[EDITOR NOTE: Thought I hit “publish” on this before leaving for work this morning. Whoops. Justin ended up hitting on some of the same points I made earlier today. But I’m still putting this out there.]
For some reason, my DVR failed to record the game, so there is no reviewing this one. I am pretending it rejected the recording as being too offensive to save.
As the game fell apart, I asked on twitter if the blame rested more with the offense or the defense for the loss. The overwhelming view was that it was the offense. The defense may have caved late, but the offensive failings throughout the game put them into that position.
So let’s start with that offense.
Quarterback Tom Savage had a statistically decent game. 20-27, 203 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and only sacked once. Yet, he was never comfortable in the pocket. The playcalling tried to use the short to medium passing and Savage continues to look uncomforatable with those passes. Best guess on why they are trying to do that, so Savage isn’t holding the ball as long and getting killed on sacks.
Whether going deep or short, he is throwing it at the same speed. The problem that was obvious back in training camp is still there. He doesn’t seem capable of taking too much off the throw when needed.
He also had one of the most baffling postgame quotes to try and explain the inconsistency and mistakes of the offense. Especially late.
When the Panthers needed to control the ball late in a 24-21 loss to Navy on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the offense reached down and couldn’t help.
“I think we got a little complacent,” quarterback Tom Savage said.
What. The. Hell. Complacent??? What? What? What at any point in the game would make the offense think they were in control and could be satisfied with the situation?
Pitt led by 6 and then 7 points in the game. They were always one score away from being behind or tied. The O-line committed five pre-snap penalties in the game. Does the word mean what he thinks it means?
Is he talking complacency at the the end of drives like in the first half where Pitt drove well on Navy only to have to settle for field goals? Putting Pitt in a position where they could not take control of the game on the scoreboard the way they actually were on the field for the first half.
Is he talking about being complacent in the second half, expecting to have more success and then unable to handle things when it doesn’t happen?
The thing is the offense has been this way in the second half all season. Seven games into the season and Pitt has failed to outscore opponents in the second half. Yes, some of that is on the defense, but this offense essentially has fallen off a cliff. In the last four games the offense has scored 0, 6, 14 and 8 points in the second half. For the season the team has 200 points with 134 in the first half and only 66 in the second half (and that is generously including a pick-6 by the defense in the Duke game).
As much as the defense seems to wilt in games, perhaps more blame should be heaped on the offense. Pitt had three 3-and-outs on Saturday. All of them taking place in the second half. Which means a wilting defense is expected to do more and more. I’m sure we are all shocked that this approach doesn’t work.
About those five pre-snap penalties. I don’t know about this O-line any more. Cory King being out should not be this big a deal. The only thing I can figure is that they are so sick of being beaten by the defenses that they are moving early to try and be in a better blocking situation.
Coach Chryst can seethe on the sidelines as much as he wants. He can yank James Conner out of the game for his fumble. But it really seems that the coaching has to take a lot of questions. The inability to handle adjustments made by opposing teams in the second half is the most glaring.
“I thought early we did a good job of running the ball consistently,” Chryst said. “They made some adjustments and made some plays, so we couldn’t just run at will on that. That’s the game.”
“Couldn’t just run at will on that.” How about just being able to run the ball?
The defense, well, Justin hit on that. Bad luck in the first half. They too didn’t handle adjustments in the second. They faded late in the game.
The final question is on the fact that Pitt has been fading late in games. If it isn’t all adjustments by the other team, then it also raises questions about the physical conditioning and the job by the strength and conditioning coach.