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September 11, 2011

   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.

I am trying to digest these first two games reasonably, but a few things are clear:

Tino is not the answer.

The offensive line is a liability.

The linebackers are not good enough for a 3 – 4 base defense.

Ray Graham is really, really good.

The same can be said for Aaron Donald. He will be Pitt’s best player on defense if he is not already. K’wan is okay too.

Comment by Brian 09.11.11 @ 9:54 am

Bottom line…we played absolutely lousy against a weak MAC team and a Colonial League Team.
Maine plays New Hampsire, UMass, Rhode Island, etc… way to spin this as being inexperience in a new system. On talent alone we should have mashed this team…NO EXCUSES.
We have the weakest defense (at this point) that I can remember in years. I believe that it will be possible to see some teams throwing for more than 350++ yards agains our ladies.

Comment by isnore 09.11.11 @ 10:02 am

I would like to say a W is a W but to struggle this bad against 2 bad teams is alarming. The O line is so bad that we can’t contain Maine or UB? That’s alarming. Is that correctable?

And I wish I knew what the answer is in the secondary. We read all pre season how good these corners were playing.

I think we will settle in and get better but will Tino be that guy? I sure won’t trust a freshman walk-on to be that guy either.

Comment by bdubb 09.11.11 @ 10:04 am

“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.”

Great descriptor, Reed.

Comment by TonyinHouston 09.11.11 @ 10:20 am

Consider what Graham could do if he was running behind 2 future NFL gurads which he is that could set up and use their run blocking skills rather than taking quick snaps and moving immediately into a pass blocking mode. Also consider if you had a quarterback with height and a strong arm (we have one of those too although because he is not built for this system will never see the field) and took the snap from a shot gun or behind center and had time to read the defense.
Also consider if Lidnsey was at DE and Clemmens(a man child) was at the other the havoc the could put on the quarteback limiting the pass defending abilities of our linebackers. Its a thought.

Comment by DRW 09.11.11 @ 10:38 am

Poor game and effort. Not much more I can add than that. Grade for the Panthers this game, F.

Comment by scoocher 09.11.11 @ 11:12 am

A return to the Paul Hackett era! Pourous defense and a confused offense. C’mon, this play against that level of comptition is unacceptable. I’m tired of the excuses.

Comment by IowaPanther 09.11.11 @ 11:18 am

The defense did put pressure on Smith beyond just the three sacks recorded. However, Smith was able to scramble and make a couple of plays. The same was true last week against Buffalo. Hopefully this means that against less athletic QBs this zone-blitz scheme will be more effective than it has to date.

Comment by pitt101 09.11.11 @ 11:34 am

I’m NOT ready to burn my season tickets yet. Yes PITT has not been very good to this point but this is NOT a loss to the OHIO Bobcats, Bowling Green, or Toledo which we have all lived through and seen decent seasons come out of even with those loses.

There is a TON of issues that need fixed. Our Linebackers are S-L-O-W and our quarterback is S-L-O-W both with his feet and his decision making process and our corners seem small and confused and our O linemen are LOST at times HOWEVER, the coach seems to be aware of these things and seems willing to play WHOEVER he thinks might be able to correct it instead of sticking with the same personal out of some misplaced sense of loyalty.

Are the other guys any better? Will actual competition wake up the guys that were deemed starters? Beats the hell out of me but at least we are not hearing anything about the players “not fitting the system” or “just wait till he gets his players into the system” Graham is working with what he has and not making excuses. Which is refreshing.

Let’s see how things go in Iowa and against Notre Dame then decide on were this season is headed.

Comment by Tony In Harrisburg 09.11.11 @ 12:02 pm

On the bright side, most of the teams we play don’t appear to be any good, either.

Other than that, I got nothing.

Comment by maguro 09.11.11 @ 12:05 pm

DRW, something to consider, and I’m not saying this is the case, is that Graham may be building for the next two years and not going all out in his offensive personnel decisions to win only in this season (your reference to Myers).

That sounds negative I know, but in a sense I can understand it and don’t necessarily disagree. He was hired specifically to institute the offensive system that was so successful for him in the past and to post winning and championship seasons. To do so effectively he needs to get the returning players on the roster next year playing in that offense this year.

Believe me, I think Graham is dying to win this season also, but if inserting personnel who don’t fit or going back to a pro-set offense delays the implementation of his offense for another year then it’s possible he may not be willing to make the change.

Comment by Reed 09.11.11 @ 12:12 pm

Guys, please don’t stop the good discussion on this post, but I also put up an article on the QBs that should be good for at least 1,325 comments.

Comment by Reed 09.11.11 @ 12:13 pm

The offensive line is not always to blame for the sacks as has been pointed out. This is supposed to be a quick read offense. Sunseri needs to make decisions quicker and quit holding the ball forever. He also needs to look left at least more than once a quarter.

The defense may be a problem due to the high level of changes and substitutions. We may need to “shorten our bench” to use a basketball clique.

Comment by John In South Carolina 09.11.11 @ 12:17 pm

I’m guessing that team moral has taken a hit over the last two weeks. Poor moral hinders learning so my hope is that Coach Graham can motivate…

Ray Graham had like 105 or 110 yards on his first 19 carries. He finished with 122 yards on 28 carries. The last nine carries didn’t yield many yards. I didn’t see the game so I’m assuming that mighty Maine knew what was coming and stopped the run late in the game?

Certainly Gonzalez is a better runner than Tino. Is he as good as or better passer and decision maker? Does Trey gives us a better running option?

Comment by OR Panther 09.11.11 @ 12:23 pm

Gonzalez can’t pass well enough to be a starting QB at this level. IMO he’ll be the 4th QB option and that only if there is major injuries to the top three. He’s a 3-back now and that’s something I’m excited to see next week as the staff has been raving about him in that position.

Anderson can run like crazy and his passing is on par with Sunseri’s I think.

Comment by Reed 09.11.11 @ 1:42 pm

OR Panther…..”team moral”…..really???? “Team moral”???….I could excuse it if it was done once, but when you repeated again, I couldn’t take it anymore.
We are commenting on a site involving a college team. Couldn’t we at least learn the language basics on a middle school level? It’s team “morale” — not “moral” That’s the “moral” of my story/complaint.

Comment by Tourman 09.11.11 @ 4:26 pm

I think Graham was fooled into thinking the dbacks were better than they are because they were working against Tino in practice. He should consider transferring to Duquesne or Robert Morris which is the level he might belong.

Comment by Jimbo 09.11.11 @ 5:02 pm

ugh. for the sunseri head hunters. maybe anderson is the right choice for this offense. in high school he played in a similar system so he knows whats up. with that said, sunseri should still start in the iowa game. giving a ture freshman walkon qb his first start against iowa in iowa city could be disasterous, however, if sunseri gives another weak performance id say give anderson a shot at the starting job.

also, on the defense. this is exactly what todd graham said he would do: stuff the run, and get interceptions once the opposition is forced to pass. if pitt gets some ints the scores are a lot less alarming. still, theyll have to sure up the d from this point forward going into a 5 game stretch with 4 being against iowa, notre dame, usf, and utah

Comment by pat 09.11.11 @ 8:20 pm

We need to play better! That is my quote for the week.

Shit hits the fan this Saturday 12 noon. Bring your goggles and keep you mouth closed, could be really, really ugly.

I just hate watching Pitt crap their pants on national TV. Please, please, prove all of my apprehensions wrong this Saturday Panthers.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.11.11 @ 9:21 pm

Jimbo – that is a scary thought but you may be correct.

Pat, I advocate starting Sunseri but keeping Anderson ready on the on-deck circle and the HC keeping a very open mind to making a change if needed.

It certainly would not be ideal for a true freshman to start on the road against a pretty good Iowa team. But my gut feeling is that this kid Anderson has ice water in his veins. I did a lot of reading from the local papers and interviews with his, and opposing coaches, and the common theme was that Anderson just didn’t get rattled no matter what the circumstances were. As evidenced by his numerous late game come from behind wins on the way to the TX state championship.

Who knows but I think Anderson can play at this level if needed.

Comment by Reed 09.12.11 @ 6:21 am

It is a big stretch to extrapolate high school to college even when we play like a HS team, but I liked what I saw in Anderson. He has a strong arm. I thought Anderson played well and Sunseri not so well. I noticed that against Maine that Sunseri was short on deep throws and Anderson was long. I know someone one the team who has a stronger arm and is just right on deep throws. Dig out his high school tapes.
The fixes that I think would help are: On defense take 2 insipid LBs off the field, go to the 5-2. The zone-blitzes are ineffective and are being telegraphed to the opposition especially when the offense sets and resets. On offense move Nix to left tackle and Jacobson to right. It’s time for Turnley to be a complete center. Teach them how to block and tackle (watch the Ravens), I don’t see it on the field.

Comment by shadyforpresident 09.12.11 @ 9:06 am

Oops, wrong thread, sorry.

Comment by shadyforpresident 09.12.11 @ 9:10 am

I don’t know why anyone is surprised about the defense being terrible. Didnt anyone watch Tulsa or Michigan last year….

Comment by jim 09.12.11 @ 10:44 am

Diablo above sounds a bit like Todd Graham.

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