Well, we’ve had over 775 comments during the bowl game and describing our feelings regarding the loss afterward so I’m not sure there is a whole lot more to say about the specifics of the game itself, that is how the game was actually played out on the field.
Suffice to say two main things happened, at least to my eyes. Everybody associated with Pitt from the Chancellor through the AD and coaching staff, through the players and into the fan base, were way too overconfident about facing Northwestern. They just didn’t see a loss coming and I didn’t either.
I felt that we’d use our experienced and bigger OL to establish the ground game. We’d use Narduzzi’s “take away the run or else” philosophy to hinder their running game then by default let them throw all over the field until we outscored them at the end.
Number two was a funny thing happened on the way to Yankee Stadium.
No one told the Northwestern people that was how it was supposed to be. Instead they thumbed their collective noses at our vaunted #9 rushing defense, shut down our vaunted #26 rushing game and finished with more points on the board than we did. Whaaaa?
Here is a post-game quote of a question to Narduzzi:
Shades of “We have to run faster.“
Injuries played a part in this loss of course as they always do in college ball but that’s life. Pitt fans are pointing squarely at the referees to be at fault, but those are excuses I think. The bottom line was that we were sure we’d win and we didn’t. Northwestern played a hell of a game against us and they won that game on the basis of their strong efforts and personal intensity.
An intensity which was surprisingly missing from our side of the field on Wednesday. I actually noticed that absent feeling when at the Pitt HQ hotel on Tuesday evening. I wrote up some of my observations in an article on Tuesday evening. What I didn’t touch on then was the lack of any concern at all for the merits of our opposing team. Lot of jolly and fun talk but no real thoughts about the game itself.
We got into a ton of conversations in the pub at Rosie O’Grady’s Saloon – it was chock full of Pitt fans – and very few remarks were made about the actual game itself being played the next day. Of course we have just had an Offensive Coordinator and an Athletic Director tell us they were leaving after the bowl game and that took up a lot of the conversations… but none about the possibility of leaving New York city with another eight win season.
Just as excited and happy as the Pitt fans were to be in New York, and everyone was since it was a great place to be during the holiday season and the hotel was very nice, the aftermath was exactly the opposite. Talk about crickets…
When I walked into the Sheraton bar at 7:00 on Tuesday night it was hopping with blue and gold everywhere. At the same time Wednesday night it was almost devoid of any trace that Pitt people had been there at all. I still struck up a couple of conversations but they were down and almost bitter about what had happened that afternoon.
It wasn’t just about the loss either – it was about the whole 360 degrees of Pitt football leading up to and through the game. The personnel departures put a damper on things but I’d say that the overall emotional consensus was that it was plain “SOP” because I heard that phrase 100 times from the halftime of the game at the stadium until I left that hotel on Wednesday night.
But since SOP has no true definition and a thousand faces, and is a basis for whole other article, I’ll just say this; a lot of people laid out a lot of money, time, effort and energy to attend that game and afterward all they could do was complain that ‘nothing seems to change with the Pitt football program’.
Is that true? I don’t know – but that is sure as hell what people were saying after the game. The fact that a ton of fans checked out of their hotel rooms and went home Wednesday evening speaks volumes. They we willing to lose $250+ in hotel fees just to get the hell out of town. Believe me, it was like the locusts went through the lobby and bar.
I asked two guys if they were happy with an eight win season again and one had a telling answer “If you would have asked me that in September I’d have said yes, but now – absolutely not!” And that is a good point. Expectations changed during the season.
They go up or down weekly but to end the regular season on a three game win streak, including beating the #2 team, then coming out and playing like the opponent wasn’t worthy enough to be there was a real head-scratcher.
The worse thing was it seemed like an exact repeat of last year’s effort against Navy albeit with a lesser talented opponent this season. “Give Pat Narduzzi three weeks to get ready and then bet on the other team” was another funny bit I heard someone say after the game. Well, he’s nothing if not consistent… two eight win seasons and two blown bowl games.
But I’ll say this about our head coach. That loss wasn’t on him really, it was on everyone who was on the sidelines that day. I do think we as a team went into that game way over-confident and sometimes that isn’t the HC’s doing. Kids get things into their heads, they read the media and yes, the blogs and the message boards, and they see what others are saying about them and I think that was part of the reason for the loss.
If no one outside the program felt we could lose that game then why should the players?
It was an anti-climax to a decent season and that’s just too bad. I think every Pitt fan wanted to see concrete progress from Pat Narduzzi’s initial eight win season to an achievable ninth win in 2016. It was there for the taking. We just didn’t get the job done.