Where to start? There are many areas to be critical of what we saw yesterday and to go into each one would fill volumes. Let’s just say this about the most glaring, the pass defense needs no discussion in my opinion because it is so bad there may not be any resolution to its faults. It’s due to either totally ineffective coaching or our talent level in the linebacker and defensive backfield corps is so bad that there are no alternatives. Either way, I can’t come up with any solutions that are even worthy of discussion.
Graham’s take on this? “I am not going to sit here and make excuses about a new system,” he said. “It’s new assignments, it’s new alignments, but you still have to tackle. Football is football. Let me add that you also still have to cover a receiver once in a while.
Our offensive line play is left wanting also. I’m not about to panic over the seven sacks though as Sunseri was directly responsible for, at my count, five of them because of his indecision and lack of good judgment under fire.
On this subject the Trib’s Jerry DiPaola wrote: “Coach Todd Graham said his junior quarterback needs to quicken his decisions in the Panthers’ new up-tempo offense.
“He’s holding the ball like he did in last year’s system,” Graham said. “Our system is not one that holds the football. It’s 1-2-3, ball’s out. We’re trying to get that across.”
The offensive line had its faults. Sunseri was sacked on back-to-back plays in the third quarter, the latter coming after center Ryan Turnley snapped the ball early and Sunseri and the rest of the offensive line was caught off-guard.
Saddest thing of all about the sacks? This… “We studied a lot of film and saw their (Pitt’s) feet weren’t the greatest,” said sophomore defensive end Michael Cole, who had 2.5 sacks. “We were told to fly off the ball.”
But the best quote though may be from Sunseri himself: “Mistakes happen in the heat of battle. When you’re out there you have to make fast decisions and sometimes you make improper decisions.” Perhaps he can add that last bit as a tattoo written backwards across his chest so when he’s flexing in the mirror it can serve as a motivational tool.
So, it wasn’t pretty but I do think that we can resolve this over the next few games. We lost 43 yards on those seven sacks yesterday as compared to only 10 yards on two sacks against Buffalo. I may be whistling past the graveyard with this because it is predicated on the starting QB being able to improve his decision making and there certainly is no guarantee that will happen.
For the sake of our sanity let’s balance that out a bit with our rushing defense. They have come to play in the first two games giving up 1.5 ypr against Buffalo followed by yesterday’s 2.9 against Maine. I’ve no worries on that front as they also got good pressure on the QB in getting three sacks for -23 yards. Again, the difference was that the Maine QB moved well, kept his eyes downfield for an open receiver and made the right decisions when he felt the pressure.
Add to the positives Ray Graham’s second good performance (28 for122 with a 4.3 ypc average) and we can see that we at least have a nucleus on both offense and defense that we could build upon.
If you want a supporting boost toward your decision to commit Hari-kari before the Iowa game read these quotes, especially the ones from the Maine team. Shanahan is about the only PITT person that speaks truth in these… “We felt like we had some guys open today. Obviously, we hit Street early for a couple of nice completions. We just need to work the entire game to get the open man. We felt we were able to take advantage of some of the things they were doing.” Uh, yeah! So you and 29,000 fans saw the same thing I guess.
Some post-game notes on the PITT website are somewhat positive with this being the most encouraging; WR Devin Street recorded his career high in receptions and receiving yards on the day. His previous high was five receptions (48 yards) against West Virginia on Nov. 26, 2010 and his previous mark in yardage was 82 at Syracuse (3 receptions) on Oct. 16, 2010.
Anyway, if you haven’t punished yourself enough by reading about the game, here are the official stats. But women, be sure to read the last paragraph at the bottom of the page:
“SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Reviewing these statistics by pregnant women may result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, and Low Birth Rate.”
The QB issue is obviously and rightfully a hot topic right now both in the press and in the strong and numerous comments we have on here during Chas’ LiveBlog yesterday. I’m not avoiding it but to discuss it in this piece would make the post a novella. I’m dedicating another article to it alone that I’ll post soon after this one hits the website. There’s a LOT to talk about.