it is in the back of their heads. We have got to create an on-field pace that can't be matched by the defense. But we also have got to get the defense in shape. If the offense scores in one or two plays, the defense may have to go back out for a nine-play drive again."
The Panthers defeated Buffalo 35-16 in its season opener last Saturday at Heinz Field and gained 410 yards of total offense against the Bulls - 221 rushing and 179 receiving, with 201 rushing yards from running back Ray Graham - but led only 7-3 at halftime.
Graham, Pitt's coach, said his team still took a few lumps in the opening game.
"We put the ball in jeopardy three times and we can't do that," he said. "At halftime we got settled down, then went out and scored every time we had the ball in the second half. It's a process. But we came away, after watching the film, as very positive."
Maine leaves Friday morning for Pittsburgh and will have its Friday walk-through at Duquesne University before heading to Heinz Field in the afternoon.
With the forecast calling for scattered thunderstorms this weekend in the Steel City (per weather.com), Maine plans to bring its wet-weather gear to Pittsburgh. This is typically a wet, muggy time of year in western Pennsylvania.
Maine-Pitt will be Web-casted on ESPN3.com, ESPN's online broadcasting platform. Here's a link for Saturday's game: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/source/espn3/id/226542/
And some bulletin-board fodder - a colleague who covers Pitt for an unnamed western Pennsylvania publication picked the Panthers to win Saturday's game, 55-10.
Full disclosure: I went to college in Pittsburgh and worked at The Pitt News, the University of Pittsburgh's student newspaper, where I covered the Panthers. And I still miss walking up the hill from the newspaper's offices in the William Pitt Union to Pitt Stadium, which hosted its last game in 1999.
I'll be leaving the country for nine days (a trip that was scheduled well before I learned I'd be covering Maine's football team) and I'll return to the beat and to blogging Sept. 19, when I dial in for the Colonial Athletic Association's weekly teleconference.