Nothing upset me more on Saturday than when Pitt had first and goal from the 6 in the first half, and had to settle for a field goal. Against the worst team in the MAC. In general, when Pitt has been lining up to run straight ahead, it has not been pretty.
“There have been times where it was good and times where it kind of (eroded) a bit,” Chryst said. “I thought we had some decent runs on Saturday (at Buffalo), but we had some in crucial situations, a couple third-and-shorts we didn’t convert.”
That’s especially distressing against Buffalo, which came out of the Pitt game with the 86th-ranked run defense in the nation (allowing 184.9 yards per game). The Panthers managed only 126 while Graham averaged 3.7 per carry, and Shell 2.9.
Equally disturbing is the fact that Pitt is throwing the ball more effectively than at any time in the past three seasons, and the run game has not been a beneficiary of what should be a more balanced attack.
Instead of improving, the ground game has regressed. Graham averaged 90.5 over the first four games, but only 50.3 in the past three. Shell has dropped from 76.3 to 44.3.
Against Buffalo, holes seldom opened for running backs. Shell scored on a 4-yard run, but he was forced to reverse his field after running up the middle, taking a shot to the stomach and having the wind knocked out of him.
Too many “third-and-shorts” have resulted in the opposing defenses in the backfield before the running back can even take two steps towards the line with the ball.
When I am starting to hope that Sunseri is asked to throw on more and more third downs, this is probably not a good sign.
This isn’t a case of the defenses doing something fancy. The penetration and shoving the O-line right up the middle has nothing to do with not having tight end Hubie Graham available to block. This is simply an O-line that continues to get beaten right up front. I don’t even know if Bob Bostad could have coached this group up enough to any consistency.
On the plus side, we have registered another “neat” from Coach Chryst.
“That’s the neat thing about the running game and really, football in general: you all have to play together. If 10 guys are good but one guy doesn’t get it done on that play, it affects not just the unit, but the whole team. And I think we’ve been inconsistent in running the football.”
Not sure what behavioral science experiment was performed on Coach Chryst at Wisconsin, but I’m guessing it involved electro-shock to substitute a “nice” word when he wanted to say “sucks.”