Tag:Phil Bennett
Posted on: October 5, 2011 6:19 pm
 

SMU commemorates TCU win with $40.33 ticket offer

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



They say he who laughs last laughs best. And in this week's war of words between TCU's Gary Patterson and cross-town rivals SMU, we're awarding the Mustangs the last, best laugh.

That's not for lack of effort on Patterson's part. In the wake of SMU's 40-33 overtime victory Saturday, Patterson lashed out at everyone and everything involved in the game that wasn't Frog-related, including SMU, SMU "people," SMU head coach June Jones, former SMU head coach Phil Bennett, SMU receiver Darius Johnson, the Conference USA officials that worked the game, and Conference USA itself.

"We’ve let them come over and talked about how we do things academically and how we do things with the stadium and everything to try to make their program better and their way of thanking us for that is to cut us down," Patterson said in one typical quote. "I don’t think they should ever look for anymore help from anybody from over here ever again."

As Jones himself noted Wednesday, Patterson's outburst has already helped the Mustangs, by helping ensure that 2012's SMU-hosted "Battle for the Iron Skillet" draws far more attention -- and theoretically sells far more tickets -- than it would have otherwise. But the ensuing coverage has also helped get the word out about Mustangs' new offer for fans looking to purchase tickets to SMU's remaining 2011 home games. We'll let the official SMU athletic site explain the "Iron Skillet Special":

On the heels of winning the Iron Skillet, SMU has cooked up a special $40.33 ticket plan that offers fans a ticket for its four remaining home games at a special rate that highlights SMU's big 40-33 win over rival and 20th-ranked TCU last Saturday.

This "Iron Skillet Special" allows fans to catch every minute of the four remaining home games for just $40.33.

If you're keeping track, that's three different repetitions of the numbers "40" and "33" in just two sentences.

Patterson is more than welcome to air his grievances over the officiating and Jones' and Johnson's comments. But in the end, those two numbers are what both he and the Mustangs are going to ultimately remember about the game, and kudos are due SMU for going out of their way to remind their fans (and TCU's) of that.

Posted on: February 23, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Baylor

Posted by Tom Fornelli

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Baylor, who opens its practice on February 28.


Spring Practice Question: Can Baylor's defense catch up to its offense?

A lot of things went well for Baylor in 2010. With Robert Griffin III back for an entire season and the offense firing on all cylinders. The Bears rode their offense to a 7-6 record and the school's first bowl appearance since the 1994 Alamo Bowl. In other words, under Art Briles, it seems as if Baylor is headed in the right direction.

There's still quite a bit of work left to do, however. Yes, Baylor had a winning season, but at one point the Bears were 7-2 before losing their final four games of the season. In those final four losses, Baylor gave up an average of 47.0 points per game, which is precisely where the problem lies. Yes, Baylor was able to post 31.2 points a game on offense in 2010, but the defense gave up an average of 30.5. 

Not exactly the best formula for success. In fact, teams scored over 40 points against Baylor six times in thirteen games. It's hard to win consistently that way, which is why the focus for Baylor this spring will be on improving the defense. That's where the team's new defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, comes in. Bennett comes to Waco after spending the last three seasons at Pitt, where he was the defensive coordinator for one of the best defenses in the Big East.

Of course, the offenses of the Big East and the offenses of the Big 12 aren't really comparable, and that adjustment will be Bennett's biggest challenge.

As will be overhauling a secondary which was a problem area for the Bears in 2010. Both of the team's starting safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, have left which means two new starters in 2011. The good news is that Briles has brought in some talent in his first two recruiting classes. Ahmad Dixon and Prince Kent were two highly-touted recruits in the class of 2010, and both will have their shot at living up to their potential this season. 

Bennett has said that he plans on running a 4-3 defense in Waco, but considering the recruiting success that Baylor has had in the secondary the last few seasons, and the passing offenses of the Big 12, you do have to wonder if it'll be more of a 4-2-5 scheme when it's all said and done. Of course, if a young defensive line that will feature two sophomores in Terrance Lloyd and Gary Mason Jr. on the ends, can mature and get better at pressuring the quarterback, then a 4-3 may stick.

Will Bennett be able to mold Lloyd and Mason into the type of pass-rushers he had at Pitt? If he can help these guys become a Jabaal Sheard or a Greg Romeus, it would be a huge boost to the team's defense.

After all, Bennett doesn't have to turn this unit into a defense that is only giving up 10 points a game. The offense is going to score a lot of points for Baylor in 2011, but if the defense can start holding teams to about 24 points per game, then Baylor is going to rack up quite a few wins in 2011 and get back to another bowl game.

The work begins next week.
Posted on: January 18, 2011 4:56 pm
 

What I learned from the Big East (Bowl Edition)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. Don't let the conference's 4-2 record fool you - While some might have boasted that the Big East's bowl record made up for a season of mediocrity, a closer look at the games on the slate do not impress quite as much. Pittsburgh and South Florida's wins were over teams that finished 6-7, and Syracuse's controversial win over Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl is far less dramatic when you realize the Wildcats only won three conference games all season. Having said that, the bowls try to make each matchup as even as possible. It would not be completely misguided to give the Big East teams credit for representing their conference well, just don't let it fool you into misjudging the caliber of performance from the league as a whole in 2010.

2. Pittsburgh impressed with focus despite distractions - Of all the teams that dealt with transition amidst the postseason, Pittsburgh entered their bowl game with the least stable situation. Interim coach Phil Bennett took over as the Panthers were forced to dismiss new coach Mike Haywood almost immediately after the former Miami (Ohio) coach was arrested for a domestic dispute off the field. Bennett did a good job of keeping the Panthers focused on Kentucky rather than the off-field speculation surrounding the vacant coaching position. Many of the Panthers players felt that Dave Wannstedt was forced out prematurely, and Pittsburgh dedicated 27-10 victory to their former coach. Instead it was Kentucky, dealing with off-field arrests themselves, who appeared distracted and uninterested in the awkwardly timed BBVA Compass Bowl on the Saturday before the BCS Championship Game.

3. Connecticut's storybook season had a sour ending - This was supposed to be a memorable season for Connecticut. After less than a decade of being in the FBS, and only having been in the conference since 2004, the Huskies found themselves sharing a piece of the Big East Championship and earning a BCS Bowl bowl bid to face Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Hardly anyone actually expected Connecticut to pull off the upset, but the fashion in which the Huskies lost and the events that followed may have tarnished a legendary season for the program. Oklahoma's defense did not shut down Connecticut completely, as they were able to rack up 335 total yards of total offense. But the Huskies inability to get an offensive touchdown, along with a pair of Zach Frazer interceptions and a non-existent defense made the Fiesta Bowl loss more frustrating than uplifting.

To make matters worse, head coach Randy Edsall took a different chartered plane back from Arizona than the rest of the team. The reason was so Edsall could finalize the details on his new gig as head coach of the Maryland Terrapins, a job he accepted the next day after the Oklahoma loss. Edsall mentioned nothing of the move to the players after the game, and only addressed them through a conference call after the announcement. Now the Huskies will try to build on last season's success with veteran coach Paul Pasqualoni, hoping to make sure that last season was not a fluke.

4. Changing of the guard amongst the Big East coaching ranks - Of the four teams that picked up wins in the 2010 bowl season, three of them were led by first or second-year coaches. Big East football fans can be hopeful for the future if it continues to see success under the leadership of coaches like Syracuse's Doug Marrone, South Florida's Skip Holtz, and Louisville's Charlie Strong. All three coaches inherited teams going through disappointing and/or controversial seasons, and all three coaches guided their 2010 squads to postseason victories. The turnover has continued throughout the conference, with Todd Graham hopping on board at Pittsburgh, Pasqualoni at Connecticut, and Dana Holgorsen waiting in the wings at West Virginia. When TCU arrives in the July 2012, the transition into the next era of Big East football will be complete. The struggle will be to continuing to battle a damaged reputation that hasn't been the same since Miami and Virginia Tech left the conference in 2004.
Posted on: January 8, 2011 6:46 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2011 7:01 pm
 

Bowl Grades: BBVA Compass Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pittsburgh dedicates their 27-10 win to ex-coach Dave Wannstedt as the Panthers rolled over Kentucky.


PITTSBURGH

Offense: Pittsburgh used special teams play in order to build their lead, but it was a relentless rushing attack that protected it; keeping the Kentucky offense off the field and burning up clock. Running back Dion Lewis, likely playing his last game as a Panther, led the way with 22 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown. Ray Graham pitched in as well with 17 carries for 90 yards. Credit Pittsburgh's offensive line for winning the battle up front against Seattle's defensive line. GRADE: A-

Defense: Whoever does inherit Pittsburgh's defense is awfully lucky, because they showed great promise for the future against a usually potent Kentucky offense. The Wildcats usually average 33 points per game, but without suspended quarterback Mike Hartline, and against the Panther defense they could not turn production into points. The Panthers defense swarmed to the ball and kept close tabs on all-purpose threat Randall Cobb as Kentucky tried to move him around the field. Cobb was held to just 23 yards rushing and 62 yards receiving, and basically was a non-factor in the game. GRADE: B

Coaching: Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett deserves a lot of credit for preparing Pittsburgh for this game even with all the off-field distractions. The Panthers players dedicated the win to former coach Dave Wannstedt, and Wannstedt also is due some credit for this team's success. Hopefully the Panthers will be able to take this win and use it to jump-start the preparation for next season. GRADE: B+

KENTUCKY

Offense: The Wildcats offense desperately missed suspended quarterback Mike Hartline against the Panthers, falling well short of their average 33.0 points per game. Backup Morgan Newton made the most of his opportunity, complete 21 of 36 passes for 211 yards and did not throw an interception. Unfortunately, the offense was not able to turn their production into points, and the inability to convert on 4th and short ended up costing Kentucky one of their best opportunities to win the game. GRADE: D+

Defense: Kentucky's defense has been known to give up some big days on the ground, but the inability to stop the run ended up being the Wildcats demise on Saturday. When Kentucky really needed to shut down Dion Lewis and Ray Graham, they had no answer. The Wildcats also failed to create a turnover down the stretch, which allowed PIttsburgh to continue burning clock as Kentucky watched their chances at two straight bowl wins slip away. GRADE: F

Coaching: Kentucky's special teams woes ended up creating a deficit that was too large to overcome against the Panthers. With one blocked punt and one failed fake punt, the Wildcats' mistakes left a sour taste with Joker Phillips and the rest of the coaching staff. The loss drops Kentucky to 6-7, the first losing season for Kentucky since 2005. GRADE: C-

FINAL GRADE: The only thing that made this game seem mildly watchable was seeing an inspired Pittsburgh squad win one for Dave Wannstedt. For the most part, the game was pretty uninteresting as Kentucky looked outmatched and unprepared in most aspects of the game. With the storylines off the field overshadowing the action on the field, this wasn't the ideal game to kick off a big day of football for most of the nation. GRADE: D+
Posted on: January 7, 2011 1:09 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: BBVA Compass Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Basics: Pitt (7-5) vs. Kentucky (6-6), 12 p.m. EST, Jan. 8, Birmingham, Ala.

Why You Should Watch: It's your final chance to spend a Saturday afternoon watching college football. Isn't that reason enough? If it's not, well, frankly, a matchup between a unexciting Pitt squad of questionable motivation (following the ouster of Dave Wannstedt) and a .500 Kentucky team that slumped badly down the stretch probably won't get your pulse racing. But the Wildcats' receiver/returner/Wildcat (as in the formation) quarterback Randall Cobb is one of the most underrated and explosive players in the country, and there's also the chance that Pitt preseason All-American running back Dion Lewis could pick up where he left off in his late-season (as in, final game) breakout and go bananas again.

But mostly, as we said, it's the last-chance saloon for weekend college football. Drink up while you can.

Keys to Victory for Pitt: The first -- and probably most important one -- is simply for the Panthers to show up. Pitt has already endured one of the most disappointing seasons in the country, an insanely tumultuous offseason that's featured Wannstedt's firing, Mike Haywood's hiring, then Haywood's firing, and Wannstedt waffling until this week on whether he'd bother to come to Birmingham or not. Pitt's morale and focus probably wasn't great even before the coaching drama; though interim head coach Phil Bennett has head coaching experience and is as respected as anyone on staff, it's still anyone's guess what kind of mindset the Panthers will bring to their (admittedly lower-rent) bowl.

But if the Panthers are locked in, they've got the tools to make life very hard on the Wildcats. Offensively, Lewis appears to be back in form after his early-season struggles, receiver Jonathan Baldwin's size will present some serious matchup problems for the Kentucky corners, and the young (and often inconsistent) offensive line should benefit from the extra practice time. Defensively, though the Panthers will miss injured defensive end Jabaal Sheard, Bennett's charges finished a quiet ninth in the country in total defense, and should have little difficulty stopping a 'Cat passing attack minus starting suspended starting quarterback Mike Hartline. On paper, the Panthers ought to be the favorites.

But emotion regularly makes a hash of what "ought" to happen on paper in football, and what kind of emotion Pitt will play with is very much a question right now.

Keys to Victory for Kentucky: The Wildcat's first problem is obvious: Hartline's absence through suspension for a public intoxication arrest. That leaves sophomore Morgan Newton at the helm of the offense; while he hasn't played this season (only seven passes attempted), Newton's freshman season saw him complete 55.6 percent of his 135 passes for only 5.2 yards per attempt. He's likely to be a little sharper with another year under his belt and the extra bowl practice to prepare, but he'll also have to deal with a Pitt pass rush that's been one of the country's best the past couple of seasons (even without Sheard). Newton must play under control, and the Wildcat offensive line -- in a bit of good news for Kentucky, one that's allowed only 15 sacks all season, second-best in the SEC -- must give him time, or the Wildcat passing attack will be dead-on-arrival.

If Newton is on point and the line does give him time, the Wildcats have the weapons to put plenty of points on the board; Cobb, running back Derrick Locke, and 6'5" receiver Chris Matthews would all start for a lot of teams a lot higher-ranked than Kentucky. They may need them, since aside from revelatory first-team All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan (the conference's leader in tackles), few Wildcats stood out on defense this season either in rush defense -- where the 'Cats gave up 170 yards a game -- or pass defense, where the 'Cats ranked 81st by giving up 7.4 yards an attempt.

Of course, as unthreatening as Pitt's offense has been at times, the game promises to be tight and low-scoring regardless. Which is where Cobb comes in: one big special teams return or huge play out of the backfield could decide the game, and the Panthers don't appear to have a similar weapon.

The BBVA Compass Bowl is like: the small-town gas station off the Interstate that the sign says is your last opportunity to fill up for 73 miles or so. You stop because, hey, better get some gas. But maybe there's also a souvenir inside, a little Randall Cobb or Dion Lewis-shaped figurine, that you'll want to keep and remember during the long Saturday football-less road ahead.


Posted on: January 3, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Wannstedt won't coach bowl game

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Here's how messed up the coaching situation has been at Pitt over the last few weeks.  After basically forcing Dave Wannstedt to resign following the season, the school then hired Mike Haywood to take over the program.  Haywood had the job for an entire fourteen days before getting arrested for domestic assault and consequently being dismissed from the job, setting the coaching search wheels in motion once more.

Well, did you know that Pitt still has a bowl game to play?  Yeah, its the BBVA Compass Bowl and it's only a few days away.  Did you also know that up until this morning, Pitt had no idea who would actually be coaching the team in that bowl game?

Dave Wannstedt informed his staff this morning that he won't be coaching the team against Kentucky, which means that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will handle the head coaching duties in the game.

Seriously, the Panthers are giving UConn a run for the money in the "Worst 2011 Ever" contest.  Making matters worse for the Panthers is that they also found out on Monday that senior defensive tackle Jabaal Sheard just had surgery and won't be available to play against Kentucky.

The worst news it that the game is still five days away.  Who knows what else can happen before then?




Posted on: December 17, 2010 12:59 pm
 

Pitt not sure who's going to coach Pitt in bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Mike Haywood was officially introduced as the head coach at Pitt yesterday, and won the press conference with his promise to make the Panthers a more disciplined, more unified team.

But as for winning the Panthers' BBVA Compass Bowl game against Kentucky, Haywood didn't have much to say about that, because he's not coaching the game. Dismissed coach Dave Wannstedt is, right?

Maybe not (emphasis added):
[Athletic director Steve] Pederson made it clear that although Haywood has been hired, the Panthers are Wannstedt's team until after the BBVA Compass Bowl Jan. 8. Wannstedt, forced to resign last week, has yet to decide whether he will coach the Panthers in that game.
So, just to be clear, let's review the Panthers' bowl-coaching options:

1. Dave Wannstedt. May not coach in the bowl.

2. Mike Haywood. Will not coach in the bowl.

3. ?????????.

OK, so behind door No. 3 is almost certainly one of the current Wannstedt assistants -- defensive coordinator Phil Bennett even has head coaching experience from his days at SMU -- but even for a Jan. 8 bowl, practice must start within days. If Wannstedt himself doesn't take the helm, someone has to.

If Pederson wants this blogger's nickel's worth of free advice, Wannstedt's ambivalence about remaining in charge ought to indicate -- all by itself -- that he probably shouldn't be the guy in charge. It's a well-meaning gesture on Pederson's part to let him leave the job with some kind of dignity, but if a gesture he's not interested in accepting, it's time to move on. The Panthers' disappointing season and occasionally aimless-looking coaching search has already made Pitt look bad; an uninspired, unfocused, unprepared loss to a .500 Kentucky team will only make them look worse.

HT: TSK .

Posted on: December 10, 2010 12:39 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2010 12:40 pm
 

The Wannstache doesn't shave off that easily

Posted by Tom Fornelli

If you saw Dave Wannstedt's press conference to announce his resignation at Pitt earlier this week, the impression you got was likely that he couldn't wait to get out of that school fast enough.  It was either that or he was afraid he'd break down in tears if he talked too long, and nobody wants to see a mustache that glorious stained by tears.

Well, it's starting to look like it may have been the latter, as Wannstedt has reportedly made a decision about what he's going to do for Pitt's bowl game. Job or no job, that mustache will be leading his team into Birmingham.
In the days since the announcement that Wannstedt would no longer be the Panthers' head coach, multiple sources told PantherLair.com that Wannstedt planned to lead the Panthers in the BBVA Compass Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., on January 8. 
On Thursday, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said as much during a press conference in Birmingham to promote Pitt's bowl matchup against Kentucky. Wannstedt did not make the trip to Birmingham. 

Not really a surprising decision since Wannstedt will be staying on at Pitt as a special assistant to athletic director Steve Pederson.  What exactly that entails, I have no idea.  Maybe Wanny will drive Pederson around in his Camaro or give him grooming tips.
 
 
 
 
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