If one were to chart the results of the 2012 PITT football season you would have had the graphics of a perfect sine curve up until the Rutgers game yesterday afternoon. Far from being just a coincidence that sine curve is the symbol of what it is to be a PITT fan. We don’t get too high on a winning streak because a losing streak is sure to be at our back door.
We started off with two killer losses. First we had the 31-17 loss against a FBS Mountain Valley Conference Youngstown State team who beat us like a drum at home in racking up 381 yards of offense. This was Paul Chryst’s debut in a long line of recent head coaches at PITT. He made his first impressions by suspending six players, including three starters, for undisclosed reasons then went out and lost what should have been a rather easy win. Needless to say it was an inauspicious debut.
We followed that up with a 34-10 ass kicking road loss against a BE opponent in Cincinnati. This game set the tone for the season IMO. We could believe that the YSU game was something of a fluke but to play so damned poorly against someone who we have had great and close games against over the years was adding insult to injury. It didn’t take a Lydia Callis to show us how screwed we were.
Plus we permanently lost the Riverboat Trophy. Even though Darrell Strong, who was intimately involved obviously, and I are the only PITT people who actually liked the trophy it still would have made a nice addition to the rest of the PITT bling down at the Southside Complex. Oh… it would have been a needed win also.
But wait, there’s more!
Chryst and the players righted the sinking ship in grand fashion by throttling the #13 ranked (yeah, sure!) Hokies of VA Tech 35-17 and playing the way we fans felt this team could. It had all the elements for a big game – uncertainty in regards to the ability of the staff and team, a great offensive showing in putting up 581 yards and 35 points and a defense that stifled the Hokie offense. Sunseri threw for 283 yards and three TDs including the missing deep ball; Ray Graham continued showing us how well he could do even after that injury (that first cut was amazing); Devon Street played the way we have been waiting for him to play and Rushel Shell gave us a glimpse of the future.
We played very well and kept the Hokies from singing their victory song in the locker room after a win. If you think “genac, genac, genac” is weird take a look at this:
Techs, Techs, V.P.I.
Polytechs – Vir-gin-ia.
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.”
Speaking of fight songs here’s a PITT one I found that I had never heard before. So, win number one under the belt, a following tune up against the weakling Gardner Webb (a 55-13 victory) and we are ready to tackle the rest of the season in fine fashion having shown what we can do. Right?
Not exactly the way things played out though. Standing at 2-2 and with a two game winning streak we followed up with a 14-13 away loss against a struggling 1-3 Syracuse team. The fact that we missed a relatively easy 1st quarter field goal attempt just made it that much harder to bear. What was scary about this loss was the return of the “4th quarter Sack Fest” that Sunseri gets an invitation to every week. He did make a nice play under intense pressure when he hit Shanahan for a big gainer while getting hit.
OK – we’ll get ‘em next week. We played pretty well against SYR and just didn’t get the breaks we need for that close loss. We are 2-3 and have a lot of football left to play. Next week’s a win, take it to the bank… sure Louisville is ranked #18 but didn’t we just beat a #13 team two weeks ago? Well, that thud you heard after the Cardinals racked up 21 unanswered points in third quarter was the PITT fan’s expectations for the rest of the season. Who the hell is Senorise Perry anyway and where does he get off playing like that against us?
That was how it played out in the beginning of the season: two losses – two wins – two losses. Regular as can be and the only consistent thing we had done all year. It was too much to bear and got us fans thinking that the season was a complete write off at that point at that point. We have Buffalo and Temple up next. OK, but we just lost to YSU and SYR so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
We pulled those next games out with another two game winning streak, the second one of the season, and we were back at .500 ball. But let’s face it, going into South Bend and playing the #3 team in the nation is a sure loss. Well, it was a loss but there was nothing sure about it. We outplayed the Irish for 3.5 quarters and took them into triple overtime before the dust settled with ND on top by a score of 29-26.
OK, OK, OK! Hold on! We lost that game but hey, didn’t we look great in doing it? We have UCONN coming up next and we all know how badly they suck. A 3-6 record is terrible and that means something doesn’t it? No, it really doesn’t and they had their way with us in grabbing a insurmountable 24-0 lead in the 1st half.
A crap 24-17 loss to a poor team and we’re back to the 4-6 W/L rotation. Not going to get any better next week either. Maybe we’ll buck the trend and lose to make it three losses in a row. It can’t be any other way. Except the Vegas money men saw things differently. They had PITT giving points in this home game and somehow that turned out to be the case with a 27-6 PITT win.
It was a satisfying win on many different levels. One of which is that it put us within reach of a bowl bid if we can beat a pretty poor 3-8 USF team at their place next week to finish at 6-6 for the regular season. Secondly we beat RU in our last BE game together with them going to the Big Ten and us to the ACC, that feels nice. Lastly it showed that this team can win a football game again.
So now we sit at 5-6 in a 12 game season, with 6-6 being the best we can do at this point. It’s been a roller coaster ride this year, down/up/down/up/down and now up again, and leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions moving forward. Can we finish the season on a high note and beat a team we are supposed to beat? If we do that will the Bowl officials look at PITT and be convinced they want us in their post-season games? Can we actually get through this season with a winning record after all the poor and inconsistent play we put out on the field?
However, perhaps the most important question to be answered in the future is this: Will we be able to look back on 2012 and see that it was a season of growing pains a new head coach went through for things to get better in 2013 and beyond or will we look back and say that 2012 was the harbinger for the remainder of Paul Chryst’s time at PITT?
Personally, I think the former.