October 19, 2009

Much like Dion Lewis popping it outside for a big gain after Rutgers overcommitted/blitzed inside I’m just going to try and get through this quickly.

Eye of the Panther has a large chunk covered. Especially from the Pittsburgh media side of things.

It was a good win for Pitt. They broke a bad streak and put Rutgers in a 0-2 hole in the Big East.

After four consecutive wins over teams with a combined .286 winning percentage, the Scarlet Knights met their match against a Pittsburgh team that dominated both lines of scrimmage for much of the evening.

The Panthers got to Savage four times, and Pitt’s offensive line paved the way for a whopping 228-38 advantage in rushing yards.

So much for this year winning the Big East despite the soft schedule and getting all the good teams at home.

With Pitt, Cincinnati and West Virginia undefeated in league play, the Scarlet Knights aren’t mathematically eliminated, but someone at MIT needs to calculate the odds.

“I’ve been here five years now — you just want to step on that field and win every game,” safety Devin McCourty of Nanuet told The Post. “It feels like at this point this program should rise to the top like we’re capable of doing, so when you come out and you don’t, it just hurts and it’s disappointing.”

It’s 2008 all over again for Rutgers. Hopes dashed early, and now just trying to make a bowl game. Despite being 4-2, the 2 1-AA wins means they need to go at least 3-3 to make a bowl. Only one 1-AA win can count to the requisite 6 win minimum for bowl eligibility — not that they shouldn’t with games remaining at Army, Louisville and Syracuse. Even at UConn is winnable.

It was a half-full/half-empty game for Pitt. The winning trumps everything else. Especially since there were no injuries to make it potentially Pyrrhic.  Still

As usual, Pitt was its own worst enemy most of the night. Two missed field goals. A blocked punt. A fumble by Bill Stull. A punt return turnover. Bad penalties at the end of the first half. All those mistakes allowed the Scarlet Knights to hang around until the final 90 seconds. The Panthers’ last two games and three of their last four have come down to the wire.


The Panthers need to quit squandering so many opportunities, quit leaving so many points on the field and need to do a better job of putting teams away than they did tonight.

But it was a victory, nonetheless, and the Panthers (6-1, 3-0) now are poised to play host to South Florida (5-1, 1-1) Saturday in one of the biggest games to played at Heinz Field in quite some time.

Pitt made too many mistakes to beat a good team, something Rutgers right now is not. The Panthers had five penalties, lost two fumbles, missed two field goals, there were at least four potential sacks the Panthers failed to complete, Pitt had a punt blocked and Jovanni Chappel dropped an easy pick six. Those are the kinds of mistakes that stand between Pitt being a really good team and Pitt winning by the skin of its teeth against teams like Connecticut and Rutgers, which are both likely to struggle this year because they have some youth at key positions.

It’s a hard balance. Dwell on the mistakes and missed chances and you get labeled negative and/or wanting Pitt to fail. Go too far on the fact that it was a win and the good stuff and you are wearing rose-colored glasses who can’t see the gaping flaws and problems.

I mean the defense held Rutgers running game to a mere 38 yards (though, -25 were attributed to sacking Savage). Even excluding the sacks, Rutgers only managed 63 yards on 17 attempts — with 11 yards coming in a Wildcat formation early. To the point where Rutgers Coach Schiano had to defend the game plan  and playcalling.

Not that Rutgers partisans didn’t see their own opportunities squandered in the game.

The Pittsburgh game was not lost on Mohamed Sanu’s last fumble. It was lost in the first quarter, when Joe Lefeged accidentally took a knee at the one yard line, and Tom Savage threw an ugly looking interception on the next series. Football is sequential and cumulative; what happens in the first quarter has an impact in the fourth. The Lefeged miscue severely limited the available play calls by putting Rutgers in awful field position, practically guaranteeing the subsequent three and out. Without those mistakes, Rutgers could have built a little momentum, and maybe even tried to get their running game going. As such, not only did they fail to have that opportunity, but Pitt responded by going on methodical, clock killing drives which severely tired out the Rutgers defense.

It’s a much different perspective on what was seen as opposed to through partisan Pitt glasses. The mistakes and missed opportunities by Pitt are minimized compared to mistakes and missed opportunities by the Scarlet Knights.

I know there was a bit of excessive “Savage Love” going in the telecast. At the same time, if you are a Rutgers fan, you should be excited about his future. I thought the freshman looked very good so early in the career. Especially with fellow freshman WR Sanu.

If Rutgers had more depth at WR, it might have been different. The gameplan seemed smart if a little scary for Rutgers to throw more. Clearly the offensive coaches for Rutgers knew where Pitt’s weakness lay.

Now, during the game, it seemed like Rutgers was getting pressure on Stull. Not getting sacks but hurries, knockdowns and making him a bit more uncomfortable in the pocket. Not according to the Rutgers beat writer.

Pittsburgh quarterback Bill Stull would drop back to pass, look … look … and find a receiver.

It continued to happen as the game went on. Stull dropping back, looking around and finding one of his many targets. But the one thing he didn’t see?

Rutgers defense.

There was virtually no pressure on Stull all night long, allowing the senior quarterback to pick apart the Scarlet Knights defense and soften it up for big blows by his running backs. This wasn’t a full-scale meltdown the likes of the season-opener against Cincinnati. Rather, it was a slow defeat as the defense could get or sustain any pressure on Pittsburgh’s offense.

I would have sworn during the telecast that at one point they put up a stat saying Stull had 7 hurries and 3 knockdowns.  When there were only 24 passing attempts, I would see that as some pressure but that’s just me.

The story for Pitt. For the offense. For the game was Dion Lewis. Man, you hate when a kid playing right in your own backyard is missed and then kills you. It opens up the second-guessing about recruiting and talent evaluation (I mean, just imagine if UConn’s QB Endres had come up with a big game against Pitt).

When colleges were still sniffing around the then-mysterious running back while he was at Blair Academy, Lewis and a mentor drove tapes of his up to Rutgers to see if they would give him a look. Rutgers didn’t bite and chose instead to recruit another running back, De’Antwan Williams.

“We certainly evaluated him, like we do with thousands of kids,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said afterwards. “He’s a very good player. We made choices in recruiting — and some of the choices are made by them — but you made choices about who to go after.”

Another kid from Eastern PA got some attention, as Jarred Holley has done nicely starting at strong safety since Elijah Fields got hurt.

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt is pleased with Holley and is excited about what he can bring to the team in the future.

“He’s smart and a playmaker,” Wannstedt said. “He’s a tough tackler with great instincts and he’s going to be a really good player for us.”

Holley lives with receivers Cameron Saddler, Mike Shanahan and kicker Kevin Harper and said he’s real close with the other safeties, especially since they go in early on practice to watch film on opposing offenses.

Dom Brock DeCicco looked to be a goat early for the really, really dumb gaffe on special teams that gave Rutgers the chance for their first score. Then he reversed the fortunes with Pitt’s first pick-off in four games.

Plenty of scouts at the game. From the NFL and bowls.

Represented were the Cardinals, Bengals, Browns, Packers, Eagles and two members each from the Colts and Jaguars. The Giants and Jets also were in attendance…  Representatives from the Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Bowl were all watching the game.

I said “abbreviated recap” in the post before? Never seems to work out that way.

Dom DeCicco.

Comment by maguro 10.19.09 @ 2:20 pm

Why so many pro scouts and Bowl representatives at this game? Did I/we miss something?

Comment by dugdog 10.19.09 @ 2:30 pm

Begging your pardon, Chas, it is Jarred, not Jared, Holley. His name is as unique as his gameplay. The next Easton Assissin!

Comment by steve 10.19.09 @ 3:08 pm

Rose Bowl?

So you mean to tell me that if USC or Iowa plays for the title, they’d actually consider putting Pitt or Rutgers in the Rose Bowl?!?

I wonder if the dude from the Papa John’s Bowl felt inadequate in that group of representatives.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 10.19.09 @ 3:26 pm

What? No Meinekee Car Care Bowl or Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl representative?


Comment by Cool Hand Nuke 10.19.09 @ 4:19 pm

I remember a lot pressure on Stull in the 2nd half … which may be a preview for this Saturday with USF’s D-line

Comment by wbb 10.19.09 @ 4:20 pm

I also thought Savage showed much potential, and should be come a really good QB

However, from reading some of the RU blogs in the Newark paper, you would think he was the sole reason that RU lost and should have been replaced … imagine that, a college QB being criticized

Comment by wbb 10.19.09 @ 4:24 pm

Rose Bowl reps just using the opportunity for a free trip to New York City

Comment by Jamie H 10.19.09 @ 4:49 pm

Huge game for Pitt this week. The is the biggest game for Pitt at home since Rutgers in 2006. That one didn’t end well. Pitt needs this game. It will set up an awesome stretch in November. Come on kids!

Comment by Omar 10.19.09 @ 5:01 pm

I hear ya, Omar! I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that they just keep on executing their “Big 10” style game-plan.

Comment by Shawn 10.19.09 @ 5:21 pm

A little harsh on the DeCicco muff. He was running away and the ball chasted him.

Comment by alcofan 10.19.09 @ 7:35 pm

I completely agree with alcofan on the DeCicco “fumble”. I think he was expecting Aaron Smith to catch the ball instead of running away from it. It took an unexpected bounce and hit him, not really much he could do about that and not his fault at all.

Comment by K.R.Y. 10.19.09 @ 8:37 pm

Let’s go Pitt! Here’s to a big weekend! I’m so excited where we are thus far.

Dion Lewis for Heisman

Hail to Pitt!!!

Comment by Pitt It Is 10.19.09 @ 9:12 pm

aside from calling a pass play after running the ball down the opponent’s throat, what is correctable?

DeCicco is experienced enough to get away from a short punt,
Stull is experienced enough to protect the ball,
Chappel just dropped the ball, and
Huchins hadn’t missed a FG all season

Comment by wbb 10.19.09 @ 9:16 pm

Huge game this weekend! I agree! Looking forward to taking my sister to Heinz for the first time. We’re going early to see the Great Hall and I’m going to wax nostalgic about all of my memories over the years. I’ll try to keep the bitter Pitt fan at bay!. What a wonderful time of the year when Pitt is ranked and playing meaningful games!!! And just think, the most unpredictably exciting Basketball Season awaits us!

Hail to Pitt!!!

Comment by Pauly P 10.19.09 @ 9:36 pm

Aaron Smith should have caught that punt that was landing between the 10-15….DeCicco was running away. That one is on Smith not DeCicco so yes correctable because he isn’t very experienced and thats a coachable point.
Hutchins hadn’t missed a FG but had missed 2 extra points.
Just because players are experienced doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t made and that they can’t be coached to make corrections. Guys in the NFL make corrections throughout their careers.

Comment by OntarioLett'sGoPitt 10.19.09 @ 9:38 pm

I’ve seen Smith running away from more punts than I’ve actually seen him field. And of those he’s fielded, most were fair catches.

Didn’t we have Cam Saddler back there on a punt return once or twice the week he got hurt?

Ray Graham had a nice run back on a KO this past week, but I can’t wait until Saddler comes back.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 10.20.09 @ 1:05 am

I’m not so sure that Smith is the blame on the punt. The ball was kicked short and was wobbly, which would have made for a difficult catch .. and face it, the reason Smith is the punt returner in the 1st place is to ensure of no fumbles … he immediately waved off the punt, as he is trained and I’m sure communicated the verbal signals as well. Yes, the ball took an unfortunate bounce but DeCicco’s mission at that point as was with everybody else is to get away from the ball … BECAUSE OF EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED … Football 101. And I believe, he he’s been on the punt return team the past 2 years, and knows this more than anyone.

Comment by wbb 10.20.09 @ 7:17 am

On Stull’s fumble–when they showed the replay it looked like he had the ball secured the way he was supposed to and it still got poked out by the defender. Some fumbles are not the fault of the fumbler but primarily due to a good play by the defender. This looked like one of the later type to my eyes.

Comment by pitt1972 10.20.09 @ 11:05 am

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