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November 6, 2012

Officiating, Game Plan and Going Off-Script

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 1:07 pm

A few topics from the game on Saturday that were probably debated with some heat.

I’ll start with the officiating since that is one of the more cut-and-dry things. I had no idea how bad the officiating was while at the game. Notre Dame still does not have a jumbotron so there are no replays. From our seats we had no angle on the phantom pass interference call on K’Wuan Williams. And we certainly couldn’t see that Notre Dame put two guys out there with the same uniform number.

The first inkling that the pass interference came on the drive back to Cleveland. We stopped for a coffee fix, as the drive back following a loss is always so very, very long. Some older Notre Dame fans saw us on the way out and after saying it was a good game, actually apologized for the call. Of course since we didn’t realize how bad the call was when it happened, and we were so mentally fried, Pauly P. and I really had no idea what they were talking about at that moment. We just acknowledged it, got back in the car and kept going.

Pauly P.: “What pass interference call?”

Me: “I — I have no idea. Maybe we will see it in the highlights later.”

And oh, god did I. Now that I’ve seen it. Ugh. A case where the official decided that something had to have happened even if he couldn’t see it.

As for the fact that Notre Dame had two players on the field during the 33-yard field goal attempt that could have salvaged the game for Pitt? It’s a dumb rule for a dumb rule that allows more than one player to wear the same number if they are on opposite sides of the ball. And it still should have been caught. Especially since it isn’t even the first time Notre Dame has screwed that up this season.

When Pitt’s Kevin Harper missed a 33-yard field goal in the second overtime that would have ended the game had it gone in, the Irish had Bennett Jackson and Chris Brown, both of whom wear No. 2, on the field together.

By rule, Notre Dame should have been penalized and the Panthers should have gotten a first down.

“No exception to [the rule],” coach Brian Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. “It was a coaching mistake. … We’ve got to do a better job — an oversight that can’t happen.”

Kelly said he noticed the gaffe right after the play.

Pitt ended up kicking a field on its next drive to start the third overtime before Everett Golson rushed for the game-winning touchdown.

Notre Dame had been penalized for a similar mistake once earlier this season, when Dan McCarthy and Justin Ferguson, both No. 15, were on the kick return unit together in Week 2 against Purdue.

Can’t wait for the snappy apology from the Big East officials.

The most Chryst will get from the Big East is an apology, and he made clear that he didn’t single out either play as a reason for the loss.

“There were 200-something plays in that game,” Chryst said. “We had our opportunities to win that game and we didn’t. The biggest thing I think we can focus on is the things we can control.”

Odds are, they only apologize for the same number on the jersey gaffe. And Chryst is right that he can’t blame it on the officials missing that call. It would have given Pitt another chance — and probably would have won. But the penalty itself is for a technical error. It wasn’t because Notre Dame truly gained any advantage with two guys wearing the same number.

Still. F***.

And for those that are convinced that this was simply Big East officiating incompetence, and all will be better in the ACC. Please. Please watch some ACC games to gain some perspective. Or simply Google “Ron Cherry” (or review this).

There are three parts to Coach Paul Chryst’s work Saturday. The preparation, game plan and game management.

More so than even the Virginia Tech game, the preparation and game plan against Notre Dame was his best yet. Pitt came out ready to play in both halfs. The first time we’ve seen that all year. The third quarter has been Pitt’s worst, and they controlled the quarter. The only regret from the 3d quarter was having 1st and goal from the 2, but having to settle for the field goal.

He kept Notre Dame off-guard with just enough passing, while Ray Graham made the game his stage.

Then came the 4th quarter…

There was the pass interference call that salvaged a drive when Pitt had them stopped on 4th and 4. At the same time, you could see the Pitt defense wearing down. And the Notre Dame team feeling the urgency on both sides of the ball.

And this quarter was where the inexperience of Chryst cost the team.

Let me make this point right away, so there is no confusion. I still have plenty of optimism for Paul Chryst as Pitt’s head coach. His player development this year is highly encouraging. His game planning has been solid. There are questions about recruiting, but it isn’t anything that can’t be adjusted as the coaching staff evolves. So this isn’t some panic declaration that, “Oh, my god we hired the wrong guy! Doomed! Doomed, I say!”

That said, there is a reason athletic directors have a general preference to hire guys with previous head coaching experience. To minimize the exposure to mistakes on the learning curve.

Three key things that Chryst didn’t recognize or ignored:

1. Offensive line wearing down.

2. Tino Sunseri’s propensity to hold the ball too long.

3. The clock needed to keep running.

In the first half, Sunseri was 10-12 and only sacked once. It was a clean half. Especially with Ray Graham running well. The third quarter saw more of that. Sunseri started off hitting 4-6 passes and another sack at the start of the second half.

Then he missed two straight throws from the 4 yard line and Pitt had to settle for the field goal to go up 20-6. On Pitt’s next two possessions, Ray Graham rushed the ball all of two times. Sunseri tried to throw six times — and was sacked twice. That’s some Andy Reid level foolishness there.

In addition, as the game is getting tight, you are putting a game manager QB out there to make plays. A QB with a bad history late in tight games, and holds the ball too long, behind a weakening O-line. While ignoring the amazing game being had by an outstanding running back. To say nothing of possibly changing things up style-wise on the ground with Rushel Shell.

Then came the mind-blowingly glaring stupidity after K’Wuan Williams got the endzone interception with under 4 minutes left.

Instead of grinding out the game on the ground, Pitt coach Paul Chryst opted to stay aggressive, passing on first down. The Panthers ended up going three-and-out on that drive, giving the ball back to Notre Dame with enough time for the Irish to put together a tying drive.

“You want to be smart, but aggressive,” Chryst said of the late playcalling. “The whole mindset the whole game was to go win this thing.”

That wasn’t “agressive.” That wasn’t “smart.” That was just dumb. For all the talk about playing to the strength of the team and the players, that wasn’t it. It was the arrogance of the coach thinking his playcalling was just that much smarter than the athletes and emotions on the other side of the ball.

Even with the O-line grinding down, you have to run the ball just to run the clock and at least force ND to use timeouts. The Irish are not exactly the quick strike offense. Plus, the defense needed some breather after that nearly 6 minute drive. Instead Chryst comes out throwing. Forcing a 2d and long, and dropping back — and Sunseri getting sacked.

Bad late game and bad clock management by Chryst. He thought like an offensive coordinator, not like the head coach. He didn’t manage his players. He did not think about their strengths and weaknesses in moments like that. He just called plays.

Even despite all of that, Pitt still nearly came away with the win. If only.

Well, Coach Chyrst now has to do more than get the Pitt team ready for Friday. He has to look at his own decisionmaking. There’s going to be be a hell of a lot more for him to learn.

Tino – never has one man agravated so many!

On to UConn….HTP!

Comment by Dan 72 11.07.12 @ 10:21 pm

@EMEL, LOL. Actually, I think he’s realizing it.

Too late, but, if you read into his comment….

“you know, just because you pass, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get 4 or 5 yards, YOU KNOW, THE CHECKDOWN or WHATNOT”

That comment says a lot. Too late to burn Voytik’s redshirt. Right when I thought, throw Voytik in there, they won a couple games.

For 3 games, no way. You wanna try Anderson, I don’t know, he looks like a midget. Sorry, little person.

He may have come into the season saying, “we’re not burning a kid’s redshirt, that just came off of a high school field.”

So, Voytik may have been a moot point all year.

I’m not making excuses, he’s made some mistakes, he admits it.

I think the above comment is telling on his thoughts about Tino, without saying so, or even knowing what he was saying!!!!

Yes, we could have run, but, I’ll be the first to admit. If we would have run three times, and gained nothing and ND used their timeouts, I would have been cussing up and down my living room to as

“why would you do that, the whole ND team knew you were gonna do that. Why in God’s name didn’t you do a play action and catch them off guard”

If we would have hit one for a first down, he would have been declared a genius!!!

Hopw you are well EMEL!!!

Comment by Dan 11.07.12 @ 10:34 pm

This blog is great. The day after the election and not one political comment! I had the Paul Finebaum show on today on the xm/siris college sports channel. It was awful, like it was the two sides at the battle of Stalingrad. And it was all about the election, not even the usual ad nauseam blather about Alabama football. We avoid that totally. Clearly Tino has the power to polarize more than all the politics of a presidential election!

Comment by opfim 11.07.12 @ 11:26 pm

ND is done.
I expect great things out of this team on Friday.

Comment by SFPitt 11.07.12 @ 11:41 pm

Just want to add agreement with Matt N’s comment in the article before this one that Bill Stull should never have been booed. No college kid should ever be, even Tino who as someone commented above is doing the best he can (which unfortunately is shaky late in a close competitive game.)

Comment by opfim 11.07.12 @ 11:43 pm


Point is… it’s not arrogance.

Chryst is asking Tino and the rest to rise to the opportunty.

Chryst really believes what he says when he talks about players “growing” and “learning from their mistakes” and “getting better.”

Comment by PittofDreams 11.08.12 @ 12:54 am

If the nation was going through a Tino crisis, both sides of the political spectrum would unite, find common ground, and ensure a timely solution. Fortunately, our crisis will be over by years end unlike the fiscal cliff. I will sleep better once both are resolved.

Comment by TX Panther 11.08.12 @ 7:46 am

In the NBA last night 2 pts for Sam Young, 2pts for Aaron Gray, and 4 for Blair.

Comment by alcofan 11.08.12 @ 8:17 am

Is there anyway to make TIno disappear from any PITT record books? I say bench him just so his jack acedness isn’t anywhere near the stats of former Pitt greats cause he is not a great that is for sure.

Comment by pittisit37 11.08.12 @ 8:37 am

It’s Thursday and not one mention of the word “Connecticut.”

Need to refocus the energy toward the Huskies.

A lot of satisfaction to be salvaged from this season with wins the next three weeks and possible renewal of the Backyard Brawl at the Pinstripe.

Personally, I would love a trip to Manhattan for the Holidays and can think of no better reason to take it!

Comment by PittofDreams 11.08.12 @ 11:06 am


Comment by Pitt Dad 11.08.12 @ 1:14 pm

Agree Pitt Dreams, agree!

Comment by opfim 11.08.12 @ 1:15 pm

Ok UConn it is.

Uconn’s defense is ranked #1 in the BigLeast.
Uconn’s defense is ranked #9 nationally.
Bad news for Sir Tino.

Good news for PITT, Uconn has not scored a point in the 4rth Quarter in 4 of the last 5 games.
Then there’s this:

• Connecticut’s offense has been self-destructive nearly every game, but has been particularly ineffective in the fourth quarter. It has just 33 points over its last four losses (all in Big East play), with just three coming in the second half.

So the part of being self-destructive is good news as that played a huge part in the Va TEch win. And this team has trouble scoring.

So if Pitt scores 20 points it should win.
Are you listening Sir Tino, maybe Harper will kick 7 FG’s for you to win. And this should be a good game to accumulate yardage for your stats between the 30’s. Maybe…as long as the wind isn’t blowing to hard for your arm. And if the O-line isn’t too pissed off and wants to block for you.

If we have zero or 3 points at the half, Sir Tino should be yanked. Cause we know, the team knows and PC should know it won’t happen in the 2nd half, coming from behind.

Storrs has not been a very good place for us to play either. And this series is tied at 4 wins & 4 losses. Don’t see us playing them again, so let’s end this putrid series with a win, instead of the losses we did with ending series with Cincy & L-Ville and the wretched last BigLeast series loss to Syracuse.

I wouldn’t feel so terribly disappointed with the ND loss had we been 6-2 going into the game and now at 6-3. And we should have been 6-2 for sure.
That would have set us up for a 8 or 9 win season.
Which is what most of you thought pre-season.

Veritas et Virtus !

Comment by Emel 11.08.12 @ 1:42 pm

Dr. Tom, I completely understand your point. Believe me, I hate seeing Pitt embarrassed as much as anyone. That drubbing Miami gave us on national tv a few years back was absolutely horrendous. What I meant, but didn’t articulate well, was that in the ND game you can point to one, two, three, four plays that directly affected the outcome of the game and that made it so much more gut-wrenching (for me). That’s obviously not the case when you get beat down by 70! Now let’s have the guys regroup and take care of UConn tomorrow night!

Comment by J-man 11.08.12 @ 2:47 pm

Connecticut seems to have a decent passing attack. Not much run.

Agree that Tino “The Infallible” needs to put on a solid performance.

Problem is… the game is set up with the expectation that Tino should play well… and you know what that means?

Comment by PittofDreams 11.08.12 @ 4:33 pm

By the way, ran across this story based on the charges filed against Street, Graham and Pitts.

Absolutely deplorable.

The author jumps to conclusions to manufacture a depiction of the alleged incident to fit neatly with a storyline.

Really makes the players and the University look bad.


link to


Comment by PittofDreams 11.08.12 @ 4:46 pm

WND is the old World Net Daily – one of the most far right conspiracy websites out there. I would take whatever is published on WND with more than a few grains of salt.

Comment by Pitt Dad 11.08.12 @ 5:05 pm

WND (Weapon of Neuron Destruction) is a conspiracy site followed by some real right wing waccos. It is complete and utter trash and its ‘journalism’ should be ignored completely.

Comment by TX Panther 11.08.12 @ 5:20 pm

J-man, that is my hope but this would be a perfect game for the Panthers to earn their “same old Pitt” reputation again by playing a great game against ND and then having a total cluster fu@k meltdown against a team that they should beat.

It would go a long way, seeing another complete game come out of this team like the one that they played against Temple.

I really feel everybody would give Chryst a pass on his first year and his slow start with this squad if he can get them to win out in the regular season and get to a minor bowl. Considering the mood of Panther nation after the Cincy game that would have to be considered a successful initial season, don’t you think?

Put a “W” in the win column in a bowl game especially if it is against a team like WVU as the rumor mill has picked up on, would just be icing on the cake. But we’re way ahead of ourselves. Let’s just not sh!t the bed tomorrow night on national TV and lose the game and the goodwill Pitt’s effort against ND earned us.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.08.12 @ 6:29 pm

I’m a total contrarian on Tino being criticiszed for saying Pitt lost because we missed a field goal. The presumed conclusion by our brain-dead media is that meant he was blaming Harper, and only Harper, for the loss.

In the first instance, the statement is factually true–although there were other reasons and missed opportunities that could be–less directly–said to have caused or contributed to the loss.

But, more importantly Tino did not say Pitt lost because “Kevin Harper missed a field goal.” By not saying that he surely meant that the “team” missed the field goal, not just Harper. In fact, one could see that in fact there were at least 3 errors that caused the missed field goal (not running the ball to place it in the center of the field on the preceding play; a high snap; Harpers miss). You can also add, I suppose, that the refs missing the 2–number twos on the field also contributed to the miss.

Bottom line, the criticism of Tino is purely the result of media trying to cause a stir!

Comment by Pitt1972 11.08.12 @ 7:11 pm

Need to win Friday then you have 15 days to get ready for Rutgers. Bottom line is Friday could be the season.

Comment by John 11.08.12 @ 8:04 pm

@TX Panther

Are there wackos in Waco ?

Just wondering ?

And my oh my what was PittofDreams doing on that website.

Do any of our current Pitt student bloggers know anything about this game of Knockout ?

Comment by Emel 11.08.12 @ 9:19 pm

Because we’ve had several attacks down here in Charlotte of gangbangers attacking old white people(even women) who are by themselves.

Comment by Emel 11.08.12 @ 9:21 pm

Ron Cook… Tino… Today’s Trib… Oh my!

Comment by PittofDreams 11.09.12 @ 6:15 am

Oopa Today’s PG… Oh my!

Comment by PittofDreams 11.09.12 @ 6:18 am

Normally do not find anything that enlightening about Cook.

However, he pretty much nails it with his column on Tino.

Sounds like Cook may have been reading this blog.

Comment by PittofDreams 11.09.12 @ 8:18 am

here is some belated thoughts…

Sunseri didn’t lose the ND ballgame by himself no matter how many fingers point at him. When you go into the 4th quarter with a 14 point lead you should expect to win. The ND defense had their way with us in the second half.

That wasn’t a PI call on the Holtz drop, yes – I said drop – in the endzone. In college you can cover that way. The ball hit Holtz right in the hands and the DB did NOT knock it out. It was dropped.

Our special teams let us down. It wasn’t just Harper missing that FG attempt – it was, as stated above, things that happened leading up to it. Graham could have centered that ball also.

As far as Paul Chryst goes the only thing I really question is how he hasn’t realized by now how Tino Sunseri folds in the 4th quarter of games and play called accordingly.

I too am looking forward to 2013 under Chryst. I expected a 6-6 season anyway based on all factors so I’m not too upset about a 4-5 record at this point. I think we’ll win against UCONN tonight and then go into the last two games on a bit of a roll.

Comment by Reed 11.09.12 @ 9:10 am

^^^ I meant “The ND OFFENSE had their way with us in the second half”.

Comment by Reed 11.09.12 @ 9:10 am

Reed, I agree, Holtz dropped the ball, as did the rest of the team coming down the strech and into OT. Tino had the chance to play the hero but those tools are not in his toolbox. I thought it was just unfortunate that he had to add to his own pain by opening his mouth. I think that he kind of threw himself under the bus along with Harper with his comments because if he runs the offense solidly in OT, Harper can’t miss a FG because the only thing he is responsible for is kicking the PAT.

Here’s hoping that this team is who I think they are and that they come out really, really angry about how they let the ND game slip through their fingers. They performed well last week. Now they have to follow it up with a convincing pounding of UCONN to demonstrate that that performance wasn’t just a flash in the pan. These last three games will tell the story of where Pitt is and where they are heading under the coaching guidance of PC.

Also read that Chapman is intending to enroll in Jan. and will be available for Spring ball. That should really make for a heated competition for the QB starting spot come fall camp. What a pleasant problem for Pitt fans to ponder, what QB to start?, with a solid group of four contenders in the mix, and not one of them named Sunseri.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.09.12 @ 9:37 am

If Pitt had the right AD, we would be mentoring the next piece of smizik, cook and collier. Stated differently, media can either help a program or hurt it. The Pittsburgh media has hurt Pitt for years and negatively impacted their ability to recruit. And Pitt helped that negativity by putting out a product that was sub par.

What the writers don’t understand is that they will never be accepted on the national scene for their coverage and writing, if Pitt doesn’t succeed on the field or on the court. The media is their own worst enemy and they are not smart enough to figure that out.

Pitt should take care of business tonight but it will be a tough game.As far as the article is concerned, it shouldn’t have taken five years for cook to figure out what tino’s teammates have thought of him since he got here. Tino is only worried about tino. There is an “I” in tino, albeit a small case “i”.

I will personally be disappointed if he is not sat down for the first series or first quarter tonight in favor of Trey. Paul Chryst must put the team first and risks losing some of the program changers if he doesn’t do something that they can see as punishment. I am not worried about whether they win or lose. It is all about setting precedence for the future of your program. If you ain’t a team guy, there is the bench or perhaps, there goes your scholly!

Comment by dhuffdaddy 11.09.12 @ 10:22 am

wheres ur balls chrsyt bench him right now ,the cook article, this blog, pantherlair, he is 24 yrs old , he mean ‘t exactly what he said, anderson should start, u benched guys the first game ,for punching a big mac , its anderson time.

Comment by paul shannon 11.09.12 @ 11:07 am

Tino’s time to be riding the bench has long ago passed. I’m still mad that Chad wasn’t given the nod by Chryst right from the get go in fall camp. I would have been much more accepting of the ass kicking we got in our first two games with Voytik at the helm of the offense rather than our veteran choker.

At this point, Tino is and has been a known entity. To sit him now for a stupid remark that in the larger scheme of things only reflected poorly on Tino himself would be dumb coaching IMO.
The real business at hand is to win these last three games with the girl you brought to the dance, no matter how ugly she has turned out to be as the evening has progressed. Tino is Tino, in a couple months from now we all will have turned the page on this segment of Panther football history and will be looking forward to hopefully better days in the ACC.

Priority one? Focus, Focus, Focus, control the controlables and just win tonight.

BTW, I was surprised to learn of how well UCONN’s defense has performed this season. But then you scratch your head trying to figure out how Syracuse hangs 40 points on them.

I’m not sure why, but I’m feeling a Pitt blowout coming tonight, especially if we get a quick start out of the gates. I think that Chryst finds the soft under belly of their defense that let Syracuse roll and exploits it to our advantage, then the Pitt defense feeds off of that success to snuff out UCONN’s offensive effort. Then the momentum keeps on rolling Pitt’s way.

The thing that could even out things however is the special teams. However, this could go Pitt’s way too with a Pitt run back for a TD. Both L. Pitts and Saddler have looked like they have been one block away from breaking open for a score on multiple returns this season.

We’ll see, come on Pitt make Panther Nation proud of your showing on national TV tonight. It would be a pleasant change of pace to what we’ve become accustomed to.


Comment by Dr. Tom 11.09.12 @ 11:11 am

Pederson has no credibility with PGH media. Lying about attendance for years, Haywood, Graham, how Wannys firing was handled.
Who in their right mind does find him to be credible.
Only EJ and now Bostick have cred.
So when a strong or persuasive AD is needed, ours limps to the corner.
At the pre-game against Temple, Pederson was milling around near the open end on the Pitt sidelines. No one wanted to be near him: as if he carried a disease or something.
Contrast that to other ADs. They are magnets.
Ours hides. He should.

Comment by SFPitt 11.09.12 @ 11:53 am

u get it dr. tom,

Comment by paul shannon 11.09.12 @ 12:09 pm

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