When you spot a good opponent 14 points and you miss an easy FG, you won’t win many games. Those mistakes gave Miami a 17 point cushion and the final was only a 10 point difference. It’d be infuriating if it wasn’t so common. For some reason, this program likes to start games slow then try to crawl back. Unfortunately, they just aren’t good enough to do that. Maybe in a year or two they will be, but not yet. There were some positives and many negatives, but let’s look at both.
-I said the following in my Know Your Enemy column about Miami: Their fatal flaw is run defense. 30 carries for 214 and a touchdown later, that proved to be true. Isaac Bennett had the best game of his career (not as good statistically as ODU, but consider the opponents) and Rachid Ibrahim scored his first touchdown.
-Tom Savage was sacked once and it wasn’t a devastating sack. It was on third down in the red zone, but it didn’t push them out of field goal range and since Blewitt made the kick, it didn’t cost points. An incomplete pass would’ve had the same overall result: three points. The clean pocket meant no turnovers while the game was still in contention as well. Savage’s interception wasn’t bad; he was forcing the ball to try and make a play late in the game. He put the ball where Garner could get it and in the end, Miami DB Artie Burns made the play. It’s not his fault poor defense and special teams play put them in that situation.
-Tyler Boyd. He broke Larry Fitzgerald’s freshman receptions record. He finishes the regular season with 77 catches 1001 yards and 7 touchdowns receiving along with 11 rushes for 108 yards and a touchdown. Over 1100 yards and 8 touchdowns for a true freshman? Incredible. He didn’t have his best game against Miami but he was keyed on all game and he still made an impact. The offense does need someone to step up across from Boyd next season. Whether it’s Manasseh Garner, Dontez Ford, a freshman, whoever. Someone needs to take the pressure off of Boyd in the passing game.
-The OL probably had their best game of the season. Dominating run blocking, a clean pocket for Savage, I don’t recall any false starts or holding penalties, and the offense scored 31 points even though they had bad field position frequently. This offense looks quite good when the OL is blocking. It gives me a little hope for next season because with better RB play and better OL play, this offense will look a lot better.
-Anthony Gonzalez had a great game and was one of very few players on defense who showed up. He was in on a lot of players and hopefully his second full season as a LB next year will allow him to become a very good LB.
-Did anyone else see true freshman Shakir Soto nearly run down Stacy Coley on his 73 yard touchdown? The coaches are high on Soto and you can see why with that speed. He’s one player the defense needs to really step up next season in order to replace Aaron Donald’s production. It’s obvious effort will not be an issue with him.
-The offense was missing its starting LT, LG, WR, and best RB (Conner) in the second half. They had a 10 play 92 yard drive and a 13 play 95 yard drive to get them back in the game. It was a bit slow, but impressive.
-Lafayette Pitts had one of the worst games I’ve seen an experienced player have. His kickoff return fumble was devastating and Miami clearly targeted him in the passing game with a lot of success.
-I’ll address special teams later in the week, but I’ll say this: it’s not a coaching issue when Pitts fumbles the ball. It’s a coaching issue when you have 12 guys on the field for a punt. The issue isn’t a lack of a special teams coach, it’s poor special teams coaching. That’s one area you can blame Chryst immensely for. Whatever they’re doing isn’t working and it needs to be changed in the offseason.
-You could easily argue that special teams mistakes cost this team two wins. Stop UNC’s punt return and don’t fumble the kickoff/the partially blocked punt and this team wins two more.
-I knew Miami would score points. I guessed 31 in my preview and I’m not necessarily upset that they were successful, but I am upset at how easy they were able to score. Coley was WIDE OPEN on the first touchdown and I have no idea why. Then his 73 yard rush was unforgivable. I give credit to Coley for making plays, but touchdowns of 32, 34, and 73 all involved defensive breakdowns.
-Matt House had built up a lot of positive capital since the Duke game. If you look, the most points scored by an opposing offense was 24 by ODU and Navy. That’s not great, but VT, UNC, Notre Dame, and Georgia Tech were all held to 21 or fewer points. You expect your offense to win when they only need to score more than 21 points. After the game Miami had yesterday, he lost a lot of that in the eyes of fans.
-Overall, this season was so Pitt. You can look at one or two times in each loss where this team shot themselves in the foot. Outside of Florida State, does anyone think there was a noticeable talent differential between Pitt and any opponent? I firmly believe this team was capable of winning 11/12 games on the schedule. Through stupid mistakes, bad coaching, and slow starts, they went 6-5 in winnable games. There’s no doubt the schedule was tough; a Syracuse win over BC would mean 9/12 opponents are bowl eligible. As of right now, this team has two victories over current top 25 teams (ND and Duke). Only three teams (Stanford, ND, and Fraud Graham’s Devils) have more.
I’ll have info on recruiting, some season awards, and I’ll dig up bowl info over the course of the next week. I’ll say this: root for Clemson and Boston College today. If Clemson wins, they’ll go to a BCS bowl and open up another ACC slot. If BC wins, Cuse only has five wins and won’t go bowling.