Here we are at the one third mark of the 2013 season and we are still not sure of what we have in the way of a football team. We sit at three wins and a loss and that should make us feel pretty good, yet it is as if somehow the other shoe is going to fall on the season. PITT fans, not the most optimistic of people in the best of times, have the tell tale marks of nervousness not just about the upcoming Virginia Tech game but of the rest of the season also.
One of the nice things about college football, in my opinion, is the week to week inconsistency by both the teams and units within those teams. One truly never knows what you’ll get week to week unless you are a powerhouse program like Alabama or LSU. Most times you can point to one part of your team after camp finishes up and feel pretty good about it or know that it will let you down. That really hasn’t been the case with PITT this year, with a few exceptions.
After watching some summer camp practices and scrimmages I felt like the strength of the team was going to be our experienced defense, especially in the backfield that played so well last season and which carried over virtually intact. Last year that unit ended up 20th in the nation in Pass Defense giving up only 194 ypg, 15 INTs and 15 TDs through the air. A real show of solid play was PITT’s Pass Efficiency Defense which was very good at 113 (21st nationally). Our pass defense was pretty solid all around.
Fast forward to this season and we get a different story with those measurable aspects dropping to 219 YPG given up, eight passing TDs allowed and, worst of all, we are 89th nationally in Pass Efficiency Defense at 142 YPG. That drop in the efficiency of our pass defense is what has really hurt us so far.
At this point I’d have to say that the change over in Defensive Coordinator has helped that drop also. I’m not on the “House Sucks” bandwagon as some are but I do feel that he has an awful lot of learning to do to be successful in that staff position and unfortunately that learning has to come on the job.
We can compare each unit on the team and its current 2013 stats to last year’s but I think we can all see that despite our 3-1 record we haven’t seen much notable improvement overall with any unit on the field. Perhaps our passing game is better than last season, at least statistically it is. However, those numbers are skewed by that fantastic showing by Savage against Duke where he threw for 424 yards and six TDs. Would that it happen like that every game, yes?
One thing this is nicer than last year is that we PITT fans don’t have to hold our collective breaths every time the QB drops back to pass as we did for the last three years. That and when it looks like a deep ball will be thrown it is exciting more than dreadful. Now hope springs eternal when a WR’s long route is in the making.
I’ll say that our receiving corps is better than last at least at the WR1 and WR2 positions. We really can’t complain about them at all especially when Boyd, as a true freshman, is making spectacular catches on some poorer throws. They can score points and Savage can get them on the deep routes so that combination with the deep game surpasses 2012 for sure.
Frankly our season to date is also like that, inconsistent and basically uninformative. The offense is swinging between hot and cold without a way to identify its strengths and weaknesses that might hold for the rest of the year.
With the offense scoring 107 points against NM and Duke in succession then dropping to 14 (on lucky turnovers mostly) against VA we still scratch our heads and feel like every game it could be night and day from the game before. Perhaps if we fans could point to the OL and say that it was progressing each week we could extrapolate that to more positive offense in the future but the OL hasn’t been consistent either.
Well, we got used to inconsistent play in Paul Chryst’s first season at PITT with our ‘win two, lose two’ results but somehow it felt different then than it does now. We have every chance to tighten things up and have our offensive and defensive units start progress each game. The thing is that there is no certainly whatsoever that will happen.