The first press luncheon of the year came this afternoon at UC. City BBQ came strong for the media with a corn pudding, BBQ sandwich, beans, bread pudding combo. After tossing in some lemonade on top I can call the day a success.
Oh, there was some discussion of this Thursday night game as well. I'll move forward with more on what was said by Butch Jones and players had to say. But, listen, if you are looking for more culinary updates, I'd be happy to share later.
As for interesting nuggets that came without BBQ sauce, Butch Jones reiterated how little he's judging Pitt by what occurred Saturday against Youngstown State.
For those who missed it, the mighty Penguins went into Heinz Field and put a 31-17 stomping on the Panthers.
"Last week was last week," Jones said. "All I know is I know what they have."
For the moment, they have problems. They also have a mammoth offensive line and RB Ray Graham. Jones ran through the list of disruptive front seven, experienced QB, depth at safety, athletic wide receivers and special teams capabilities. He promptly added a statement consistent with most college football coaches two days from their first game:
"I think about, worry about, anything and everything," Jones said.
The bottom line is, despite any result that happens Thursday, there's plenty to worry about. Not because failure is imminent, rather, because the same way everyone sat shocked at the result Pittsburgh poured out Saturday, so to could anybody be surprised at how UC plays Thursday. With 65 second- and third-year players making out the roster nobody really knows what to expect.
"First game is the unknowns," Jones said. "You try to prepare for anything and everything but you really never know until the lights come on. We'll find out more about our identity, I'll know exaclty where we are at as a football team Thursday night in our postgame press conference."
--- Enjoyed this quote from Jones when asked if he would have preferred to play a game Saturday.
"Absolutely. Saturday was one of the most miserable days I've had. I didn't know what to do with myself. My wife made me go back to work. Especially when you play a conference game, you'd like to get some of those unknowns answered."
--- Discussion turned to this being the final game in the foreseeable future for the River City Rivalry against Pittsburgh. The Panthers, of course, move to the ACC next year.
Jones stated there is no current conversation about adding Pitt to the non-conference schedule, but expected it to come up as a topic of conversation when future opponents are put together in the future.
Jones admitted being sad to see it end.
"I think it's two very similar institutions, two similar universities, two similar cities," he said. "It's a great rivalry with the Pirates and Reds, Steelers and the Bengals, Bearcats and the Panthers. It's healthy."
--- As for tickets, the game is on a better pace than they were for N.C. State at this point last year. The game is not yet sold out, thanks in large part to the fine folks at Pitt being unable to sell their allotment. Still, should be a pretty large crowd with more than 8,000 students tickets out for the Blackout.
--- Much focus will be on Munchie Legaux. Last year, Legaux said he almost "pulled a Willy Beamon" from Any Given Sunday against West Virginia. For those not familiar with the Jamie Foxx character, he'd lose his lunch before every game.
The week leading up to this first career start at Rutgers provided more nervous moments for Legaux, who struggled on a day UC only mustered three points.
Nerves still exist this week as he opens his first season as the designated starter, leader. The anxiety scale tips nowhere near what he endured last season.
"I'm a little bit nervous now, after the first snap I'll be all right," Legaux said. "With the Rutgers game i was just nervous, first time stepping out there college football this not high school anymore. this is a different ballgame. Thursday night I'll be nervous on the first play after that snap and clear and I'll go out there and play ball."
Playing ball as the fill-in starter and playing ball as the man presents a different challenge in Jones' eyes. He often spoke about Zach Collaros needing to learn to be a starting quarterback in 2010. The same concept exists for Legaux this year even though he started three games to conclude last season.
"There's a difference when you go from being the backup quarterback to being a starting quarterback," Jones said. "The whole magnitude in terms of what you study, the way you live day to day, the way you have to bring it every day in practice, the way a team prepares for you, the way you got to lead. There's a lot of burdens on that and a lot of challenges. There's going to be growing pains. Munchie's done a good job dealing with that."
The experience and knowledge of the final three will be beneficial and give reason for optimism, but the residing theme of the week also circulates around UC's most visible figure.
"I like what I've seen from spring football and throughout training camp," Jones said, "but you really never know."
--- Random note: Came across former OL Alex Hoffman in the hallway at UC. I nearly didn't recognize Hoff. He says he dropped 70 pounds since his injury last season and was downright svelte. He's at 238 pounds and working for UC as a GA on the academics side while finishing his MBA.
Can't believe he just dropped 70 pounds like that. I've been trying to trim five pounds for the last year ...
--- For those of you looking to see the entire Jones presser, here is the link.