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 think the game simply boils down to one word – mistakes. This led to the kickoff turn over, missed ops to score TDs inside the redzone, blown coverages, etc., etc. Take away the mistakes and this game not only goes to a W, but goes to a double digit win.

The next 2 weeks including the NH game will go a long way to see how the season goes. Everyone needs to correct THEIR mistakes and then the team mistakes go away. Let’s see how they play against NH next week. Will it be the same old Pitt playing down to their opponent or will they come out mistake free and win 40-3? Big question. If its the former, we will start the season 1-3.

Let’s GO Pitt.

Comment by Pitt it IS 09.03.10 @ 2:11 pm

Everyone is forgetting Romeus, he played with absolutely no intensity/energy last night. For a guy who is supposed to be an Outland Trophy candiate/All-American/future NFL draft pick, he had an egregiously poor night.

Comment by Dave 09.03.10 @ 2:48 pm

Terrific commentary above! The good news…the most improvement on a team will be between the first and second game. The bad news, Wanny will still be the game day coach. A shame that the one play Cav left us was the pass out in the flat (see Ohio). Thought we were beaten on both lines all night long and NO coaching decisions can over come that. A bright spot by the O line in the 4th quarter was how they protected Tino. No one got close. Mistakes happen…the problem is the unforced ones. Wanny I love you but stop playing for the tie. Does anyone think Pitt would beat a high powered (and I think top 10) Utah team in OT.

I will be there for Miami. Pitt better win!

Comment by Dan 72 09.03.10 @ 3:14 pm

Oh yeah …one more thing. I thougt the Pitt Cheerleaders were improved for 2010!

Comment by Dan 72 09.03.10 @ 3:18 pm

Interesting blogs eh? I’d like to mention some of the “lesser lights” for Pitt who caught my eye last nite. They are:Hendricks, Holley,Reed, Tkach,Cruz and Harper. Pitt played much better as time moved on. Season is not lost, but the Offensive Line needs much work. Dion just did not have room to breathe let alone run. Just one more item from this perch in Columbus: Unlike some of the celebrated Big Eleven (soon to be Twelve teams the Panthers are classy enogh to play away games at Ohio, at Buffalo and at Bowling Green. And competing against the Utes at Salt Lake was like riding with Custer at the Little Big Horn. Rev. George from central, Ohio.

Comment by Rev. George 09.03.10 @ 3:28 pm

Good points, Rev. George.

I submit that Jarred Holley’s pick at the end of the first half kept us not only in the game but in the season as well.

We need more E. PA blood like Holley and Tkach.

Comment by steve 09.03.10 @ 3:36 pm

pitt needs to continue to schedule tough games. I’d rather lose to Utah than play a powder puff schedule. That will get pitt more respect with voters. Especially because the BE conference is perceived as weak.

Comment by Ronald 09.03.10 @ 3:42 pm

I believe we saw an inexperienced QB last night who still needs to learn how to perform under some pressure and make smart decisions. But I think e also saw a future leader of this team emerge at the same position. They way he conducted himself in those last couple drives in the 4th to get us back on even keel. He just acted like a man in control of the team at the end. The end result didn’t really look like that, but I bet he’ll be a huge presence and performer in the coming, months, years, etc…

Comment by NickW 09.03.10 @ 3:48 pm

Rev. George, where have you been? We’ve missed you.

steve, how was the turn-out?

Comment by BigGuy 09.03.10 @ 4:17 pm


Comment by catamount 09.03.10 @ 4:48 pm

Big, around 25 showed up. Pretty good considering a Thursday night.

Comment by steve 09.03.10 @ 5:38 pm

steve, good effort in putting it together.

Comment by BigGuy 09.03.10 @ 6:59 pm

Ron. Look how Alabama starts the season. Look at who Ohio State played last night. Look at who PSU opens against. Look at the hoopies. Any of them play on the road against a tough opponent? Any of them lose national respect? No one is saying play a lesser schedule, please just dont open on the road like this. I would much rather go 12-0 with a solid schedule with an easy opener and a BE Championship with the BCS win. That’s how you build recognition. Not being ranked 15, open on the road with a “good” loss as many say here.

I do agree with the good Rev – all is not lost and the team will improve (I hope by next week) – just VERY disappointed.

Comment by Pitt It Is 09.03.10 @ 7:41 pm

The secondary will ALWAYS look like shit when the d-line can’t get pressure.

When we started blitzing, SUPRISE, the secondary got a lot better all the sudden!

Comment by Jimbo Fisher's my Dad 09.03.10 @ 7:47 pm

HAHAHA!!! My FSU fan friend snuck on here, saw I was on this site, and changed my name to Jimbo Fisher!

I don’t know how long it’s been like that.

He got me good…

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 09.03.10 @ 7:49 pm

SCOOP & SCORE!!! Never fall on a blocked punt. That simple. Scoop and score, dammit.

I feel really bad for the players to have a chicken-$hit coach that plays for the tie and not the win. Fortune favors the bold.

Comment by Dan35 09.03.10 @ 8:42 pm

It is amazing that this team is just the same old Pitt. I have no idea why I expected more. Just once I would like to see Pitt go into a big game thinking they are going to win and then playing like they know they are going to win. I am so tired of this team playing not to lose, playing sooo scared. All spring and summer to game plan for Utah and this is what they come up with???? Afraid to throw downfield until the final quarter. Afraid to blitz because of their porous secondary…. absolutely what I should have expected. All you people out there that talk like Pitt will even be in the game against Miami are crazy. Wake up folks, this is the same old Pitt.

Comment by Pittman 09.03.10 @ 9:09 pm

They announced yesterday that Pitt is on the verge of selling out for the year. Have to give Wanny and Steve credit for that. We have seen this movie before, but we still keep paying to see it again. The ending doesn’t change folks. And anybody who thinks it will is, by definition, an idiot.

Comment by wally 09.03.10 @ 10:47 pm

I again fell victim to the offseason hype of this team. Have no idea why I thought this could be a team in the top ten and even higher. The realization again hit me when you take a look at our linebackers and secondary. Physically speaking, in comparison to the Alabamas & Ohio States, etc, we dont even come close. Mason has the size to match up with them , but not the quickenss. Everyone else forget it. I heard the announcer say last night that Gattuso said Gruder could be Pitts captain. He wouldnt even hold for extra points at Alabama! And the next tackle DiCicco makes where the ball carrier goes backwards will be his first. Ive never seen a strong safety try to make every tackle an arm tackle. Ok, feel a little better now.

Comment by Z-Boy 09.03.10 @ 11:00 pm

If we go 1-3 to start the season, bye-bye Wanstead.

Comment by Pitt It Is 09.03.10 @ 11:05 pm

if we go 11-1, wanny for president

Comment by Pitt It Is 09.03.10 @ 11:06 pm

Big 10/11/12 overheard saying, “this is why we offered Nebraska and not Pitt.”

Comment by Pitt It Is 09.03.10 @ 11:07 pm

We better throw for 350, run for 250 against New Hampshire and shut them out and then beat Miami to make up for playing like a bunch of scared, indecisive babies (coaching staff included) at Utah.

Comment by Tony Cancilla 09.03.10 @ 11:34 pm

“They are so maddeningly inconsistent.”

Alternatively, they are maddeningly consistent. The last drives of both the first half (they showed no emotion or intent to drive the ball in the last 1:45 or so), and the last drive in regulation–Pitt was playing for the FG; they had no intentions on pulling ahead in the final plays. That to me, is classic Wannestadt football. He fights when the OTHER team’s foot is on his throat, but that style leads to constant come-from-behind play. It takes enormous energy to play that way, and it’s draining emotionally when you lose a close one (that goes for fans, too).

Comment by Lou 09.04.10 @ 12:14 am

Saw enough of Santino Sunseri to know that Pat Bostick should be playing. Tiny Tino has a weaker arm than Bill Stull. He even underthrew the wide open TD pass to Baldwin (who had to stop and then come back for the ball). Pat Bostick has led PITT to the 2 biggest victories in the Wannstedt era. The fact that he isn’t getting a chance to be the starter is ludicrous. He has the most experience (which Wanny always loves), he has the stronger arm, he has the game experience by far, he supposed to be a coach on the field, he’s taller than Tino AND HE’S PAID HIS DUES. I don’t give a crap that Tiny Tino’s father played LB at PITT (a mediocre LB at that). Nepotism is never good. Play Bostick Coach, man up.

Comment by carolinapanther 09.04.10 @ 12:58 am

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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