September 3, 2010

Falling Short on the Road

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 1:26 am

Glass half-full: Pitt played a brutal opening road game with a new QB and several new offensive linemen. The team forced turnovers. They came together in the second half. Made adjustments. Defense actually blitzed. Saw the new QB mature and gain confidence from the 1st Q to the 4th Q. Lost by 3 to a team that has won 23 games over the past 2 years in OT. It is just the 1st game.

Glass half-empty: Secondary looked horrid. Defensive line struggled to get pressure without a blitz. Offensive line had little going for it in the middle. Baldwin let himself get bumped out of the game for 3 quarters. Unable to get the running game going. After finally getting aggressive with the offensive play calling when coming back, played for the tie and overtime in the final 47 seconds. So many, many missed opportunities.

You know, losing a close game makes it hard. I mean really hard not to get ticked about the missed chances. One, two or just a few tweaks and the game is Pitt’s. Missing a FG. Failing to capitalize on turnovers. How do you not feel frustrated about the loss?

Here’s the deal in college football. This isn’t the NFL. There is no playoff. If you want to play on the national stage, you have to win. You have to win all of the time.

There is no shame in losing to the Utes. They are a good team. They were at home, and I can’t say that Pitt exactly deserved to win (well, neither did Utah, but a sloppy opening game is not unexpected). If you want to claim to be one of the better teams in the country you have to win these games. Falling short is nice when you aren’t expected to compete or are rebuilding.

Right now, Pitt showed that the weaknesses and question marks outweigh the strengths and answers.That can change over the course of the season. I hope so, but the question is: how long will it take?

Pitt has tough games with Miami and ND as two of its next four games, so there isn’t that much time. It can’t just be about how the team finishes. If the only concern is the Big East, then why ever care about any non-con game since they are only exhibition games?

Maybe that allows justification of the fact that aside from Notre Dame in 2008, Pitt has not won a non-conference game where they were the underdog. Right now Pitt is a decent to good team, but not much more than that.

I’m shocked there was no media or blog criticism of Sunseri. He was terrible. We got the ball twice in the Red Zone, first and ten and the team went backwards, settling for FG’s. That was really the ball game. If you block a punt and get the ball at the 10, you have to score a TD. The interception in OT was an incredibly bad pass and a worse so bad decision, since it was first down. I guess even the media is giving Sunseri a ‘pass’ since he’s a legacy. That STINKS !

Comment by carolinapanther 09.04.10 @ 1:07 am

I dunno, the kid was making his first start, on the road, against a very loud crowd and a good team.

Pretty tall order, and I thought that once they took the reigns off of him, Tino didn’t do too bad. I’m not sure what you expected carolinapanter….

Oh, and after being shackled for 3 quarters, he still damn near led us to a game winning TD from a 10+ point deficit.

Plus, I saw him demonstrate a MUCH better arm than Bostick or Stull did the 3 previous years.

Was he on the line committing all of those drive killing false starts too?

And let’s end the “Bostick beat Notre Dame and WVU” fallacy once and for all.

Handing off to Shady 3094832094832 times beat Notre Dame and WVU. Period.

Anyone who is blaming this on Sunseri is just being unreasonable.

There might be a time down the road when we find out that Sunseri isn’t a good QB, but that time was not last night in Utah.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 09.04.10 @ 1:57 am

Call me unreasonable. I think Bostick is getting the short shrift in favor of local kids. And I went to Central Catholic and grew up obviously in the City of Pittsburgh. Remember Bostick played those games in his true freshmen year and had some decent games with over 200 yards passing. Nearly threw for 300 yards against L’Ville in 2007, so he has some talent. We were fortunate Tino wasn’t called for intentional grounding on several plays and did he or did he not, even underthrow the wideopen TD pass to Baldwin. If Stull played like this, I can hear the howling.
I understand Jimbo Covert’s my Dad however.

Comment by carolinapanther 09.04.10 @ 4:10 am

A couple of things…

Pittman, you said: “Afraid to blitz because of their porous secondary‚Ķ.” and answered your own question. The staff knew we had a poor secondary going in and knew if they blitzed we’d get burnt – which in case you forgot was the exact result that lead to their last TD.

What I want to know is why are PITT fans so outraged at what we saw offensively when the beat writers were pretty much telling us these problems were going to exist with their reports from camp.

Plus, all you had to do it look at the results from both our game-speed scrimmages to realize the OL had no ability to run block or that Sunseri was having a hard time with his deep ball (all camp and it was reported more than once).

Instead I read two solid weeks of fans explaining away our problems with rationalizations based on what they wanted to convince themselves would happen… and then when Paul Zeise states that we could easily be an 8-4 team everyone criticizes him instead of the actual subject of the prediction.

But true rationality goes out the window with PITT fans.

Cracks me up….

Comment by Reed 09.04.10 @ 5:57 am

We will get better.

Comment by snala the panther 09.04.10 @ 8:27 am

Rational fans – definition of oxymoron.

Comment by shadyforpresident 09.04.10 @ 8:42 am

I watched the Notre Dame game and Bostick was the difference maker. I was wondering why he wasn’t at least given a chance to play? The kid was cool under pressure. This loss was a huge disappointment. I was thinking National Championship but my dream crashed Thursday night. Pitt was not ready for this team. Utah is good. Let’s get ready for Miami…

Comment by The Hagen 09.04.10 @ 8:54 am

Wanny’s teams always struggle in the opener because his attention is on what he likes his team to do, while the opposing coach focuses on countering that. He has a hard time adapting to his opponent’s scheme, because that would take him out of his comfort zone and waste all the effort put into his practices.

Comment by 66Goat 09.04.10 @ 9:28 am

Hagen Bostick was not the difference maker in the ND game. That is a delusional comment. He looked awful and they were lucky to win. In fact he looked so awful that Charlie Weiss had no second thought about going for it on that one fourth down and giving Pitt the ball inside the 50 with I believe around 2 minutes left. Tino is 5000x more talented and this game wasn’t on him. It was on our OC who looked like a western PA hs coach dialing up power play after power playand our DC who rarely blitzed (or rotated in fresh d-lineman, much like last years NC St. game) and when he did blitz brought the house and left our CB’s vulnerable.

Comment by Henry Hynoceros 09.04.10 @ 10:06 am

Okay cmon now….Wanny had no alternative but to be very conservative for the first half and we were lucky to get in only down 7. He did not get outcoached, he played the only cards he had, the best he could…and I am no Wanny defender.

Sunsari is a MUCH better QB than Bostick or Bostick would be in there. As stated above, we were very lucky to win those games Bostick QB’d.
No comparison to their passing or arm strength.
I have converted to the glass “Half full” theory and think Pitt did the best they could in the opener and made a very nice comeback to almost win it. Like the Rev George comment about Custer and now it must have felt for the Blue and Gold.
We could not have scheduled more difficult opener. Let’s move on….please

Comment by Dan 72 09.04.10 @ 10:22 am

I was hugely dissapointed by the loss but lets not forget Utah is a very, very good team. My only criticism of wanny is going for the tie on the road. I just dont get it. As for Tino, he looked good in the fourth and I was impressed by his composure.

Comment by dan 09.04.10 @ 10:48 am

The guys who won the ND game for us were LeSean McCoy and the cornerback who missed that tackle on Oderick Turner.

Not Pat Bostick. He’s perfect in his role as backup QB and will probably be coach someday but he’s not a Div 1 starter.

Comment by maguro 09.04.10 @ 11:05 am

Funny thing about perception…at one point during the game I commented to a buddy that for all of Sunseri’s problems to that point, at least he has a stronger arm than either Stull or Bostick. I think it was right after he drilled one in to Shanahan. Personally, I think you can judge arm strength more on the out patterns and posts than the bombs, and it appears to me that arm strength is not one of Sunseri’s issues.

Comment by Pantherman13 09.04.10 @ 11:47 am

Hyno, I agree that Bostick was not the major factor in the ND OT game a few years back (Shady, of course), but I can’t agree that Weis going for it on 4th down was due to his lack of respect for Bostick…Weis went for it on fourth down numerous times in his tenure at ND, and several times on his own side of the 50….I guess that is the “playing to win” attitude that everybody wants to see from DW…By the way, I guess none of the people saying we played for the tie noticed the seam route that Tino underthrew to Baldwin from around the Utah 40, yet Baldwin still mangaged to reach in front of the Utah defender and get his hands on it, just could not hold on to it. Cignetti made the right call on the last play of regulation before the kick to tie (draw to Dion 0n 3 and 7ish). If Bill Stull is your QB, then you drop him back (or dare I say even Pat Bostick). But, we are starting a new QB in his first start who has been eratic on the night, Cignetti (not DW) made the right call. I’ll close by saying that I think Bostick would have given us a better chance to win on Thursday night, but Tino gives us the better chance to win more games this year…His upside is much higher because he appears to have the ability to be equal to or better than Bostick throwing the ball, and far superior with his mobility.

Comment by HbgFrank 09.04.10 @ 11:52 am

anyone else think Baldwin looked fat slow and lazy Thursday? He almost lookes uninterested.

Comment by Pitt It Is 09.04.10 @ 12:55 pm

You guys crack me up., this game went exactly as we hoped it would. New starters at QB, O-Line, MiLB, and both corners. Play was sloppy, play calling conservative. Players got better, play calling opened up.

As ugly as it was, we were right there. Utah was stunned, everything was coming together. If Cignetti calls Dion’s number or Sunseri doesn’t throw that pick, we likely either win by 7 or go to another playoff set. Simple as that.

I think it was a bad play call -who calls the first rollout of the game at that point? It was an even worse execution. Shanahan was WIDE OPEN and Sunseri was dreadfully late on the throw.

We had the game and blew it. Just lime every other team on every level does quite often. Get over it.. Get better. Be ready for BigE play.

Comment by Chris 09.04.10 @ 1:05 pm

Weis’s decision was a complete lack of respect. It is one thing to go for it on 4th down. It is another thing to go for it inside your 50 in a tie game when any decent quarterback completes a pass or two and the other team kicks a field goal to win the game. That was not a situation where there was 5:00min left. There was 2 or less. And Weis made the right call because Pitt was not successful. Bostick would not have given a better chance to win then Sunseri and never will. He’s a kid who knows the offense well, seems to be a hard worker, and has improved. But his skills (mainly arm strength and lack of any mobility) are so far behind that it hurts the offense immensely.
Also, Baldwin didn’t look fat and slow, he torched Utah for the last touchdown drive. As for uninterested, I didn’t notice this, but I sure as hell would be uninterested if I was the best player on the field and my coach refused to dial up a play action or two to me before the 4th quarter.
I’ll say this, we can say Pitt didn’t execute, that their line struggled, that their D-line struggled, or that their QB made mistakes. We can blame Baldwin or blame Lewis but that is not the reason for the problem. Conservative play calling on both sides of the ball takes the blame off of the coaches and puts it on the players. This is because the players can always be blamed for execution (no play is designed to fail) especially in a conservative scheme. But if Pitt takes risks, blitzing/throwing deep, etc. the blame goes to the coaches if these fail. This staff played it safe to protect themselves, which hopefully is not a theme this year. Because at years end everyone will say, oh we don’t have a great o-line, but, the real problem will be that there are 10 guys in the box and we’re still running power with no chance at success.

Comment by Henry Hynoceros 09.04.10 @ 1:48 pm

Well then, Henry, the staff ended up not protecting themselves, they are just as guilty as they have been in the past.

This playing-not-to-lose crap has got to stop. No fun for the players I’m sure, and ridiculous for the fans.

Comment by steve 09.04.10 @ 2:18 pm

i agree with you completely steve, and this allows them say in the post-game press conferences, to the media, and to the team: we didn’t execute rather than saying I took a risk and missed and it was my fault. Everything gets blamed on execution.

Comment by Henry Hynoceros 09.04.10 @ 3:55 pm




Comment by Pitt It Is 09.04.10 @ 7:02 pm

Preseason rankings are stupid. Don’t pay attention to them.

Comment by maguro 09.04.10 @ 9:29 pm

Anybody thinks Utah is a very good team better watch the game again. They are better coached than Pitt and that was the difference.

One knock on Harris was his failure to recruit OL. Well Wanny is not much of an improvement in that area or DBs as well.

Comment by joel 09.05.10 @ 11:07 am

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