September 2, 2008

There’s only so much rehashing and teeth gnashing that I can do over one game. At least as far as discussing how many versions of excrement that game was and the performance from the coaches to the players.

The excuses/revisionist history from Coach Wannstedt has had me ready to kill.

  • — Bill Stull goes from being a guy in the system who knows it and has been everything they wanted from the position to being inexperienced and only playing his first full game.
  • — The line was coming along and the talent and depth was improved to still being a work in progress that isn’t there.
  • — Pitt was playing for field position, because the defense was doing well. In the first quarter? Afterall, nothing could possibly change from there. Adjustments never happen.
  • — The players weren’t tired in the second half. Which means they had to have been poorly prepared and coached to be that out of position so often. (P.S., it’s not a good sign when Coach Wannstedt is feeling defensive about what Lou Holtz is saying on TV.)

Those were just a few off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting where the storyline from the coaching staff suddenly shifted.

There is no doubt that what deflated Pitt and encouraged BGSU was completely on Coach Wannstedt.

Rather than take a shot at the end zone on third down, Pitt opted to let 25 valuable seconds tick away before calling time out with three seconds left. Conor Lee’s 37-yard field goal put Pitt ahead, 17-14.

It’s a decision that cost Pitt the game, its preseason ranking and possibly its season.

Brandon, a progressive offensive mind but not one to be confused for former Bowling Green head coach Urban Meyer, certainly wondered what Pitt was thinking.

“Our guys at halftime said, ‘Coach, they ran the clock down. Why did they do that?’ The kids said (Pitt) should have gone for it,” Brandon said. “Our guys at halftime felt confident.”

Brandon also hinted that offering constant motion and gimmicks confuses Pitt’s defense, whether the opponent is Bowling Green or South Florida.

Read between the lines, and it’s not difficult to deduce that Bowling Green thinks it’s not to difficult to out-coach Pitt.

The staffs at Ohio, Connecticut, Navy and Rutgers probably think the same thing.

As LeSean McCoy said,

“It would have been nice to get a touchdown but, you know, we follow the leader (Wannstedt),” McCoy said.

While what Pitt did only gave BGSU encouragement.

Following Saturday’s game, Brandon and his players fielded myriad questions from Pittsburgh beat writers looking for fodder to lampoon Wannstedt. Brandon said the Falcons were energized by the Panthers’ cautious play calling at the end of the first half. Linebacker John Haneline said he relishes opportunities like Saturday, when he lined up against Pitt’s no frills I-formation, which is outdated in today’s college game.

“It’s my favorite thing to play [against],” Haneline said. “They’re going to knock you in the mouth. You have to knock back.”

Again, what goes back to the coaching concerns the personnel. As many have pointed out, despite Dom DeCicco struggling at safety. Joe Thomas looking like a human revolving door. The offense stagnanted and predictable. Potential playmakers and young talent were no where to be seen on the field.

As for changes to the starting lineup, Wannstedt said he is not ready to panic after one game, but he said Lucas Nix and Baldwin need to be on the field more because they are two of the most talented players on the team.

Nix has been pushing starting right tackle Joe Thomas for playing time since training camp and was supposed to play against Bowling Green, but he didn’t mostly because the Panthers were locked in a tight game with few opportunities for making changes. But the coaches believe Thomas has underachieved since training camp began and Saturday apparently wasn’t his finest hour, either. Wannstedt said game situations won’t dictate Nix’s playing time this week.

“We need to get Lucas Nix into the game and get him some playing time,” Wannstedt said. “We’re just going to have to put him in and let him play. Whether we are winning or losing or it is a close game, we need to get him in there. And the same thing with Baldwin; he needs to be in there and play a little more.

“Those are the two players who need to get more playing time, but nothing else will change because we just made a few mental mistakes, and they can be corrected.

Uh, what? So are we getting, “The system is fine. All is well. If the players just do what we tell them it will work. The coaching was sound.“?

The Panthers were criticized for punting twice inside the Falcons’ 35 and played for a field goal instead of a touchdown at the end of the first half.

Wannstedt took exception to the criticism and said that the Panthers were — and always are — obviously trying to score a lot of points — they just weren’t very successful at it. He said that was due to lack of execution and a lack of protecting the football.

“I’m not sure what you mean, full throttle?” Wannstedt asked rhetorically. “I mean, you’d like to think with our backs we’d be able to make a few big plays running the ball. We have to be able to generate some big plays, but, if you look at it, our longest play from scrimmage was only 17 yards.

“You are not going to score a lot of points doing that. Our offensive line is a new group, and we are taking that into account [in play-calling] and our quarterback was playing his first full game of his career, but we know that we are going to have to score more points to beat anybody, especially against some of these spread teams.

“Scoring has gone up significantly the past few years, we know that, but we also didn’t help ourselves by creating short fields for our offense. We got one turnover and we turned it over four times, which is eliminating four possessions. We can’t turn the ball over; it is the difference between winning and losing.”

I’m sorry. This is pathetic. No responsibility or accountability from Coach Wannstedt. He simply says they need to get some players more game time.

He doesn’t explain why they didn’t see the field in this game when needed. Except for Greg Cross which he excuses as saying that in the second half when Pitt was trailing, they needed to pass not run. Because, you know, they were trailing by all of 3 points for a significant portion.

Elijah Fields, one of the teams most athletic and high ceiling players never saw any action against a spread. The kind of offense, I would say Fields would thrive against.

I admit, right now I don’t think there is much Wannstedt could say to make me feel positive. That said, he’s given me no reason to believe he sees any problems other than the players not executing well enough.

Apparently because they were at fault. No issues with the coaching, preparation, game plan or motivation.

The one constant of Wannstedt at Pitt has been his slavish devotion to experience over talent. He continually bemoans positional weakness wherever there isn’t a senior or upperclassman.

This is college. Every team has issues of inexperience. Pitt is actually one of the most experienced teams in the country in terms of returning starters. Yet, it still doesn’t have enough experience. It is up to the coaches to get the players ready and to take advantage of what they can do. If you can’t adapt your system even a little to the players you have, then this will be the continual outcome.

Disappointment and excuses that the players are making mistakes.

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