The defense allowed the same amount of points it surrendered in the opener against Florida State, a team that advanced to the national championship game.
Miami is good, but far from the Seminoles’ caliber, and the poor performance could be seen as an indication of a lack of progress on Pitt’s defense this season.
“I feel like we got embarrassed out there,” Donald said of an effort in which Pitt (6-6) allowed five touchdowns and 476 yards of total offense in its 12th game.
“Could be seen as an indication of a lack of progress?” Could be?
“A lot of little mistakes piling up early,” said safety Ray Vinopal, repeating a theme from most of Pitt’s losses this season. “It’s always hard, especially against a talented team that is coached well, to recover from such a deficit so early.
“When they grab the momentum so quickly, you really have to dig down deep and get it going. I think we did get it going, but it was too late.”
It wasn’t just the Miami game. The final three of four games saw Pitt let a team jump out on them in the first quarter or half. Heck, you could even toss in the ND game since the Irish missed chances with a missed FG and a fumble in the redzone that may have made it a blowout early.
This was a defense that was ill-prepared for the start of each of the final four games. They looked lost and out of position. Unmotivated.
And it doesn’t help when the defensive coordinator says things suggesting he is ignoring that common theme.
He also noted, though, that he was pleased with his players’ reaction to the slow start.
“You could tell that guys truly were disappointed and irritated with themselves,” House said. “Also, you’ve seen the tempo in our practices now be cranked up. I think part of that is we have set a bar and an expectation and throughout the year we’ve improved, improved, improved — with that last game being an aberration. I think it truly ticked the kids off.”
But the slow start in the UNC game. The GT game. Or even — for god’s sake — the Syracuse game didn’t?
One game should not determine a coach’s fate. But this game is the culmination of a full season of the Matt House defense. We know there is a superlative player in Aaron Donald. There are players who have improved over the season like Ray Vinopal and Anthony Gonzalez. But as a unit, not so much. And this was a veteran group. Donald, Ezell, Gordon, Hendricks and Williams are all heading for their final game.
At the very least this game has the dire potential of sealing the perception of Matt House.