September 26, 2009

First off, this was a win for NC State. They have the scoreboard. They made the plays on offense and did enough on defense. The post-mortem is about what Pitt did wrong (and occasionally right).

Maybe this is about the post-Navy hangover for the defense. Afterall, last year after Navy they let Rutgers hang a huge number on them. Eh, I’m grasping.

You know, in a way Bill Stull is the ultimate QB for Dave Wannstedt. A pure reflection.

If you looked at Wanny’s record in Chicago and Miami without any context, you would see a mediocre head coach in the NFL. Surely not a good one, but not one that has engendered such anger years later at his very mention. It almost seems so outsized from the results. Of course, the reality is it wasn’t just how many wins and losses it was the way it happened.

Now Stull had a decent game. The loss should not be on him. He led Pitt to 31 points and was effective most of the game. The supposed big time defense got gashed on the ground and air. Yet, all most of us can see is Stull inconceivably throwing the ball away on 4th and goal from the 8 in the final minutes. Not trying to make the hero play. Not trying to give a receiver a chance or maybe draw a pass interference call. A boneheaded decision that I can’t wait to see defended by Coach Wannstedt. In the end, it seemingly reinforces everything thought about Stull before the season and wiping out his performance in the rest of the game.

Really, though, this was about a hideous defensive effort. In case the Pitt D did not realize it, the main guy to stop was Russell Wilson. The guy under center in the red. He threw for 322 yards and 4 TDs and ran for 91 more. That’s 413 of the 530 yards of total offense that NC State had. You know 78% of their offense. You might want to base the game plan on limiting him. The D-line rarely got pressure on him, and definitely struggled with containing him when he left the pocket. As bad as the secondary for Pitt was — and it was putrid — the supposed strength of Pitt’s D gave little help.

This was not a game where NC State had all the breaks. The officiating was not even close to the reason Pitt lost the game. Pitt had the field position all through the first half. They got the one big turnover. NC State missed two field goals.  The fact is, the Pitt defense was unable to stop Russell Wilson and the rest of the Wolfpack.

All through the game, you would see the Pitt defense make a play. Maybe even two straight. Only to get gashed and give up another drive sustaining first down. NC State only had to punt three times in the game.

I honestly don’t know what the answer is. Unlike the D-line or the linebackers there just isn’t a lot of depth or talent with the corners or safeties. Who exactly would you move ahead of the present starters for any reason other than pure frustration with the starters? Purely on talent, I’m only seeing Jared Holly getting more playing time.

Wanny will never be fired at Pitt. He will resign if he feels he cannot get Pitt to a higher level.

Comment by joel 09.27.09 @ 7:42 pm

I find it amazing that on a weekend of college football where 4 top 10 teams lost, proving that anyone can beat anyone on any given day, we have people crying that the sky is falling because we lost a close game as if it ended our BCS title dreams or something. We are 3-1. We could be 4-0. But we weren’t so much better than NC State yesterday that we SHOULD be 4-0. This is different from the way the Steelers have lost the lost 2 weeks where they completely dominated the games and pissed them away in the fourth quarter.

The reality is, it isn’t always the “best team” that wins, but the best team on a given day. When Pitt dominated WVU two years ago- a WVU team that was on the verge of a national championship- we all knew that WVU was the better team. But Pitt was the better team that day. Given 4 more quarters, I don’t think WVU would have beat us. But we weren’t a national championship caliber team and they were. That is, as Christ Berman likes to say, why they play the game.

Our season is not over. Wanny doesn’t need fired. Anyone who blames Bill Stull for that loss has an agenda- they hate Stull and want any reason to blame him. I don’t think Stull is the kind of QB that could lead us to a BCS championship- but we aren’t a BCS championship caliber team. Stull has played FAR BETTER than anyone thought he would. He has 1 INT through 4 games. He has been plagued by receivers dropping balls in all 4 games, or his numbers would be even better. Somehow Dickerson has been let off the hook by so many after his drop in the end zone. “Stull isn’t the guy who can win it at the end,” people are saying. He put the ball in the receiver’s hands.

We all know that the defense has looked very poor. But if we want to figure out how to win games like this one, we HAVE to figure out how to get positive rushing yards in the second half. Other than breaking a huge run late against Buffalo, our rushing game has been virtually non-existent in the second half of games. I don’t know if it is play calling, poor line play, or not reacting to defensive adjustments (it is likely some of all 3), but if we can’t get our running game going in the second half of these games, then we are going to have a lot of 3 and outs.

And, to reiterate, if our WRs keep dropping balls, especially drive extending or point scoring balls, then you can’t pin that on Stull. I saw two bad passes out of Stull yesterday. One was to Baldwin, when Stull was being pressured, he stepped up and threw off his back foot and put it just behind Baldwin. If he got that to Baldwin, it was a first down and maybe a touchdown. The other was the fourth down play to end the game- where I too thought there was miscommunication on the route. I agree with the person who said above- if Pitt scored that TD at the end, is there any reason in the world to believe that our D would have finally stopped NC State in OT?

Comment by The Prowler 09.27.09 @ 7:45 pm

Prowler, Great post. I agree with everything you said. I started out a Stull hater this season, probably one of his biggest critics, but even I have to admit, he has done pretty well so far and was in no way to blame for yesterdays lost. He has done what has been asked of him so far and has been efficient in doing so. I’m just glad we didn’t go to overtime cause (1) my two year old and infant were starting to get restless and (2) I don’t know if the result would have been any different. The only thing I think Pitt should have done differently yesterday was stop forcing the NC State QB out of the pocket. That resulted in a multitude of positive plays for state. I’d still take Wanny anyday over anyone else.

Comment by Heel Hater 09.27.09 @ 7:54 pm

Mediocre program and a lot of fans still make excuses for Wannstedt. Too funny.

Comment by Mark 09.27.09 @ 7:59 pm

We miss Scott McKillop more than Shady. For 2 yrs. he made everyone’s tackles and made the two ends think they’re NFL material. We’ll have the same problem in hoops. Who is going to rebound?

Comment by alcofan 09.27.09 @ 8:00 pm

I don’t think anyone would be this upset if it was a well-matched game where both sides looked good and it was a real battle.

Pitt should have won that game. Pitt was up with a decent lead. Then, NC State got some momentum, the defense shit itself and every Pitt fan in the world knew we were not going to win that game unless the stadium got enveloped by a time warp that knocked 10 minutes off the clock.

Comment by JoeyD 09.27.09 @ 8:00 pm

No mid game adjustments!!!! No plan to contain a mobile qb!!!! A two touchdown lead up in smoke!!!

Comment by Pittastic 09.27.09 @ 8:08 pm

I did not read all of the comments above, but I could not disagree with you more on Stull…How can you put him through the meat grinder, when on the play before the final throw (which was bad), our 6’2″ 235 lb TE let a DB crawl over his back and knock a TD pass from his hands? Nope, this one goes squarely on the defense. I have now watched three straight teams get 1st downs out of 3rd and double-digit situations against our defense MULTIPLE times per game! Three straight TD’s after we take a 31-17 lead? Hard to be critical of the offense because they are scoring enough points to win, but they do appear to fade dramatically after halftime. I don’t think the problem with the defense is only the players…I think other coaches see a weakness in the scheme and are exploiting the daylights out of it. I don’t want to take anything away from the NC ST QB, but his receivers were wide open all day. If I see one of our LB’s chasing a TE or FB from 10 yards behind again during the next few games, I’ll know its going to be a very long year. Very, very frustrating!

Comment by HbgFrank 09.27.09 @ 8:08 pm

Great short post! The jury is still out – Wannstedt’s era could end up being more mediocre than Harris’! Yet the Wannstedt die-hards come up with new excuses after each loss. Wannstedt’s butt was red hot before the WVU game in ’07. A few more losses this season and it will be red hot again.

Comment by TonyinHouston 09.27.09 @ 8:35 pm

I am not sure who your post about making excuses for Wanny was aimed at, Mark… but in case it was me, I sure didn’t make any excuses for him. The only mention I made of him was that he didn’t need fired just because we lost yesterday. That isn’t an excuse. Just trying to be realistic. Should Mike Tomlin be fired for losing to the Bungles today or the Bears last week? If your answer is, “Tomlin has won a Super Bowl, Wanny hasn’t,” then you are agreeing that even coaches who have had success such as winning a Super Bowl still find themselves losing games they should win.

I also said that we need to figure out how to get the running game active in the second half if we are going to keep winning. That falls squarely on the coaches, which I mentioned in that post- as does the poor defensive play.

My big concern is that we have seen tremendous growth out of this program in the last two seasons under Wanny, and our recruiting is better than it has been in decades- yet after 1 loss we are back to “Fire Wanny!!!” If we were 9-0 going into the ND game and then lost that game, the same people would be on this site saying that Wanny can’t do anything right. If we win the rest of our games until the WVU game and lose that one, we will hear the same things.

It is just clear that some people will ignore what is going well and just wait for a mistake to be made so they can immediately call for Wanny’s head or for Stull to be replaced- the latter of which has been evidenced by the amount of blame people have placed on Stull for yesterday’s loss.

If we had realistic expectations, then a loss like yesterday’s wouldn’t seem like the end of the world. I was pissed when the game was over because we sure could have won. But I didn’t believe coming into the season that we were going to go 10-2 or 11-1, so a loss doesn’t burst the bubble of my unrealistic fantasy. This program IS growing and getting stronger. They AREN’T near elite level yet. They may not get to the elite level under Wanny. But we weren’t really expecting 9 wins last season. So far we are looking pretty good this year, with knowledge of 1 primary area that is problematic- the defense, and especially the secondary.

I don’t know how this season will turn out, I just don’t know why so many Pitt fans root against Wanny and Stull and whoever else they don’t like. I didn’t want us to hire Wanny. I wanted a better QB than Stull. Both have made strides and dammit I am pulling for them to keep getting better. I don’t see how someone who calls themselves a Pitt fan thinks they earned the right to gloat at the rest of us because of a loss. Aren’t we all rooting for Pitt to win?

Comment by The Prowler 09.27.09 @ 9:16 pm

The WAY we lose (and win) is what is so maddening…

We have a perception problem in our conference, and everyone else has been manning up outside the BE schedule to help improve it. We get our chance to help our conference against an ACC team, and we don’t deliver. I know our job is not to play for our conference, but in a way, we have to in order to push our conference rep into the conversation.

Pitt is such a burden to the Big East in Football! We lay a terd in our only BCS game. We laid an ugly terd in our non-con schedule (see red shirt diaries) My gosh, then go and knock off the conference’s only shot to win it all(WVU two years ago as a 4TD dog)…when we had NO business doing it, causing us to not have a BCS Champion in the conference! Don’t get me wrong, I loved the win and I will always root for Pitt. I hate WVU, and would have hated seeing them win it all. But, it would have helped our chances to win one—immensely—- in the future! The way we come up SO SMALL in these non-con games just hurts our conference’s perception. And as we all know, perception (like it or not) is king in college football.

Comment by Pauly P 09.27.09 @ 11:59 pm

Tonyinhouston – amazing that DW’s “butt was red hot before the WVU game in 2007” yet he was awarded a contract extension before that game. In reality it was not, and his job wasn’t in jeopardy at all. Nor is it now.

PITT fans are somewhat delirious if you think a loss like this is going to do anything to bring DW’s time at PITT to a close – or even not winning the BE championship. He be around for a long time if he keeps winning 8 or more games a year.

Comment by Reed 09.28.09 @ 5:04 am

Prowler, you and others misconstrue the diatribes some of us hurl Wanny’s way. I don’t believe there is a poster on this board who doesn’t want him to succeed and for Pitt to do well. Our comments are out of frustration for the state of the football program and the fact that we can see clearly that Wanny is NOT A HEAD COACH. Consequently, it is tough investing in the program as a fan because you always know your next big disappointment is just around the corner. We are living Foge the sequel. Everybody loves Serafino and wanted him to win, but he needed to stay at home on Saturdays. What good does it do to be a great recuriter if you don’t know how to coach the kids on game day? Remember Earl Bruce at Ohio State? They called him Ol’ 8 and three Earl and ran him out of town because the expectations for the program was that they would win when they were supposed to and compete for a championship every now and then-the same expectation they have in Happy Valley. Is it so bad to think we can have the same mind set in Pittsburgh? I personally have over $3,000 invested in season tickets (with contribution to Panther fund) and have a basement room decorated with Pitt memorabilia reminding me of the days when we were respected. Now are an also ran on our best day and if me wanting that to change is wrong then I went to the wrong university. All I am saying is Wanny is what he is – an ex athlete with a stubborn streak who will never be more successful than he is right now. So the fact that this is as good as it gets is both disappointing and unnecessary. I don’t want the university to fire him, I want him to wake up and smell the coffee and do the right thing and move on to some ambassodor role in the athletic department. That will not happen, of course, so we will be here year after year watching the Urban Myers of the world turn programs around in two years and then come to boards like this and read comments from people who put on their rose colored glasses and defend a coach who can recruit but doesn’t know what to do with them once he gets them on campus. If a nine win season in the Big East of all conferences followed by the most pathetic performance in a bowl game in the history of the NCAA is your idea of the best we can hope for, then heaven help us.

Comment by steve 09.28.09 @ 8:03 am

Curious? I haven’t seen J Sheard’s name mentioned yet. He played his worst game that I have seen him play. He did not keep contain all game. NCSt converts 4 and ~16 because Sheard over pursued and Russel ran around his side for the big pick up. The coaches pulled him a couple of times to address this. After that he played very tentative.

Comment by Sad Dad 09.28.09 @ 3:39 pm

To those writing Stull was “decent” or he put up “31 points” so he played OK. The defense didn’t play well, that’s obvious, but sometimes you need one side of the ball to bail out the other. If you look at NC State, they same could be said. Their defense didn’t play well at all, bu they got bailed out by their offense. I’ll write this again, Bill Stull is a liability. When the player touching the ball on every play has trouble making quick decisions, isn’t an accurate passer and has problems throwing timing routes beyond 10 yards, you are going to lose to teams with better quarterbacks if everything else is basically a wash. Completing dinks and dunks and a few slants and missing several other big plays isn’t a good game. And as for the praise for the play calling, if you remember, they really started to sputter on offense when they started to throw on first down and give Stull some chances to go beyond a screen or a quick out. He simply has trouble making plays downfield and making quick decisions. A typical play was the second down play from the 7 at the end of the game. He had the receiver right away, instead he waited an extra second, thew low and the receiver caught the ball for a loss.

The comments on defense I echo completely. The secondary is bad, but who could be a decent replacement?

Comment by matt nyc 09.28.09 @ 7:24 pm

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