Spent most of yesterday running errands and all things to clear Saturday for watching mis-matched football games.
It also meant being a little late to review what happened Thursday night. Since the media stuff is a bit stale, I’ll skip most of it.
While I was pleasantly surprised with Vs. for actually having decent HD cameras for the game, there was a lot that wasn’t seen because of the the camera angles. To say nothing of the game calling.
I realize, my attention can be split from the liveblog, but I don’t recall word one about Dom DeCicco being out of the game and a re-aggravated groin pull (though, I don’t really recall much in the week leading up to the game about DeCicco having a groin issue). That does explain — at least a little — some of the struggles in the secondary.
Really, sideline reporters are generally useless, but Vs. took it to a new level by not eve bothering to use Soto to mention this. I now live in great fear that come the next Big East contract, Vs. will come in with the winning bid to get the rights to the games.
Consider the Panthers forced three turnovers and blocked a punt inside the Utes’ 10 but scored only 10 points from them. The Panthers also had 23 plays in the red zone but scored two touchdowns and settled for three field goals — including one at the end of regulation when, trailing by three, they drove to the Utes’ 13 and then had to kick a tying field goal that forced overtime.
And perhaps most troublesome is that Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt admitted the Panthers played for the tie instead the win by never taking one more shot into the end zone on the last possession in regulation.
The critical decision and play came on third-and-10 from the Utah 14, Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri handed off to Dion Lewis, who ran for a yard and set up Dan Hutchins’ tying, 30-yard field goal.
And no, I’m not buying Coach Wannstedt’s excuse that the play was called because they thought Utah would blitz.
— Pitt dominated time of possession: 34:06 to 25:54.
— Outgained 405 to 266 and it happened in both passing and running.
— Created more turnovers than Utah 3-2, plus a blocked punt.
— Penalties were fairly even, Pitt 11-75 and Utah 12-99, reflecting some of the overall sloppiness.
Chris Gates sees the loss and missed opportunities as a reflection of too much conservative play-calling for most of the game. If that’s so, then prepare for more frustration, because I think the sad thing with the interception thrown by Sunseri at the start of OT only reinforced in Coach Wannstedt’s mind that you don’t take chances that close to the endzone.
I don’t think Coach Wannstedt and OC Cignetti were wrong to start slowly. They came out and had a couple short throws that were easy and could help Sunseri get over any jitters on the road. I think they definitely waited too long to open things up.
It was fairly obvious before the 1st quarter even ended that the running game was going to struggle. Between a defense stacked against the run and an O-line that was as soft inside as feared, Pitt needed to look downfield.
Instead, through three quarters, Pitt only had 14 passing attempts. In the 4th quarter, when there was no choice Pitt threw 13 times. That can’t happen. Not for most offenses. Especially not with an offense that has this kind of O-line.
Utah’s defense and Pittsburgh’s inability to attack with balance made Dion Lewis look like an ordinary running back — not a Heisman Trophy candidate — on Thursday night.
Which was far more honest than Coach Wannstedt was.
“We were struggling a little bit early throwing the ball, and we know we have to balanced,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.
“… Every week they are going to make it very difficult on Dion. We just have to find a way, which we did in the second half, to make some plays in the passing game and balance it out.”
If by “we” you mean the coaches calling passing plays a little more than on 3d and long, then yes, “we” do.
Then there is the linebacking corp. As usual with a new position coach, there was raving about Bernard Clark. His energy, passion and all that. Unfortunately the way the linebackers actually played. Well…
The linebackers had a mostly forgettable night The same kind of pass-coverage problems surfaced at times last season (the North Carolina State and Cincinnati games were obvious ones), and coverage problems popped up Thursday night as the Utes used a variety of short crossing routes and other underneath patterns to force the Panthers’ linebackers to cover, and they could not do it.
The Panthers’ linebackers are very good when they face traditional pro-style offenses but have been exposed by some spread offenses — such as Utah’s — and there are plenty of such offenses left on the schedule
I think I am more okay with the O-line struggles — they are expected and new — as opposed to the linebackers. They were supposed to have improved. More experience, etc.
I don’t want to seem as if I’m putting this all on the coaches. The players still have to make plays. They made the mistakes. They missed the opportunities. The coaches just did not do their best to put the players in the best position to win at times.
The players are staying together and no early finger-pointing.
“We faced adversity, and we responded,” Sunseri said. “We were able to put some points on the board. … We’ve just got to take this game and learn from it. It’s a tough loss right now. We’ve just got to be able to bounce back.”
Sunseri completed 16 of 28 attempts for 184 yards, one touchdown and one interception. They were respectable numbers for a quarterback making his first start in such a tough setting — Utah won its 18th consecutive home game.
“Tino did a great job,” said wide receiver Jon Baldwin, who caught a 44-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. “Everybody was nervous, playing in a great atmosphere. You can’t say (anything bad) about how Tino played in the first half because everybody was playing the same way.”
Both teams did enough to win or lose. It wasn’t pretty by the end for either team. In the end, Utah did just a little bit more, so the last word goes to Utah.
“Hope you got your money’s worth,” Whittingham said about the dramatic finish. “Bottom line, we made one more play than the Pitt Panthers tonight.”
And you give the Utes credit for protecting things at home and ultimately having the win.