November 21, 2006

Wannstedt and players deflect blame from Rhoads

One of the regular features of the weekly notes on the Pitt football team is a section called "The Last Time." The notes on that page denote the most recent occurrence of various high-water marks, such as the last 200-yard rushing performance or the last time a player passed for 100 yards and threw for 100 yards.

One page in that section deals with the last time each occurrence happened for a Pitt player; the next page lays out the last time a Pitt opponent achieved each level against the Panthers. This season, as with the past few seasons, it seems that the opponent's last time list is getting re-written each week. A quick glance at this week's notes, for instance, shows that nearly every rushing mark (200-yard rushing game, two 100-yard rushers in a game, 100 rushing/100 passing, 50-plus yard TD run) happened most recently in the Panthers' most recent game, a 45-27 loss to West Virginia last Thursday.

The problem, in the eyes of Pitt fans and alums, is that this weekly re-writing of records is not a new trend. And when a team develops a consistency of struggling on one side of the ball or the other, it doesn't take long for critics to decide that the coach in charge of that phase of the team must go. Coming off a 5-6 season and in the midst of a four-game losing streak that has seen some progressively worse defensive play, it's not surprising to hear that there is a growing sentiment that defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads' time at Pitt should be over after this season.

Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt thinks that focusing the blame on one coach is being far too specific, given the range of the Panthers' struggles.

"Three weeks ago we were 13th in the nation in scoring defense," Wannstedt said. "In three weeks, we've given up points and yards that we shouldn't have. And we're all accountable to make it better. All of us: me, the coaches, the players. All of us."

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