Note: I didn’t write something right away because when you are getting 370+ comments on an open game thread pretty much everything has already been talked about. Anyway, here are some of my observations…
Again, and with firm success, PITT snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last week. Travelling to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse our Panthers dropped a close, low scoring game to the Orange, 14-13, in a match that may portend the way the rest of the schedule plays out in that we certainly played well enough to win but obviously didn’t.
The sad thing is I couldn’t even get too angry about that final ‘nail in the coffin’ intentional grounding penalty by Sunseri that deprived us of a game winning field goal opportunity because we have seen it, or something just like it, happen to PITT so many times over the years. We just can’t find ways to win close football games coming from behind because we aren’t built for it, starting with our QB. It isn’t only Sunseri that has been this way for PITT, Bill Stull before him had the same problem.
If I’m assigning blame – which is totally Tuesday morning QB’ing – then I’m pointing at the OL for most of the ills of the evening. They didn’t open many holes for Graham or Bennett and they were just flat out terrible in pass protection.
How many times did we watch Sunseri have the pocket collapse around him and then he (finally) stepped up and completed the throw? He did that on his own out there. But the fact is that the only offense we could generate was by passing the football and Sunseri did that well last week.
That said, Sunseri certainly contributed to the loss also. Sunseri is what he is, an average at best college QB who needs all the other facets of the offense to be working well for him to get a win. We know what his limitations are already and he’s a lightning rod for criticism. But to lay the blame of this loss at his feet only is just tunnel vision.
I’ll also point at Ray Graham for our poor offensive showing last week. He spent half the night running and jerking around behind the LOS before turning south. Had he just gone into the line as the play was called he’d be getting better yardage. This isn’t the first game he’s done this behind the line this season either. I’m starting to think that his injury is still impacting him more than he lets on and that he’s trying to break off a huge run each play to make his worth as a NFL player look better.
Well, I just blamed to the whole offense for last night’s loss save the WRs who played pretty well – except for Carswell who had that fumble and subsequent return of a SYR TD and a crucial dropped pass in the 2nd half.
We had an article up on here prior to the game talking about how average the running game has been lately and last week it couldn’t even be that. We had a grand total of 0.7 yards per carry. That isn’t a misprint – 0.7 ypc – against a team that was pretty poor against the rush previously.
One of the reasons was that we wouldn’t, or couldn’t, play the best back we have capable of powering through the interior of the DL to get positive yardage when there wasn’t much of an opening by the OL. Shell had one carry on the day.
There has been a lot of chatter on the message boards about why Shell didn’t get in the game more often. One is that his back was hurting again. Hmmm, another is that he was being punished for some minor infraction. That’s hard to fathom though as you’d think he would have been sat down for the whole game rather than just part of it.
Regardless of what the reasons were we missed his abilities to get tough yardage, especially is short conversion opportunities. On our first possession of the second half, down 14-10, we had a third and one at our own 39 yard line. Up to this point Graham had little positive yardage per play on the ground yet we ran him into the interior line and got stuffed. We had Bennett and Shell on the sidelines – both bigger and stronger than Graham and had TEs quite capable of catching a pass thrown by a QB who was completing passes all day.
The whole approach to the running game against SYR was very Wannyesque in the sense that Chryst stayed with something that wasn’t working solely on the off chance that Ray Graham would break one for a TD. Isaac Bennett, who was averaging 4.9 ypc on the season and tore up training camp, got a total of three carries in the game. If Shell was actually hurt and Graham was ineffective why wasn’t Bennett used more often in the hope that he’d be able got at least get better than a 0.7 ypc production?
We have to get our TEs involved in the passing game more often. Paul Chryst has gone far from his model using TEs to produce as he did so well at Wisconsin. At this point our true TEs, Graham and Holtz, have 8 receptions (87 yards) which is only 7% of our completions. If we add Drew Carswell to that, even though he’s split out a lot, the number jumps to 13 receptions (145 yards) and is 12% of our completed passes.
That is way too low for the way this offense is built. Our OL is poor against the better teams. Using the TE would be a way to execute the short, quick passing game and then to have the big guys leverage their strength for yards after the catch. I believe we really need to incorporate this more, especially with J. P. Holtz who did so well in training camp and flat out trucked a defender last week.
Another aspect of the offense that was missing last week was the deep pass. We have seen Sunseri complete more of them this season that any other yet the OC/HC didn’t call one deep ball all game. You can’t tell me that we didn’t have ample opportunity to let fly at least once or twice that game. Hell, Street was having so much success with the intermediate routes with 10 catches with a 13 ypc average that a double move from him would have taken the DB by total surprise.
I’m become more disappointed with the offensive play calling as the season progresses.
As a result we totally wasted an excellent defensive effort in this game. That is something we just can’t afford to do any longer if we want to get to a winning season – which is more and more becoming a reach to accomplish in 2012.
All in all it was a good game to watch if you like close games with good defenses but it was, as we have all seen before, a disappointing game to watch if you are a PITT fan. To sum it up; Blah, blah and blahdeblah… again.