Monday Morning QB: Northwestern

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:

Question.  Pat, do you think you guys were a little bit too geared up to stop the pass? How much did the safety help really prevent you from stopping the run at all?
COACH NARDUZZI:
No, we’re never going to be  geared up to stop the pass, we’re going to be geared
up to stop the run. We didn’t do a good job.

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.

 

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201 thoughts on “Monday Morning QB: Northwestern

  1. Pretty fair assessment. Northwestern was more focused and you can see in the final moments just how important the win was for NW Coach Fitzgerald.

    I do think the players have to take their share of blame. Consider:

    bungled hand-off (unforced)
    tripping over 2 yard line on obvious TD run (unforced)
    false start by Sr TE on 5 yard line (unforced) … leading to
    INT thrown by Sr QB near goal line
    errant QB snap (unforced) leading to injuring QB
    missed FG (unforced)
    dropped TD pass

    And all of the above committed by players who have been productive all year

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article Reed. The only way to rid Pitt of SOP is by winning Bowl games, no matter how minor. Therefore you don’t have this awful Empty feeling, that has no relief in sight, since there are NO MORE games…where the team can redeem itself.

    We have to carry this loss for the next 9 months and for a program that’s been stuck in Neutral for over 3 decades, you just can’t continue to expect people to keep coming back for more of the same.

    And people wonder why Pitt doesn’t draw very well. You just can’t giving people the back of the hand and
    expect all of them to keep coming back for more. Some are going to bail.

    One Step Forward, 2 Steps Back, Keeps you in Neutral and Going Nowhere Fast !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It was a roller coaster ride of a season with a consistently bad defense.

    Hopefully the defense has better players to plug in for the future because until they become reliable it is going to be hard to win unless the offense scores in excess of 35 plus.

    If they can develop a QB who knows maybe the offense remains formidable because they do have a lot of RB’s and receivers along with bodies at TE and offensive line.

    It would be nice to take the next step in 2017.

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  4. Funny that Pitt could ever be overconfident about any thing or any game.

    I just think it was one of those days when everything went wrong.

    Too many unforced errors, then the injuries to the two most important guys on the field.

    I think the analysis is like saying why the stock market goes up or down, sometimes it just does.

    Unfortunately for Pitt we rarely play a team that self implodes.

    With our defense we can’t afford to only get 3 points on the first 4 possessions.

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  5. @wwb I don’t believe that you accounted for the Henderson fumble in the second half that led to a FG. At least the third time he’s been stripped in a similar circumstance this season.

    Don’t forget NW converting 4-4 on fourth down and converting some long 3rd downs.

    It seemed that NW preyed on trapping Pitt ends shooting gaps. The Golics mentioned this during the broadcast. The funny part is that on one such very successful run on Price’s side they failed to mention that Price was trapped shooting inside the tackle on the outside run.

    Seems like 8-5 would have made many happy at the beginning of the year. Many said as much when Pitt lost to OSU and UNC. They already had those counted as losses. Expectations are funny things. I expected Pitt’s defense to be better than it was last year. The big defensive concern entering the season was the tackle positions. Losing Lafayette Pitts was generally believed to be a good thing. Turns out the tackles and their backups played well.

    Perhaps it was my imagination but it seemed to me that James Conner didn’t show his usual intensity before being injured. Matt Galambos seemed to be the only defensive player p

    Lots of turnover for 2017 on both sides of the ball. It suspect it will be better for the defense, particularly among the linebackers and secondary, but it will take some games for the offense to sort it out with two big changes on the offensive line and QB, RB, TE and WR.

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  6. I received the best Christmas gift last week. Barnes announced that he’s leaving! I can make my scholarship fund contribution and renew my football season tickets with a totally clear conscience!

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  7. 2017 – Over/Under 7 wins….

    I say 7 or under.

    Miami, VT, OKST, NC ST, PSU all L’s.

    I also think UVA gets way better in Bronco’s year 2.

    Fuente is a stud and Richt is doing a great job in year 1.

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  8. This game was the negative image of the Clemson game… all the Panther play makers in that historical win forgot to bring their lunch to the big Apple .. George the Animal trips
    JC stopped on a short plunge
    NP intercepted- bad decision
    QH fumbles again
    Orndoff 2 drops and offsides
    Officers snaps off target
    Blewitt-blue it
    Piss pour tackling
    Injuries to key players
    A couple of questionable calls

    We never got hold of Ole “Mo”

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  9. Upitt, You and I are on the same page. Lots of starters graduating at key positions and another OC coming in all speak to another learning curve. I’m learning more toward six wins. Next year will be interesting. Year 3 for PN should tell us a lot……..

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  10. No one knows for sure. We could have beaten OKST and UNC with a little more confidence in Peterman.
    No one saw the Clemson game coming.
    No one saw the mistakes and injuries of the bowl game coming.
    That is why you play the games.

    I think 7 is a good over/under number, the same as I picked this year.

    A lot will depend on how all the new guys gel and how quickly.

    Also injuries always play a role, either for us or our opponents.

    Good thing we didn’t lose Peterman till the very end. Good choice for MVP.

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  11. Matt Canada might be leaving but he isn’t taking his playbook with him. Football plays are football plays, no matter who is wearing the mic as OC. I think we are going to do immensely well on offense next season, especially with a relatively easier schedule. The key will be our defense.

    On to ACC basketball! HTP!

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  12. Bobby, good coaches also know when to call the plays. It is a chess game. Canada called a lot of plays at the right time. But the players still have to execute the play.

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  13. Good article.

    For whatever reason – to one who was there at YS opinion – our kids were not focused at the start of the game, their kids came to play. Our kids didn’t even come out on the field early – theirs were out their 2 hours prior getting a feel for the turf, walking the whole field with no Pitt player or coach in evidence until about 75 minutes prior to the game.

    Our players got tight when bad things started to happen (68 yard run from 1 yard line after we failed to put it in 2 downs in a row…that play set the tone and we never fully recovered – you could see and feel it in the stadium) and just made things get worse, and theirs got looser and looser and were obviously having fun…hence the ridiculous rockette dance on the sideline by their 3rd and 4th string players.

    The chance of injury is higher when one is not focused 100% of the time on things around them. Football is a dangerous sport – I think a fully focused and involved JC does not let himself get blindsided away from the play.

    There were just too many damn distractions leading up to the game. The demand on JC’s time had to have cut into his prep time and mental sharpness. He is a hero in so many ways not related to football – but he is still a young man who perhaps reached his limit after everything else that happened to him – he is not Superman after all.

    OCMC took days if not a week or more away from his prep time to focus on getting another job. HCPN had to have been distracted by this – 2cd year in a row he lost a key member of his coaching staff in the weeks prior to the bowl – and by the AD’s lack of focus on Pitt – instead ADSB was also focusing more on himself then the University. He for sure could have waited until January.

    HCPN is stubborn – and will never admit to being caught off guard by the opposing team’s game plan – but it was obvious he was out coached on this day. From NU’s focus on running the ball to their preparation on special teams to deny QH the ball to their out maneuvering (not overpowering imo – they did it through a great scheme) of our superior OL HCPN was simply out coached. He looked and acted as dazed by NU’s ‘shock and awe’ running attack as everyone else on the Pitt side of the field.

    Even the fans were overconfident and out of sorts – we were loud and rowdy and supportive until the end but the acoustics and layout of YS meant we were way far away from the field, unlike Heinz, and we just didn’t sound as loud as we were…it was confusing in a weird way. We were in the 3rd level but could not see or hear the fans below us – it was very very strange. Hell – we couldn’t understand a word the stadium announcer said – if he said anything at all.

    Call it SOP whatever the hell that is…call it bad luck…call it a curse…call it the fancy of the gods…call it pride before the fall; from once again drawing the Worst Possible referee’s and TV announcers to the sun never coming out on a bitingly cold day when predicted – everything seemed to go against Pitt…it was once again a seemingly perfect storm.

    Yet we almost won despite everything.

    H2P

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  14. Tommymac, good job. You rminded me of the short kickoffs. Why Narduzzi didn’t put receivers and running backs up to catch and run the short ones is beyond me.

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  15. I’m with GC, not sure how Pitt could be confident in any game giving up the points they have all year on defense. I do believe if we didn’t lose a number of our key players we would have won. Also keep in mind had we lost Peterman in game number 1 and kept the MacVittie Red Shirt in play we would have been lucky to win 3 games this year.

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  16. Let’s throw in another 2 changes in personnel for next year – kicker and long snapper.

    I’m normally optimistic regarding Pitt FB – If I were a getting man (and I’m not) I take the under next season at 4. I hope I’m really way off.

    BUT, we did best PSU this season.

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  17. Barvo – one thing I didn’t mentioned much was that on the morning of gameday HCPN benched DE Rori Blair as “the coaches decision” which means it was a disciplinary action. I made the point to the guy next to me in the press box after EJ Borghetti told us that was happening before them game that I didn’t have a good feeling about it. Later I said we could have used him in the 1st half, then again in the second half also.

    Now I know some Pitt fans don’t like a HC doing this, benching a key player right before a big game, but I salute Pat Narduzzi for doing so. This is the strong responsibility stance he has taken since arriving and he has remained consistent with it. Kudos to him for that.

    DW may not have done it the same way and Narduzzi’s decision may well have contributed to the good rushing afternoon NW had, I think it did actually, but he did it and stuck with it.

    It reminded me too much of PC’s first game were he suspended five players that morning and the team came out like they didn’t want to play. I called the loss against YSU as soon as I heard those suspensions that day because sometimes things happen in the locker room that have serious ripple effects. Especially when the rock is dropped in the pond right before the game itself.

    As the game wound down Wednesday I wondered if that same thing couldn’t have impacted the kid’s excitement before the bowl game started and thus the seemingly lack of energy from the start by our players.

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  18. Tremendous lack of speed on defense this year. If he can get comfortable with the defense next year I really like Briggs game. I was really impressed with the speed of Briggs to the ball on several occasions.

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  19. Next year Pitt beats YSU (not a given), Rice, UVA and cuse. Dogs in all eight other games IMO.

    I’m debating whether to invest in my golf game or season tickets –

    I need someone to convince me that next year could be a ten win season – that keeps me coming back – I don’t see it with the current personnel.

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  20. Reed – very well written summary – did you hear any talk about whom our next OC might be?

    Geep Chryst is currently unemployed if anyone cares…

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  21. Notre Dame: Memphis offensive coordinator Chip Long will be Notre Dame’s new offensive coordinator FootballScoop can confirm. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports was the first to report the news.

    Western Kentucky: Boise State receivers coach Junior Adams will be the new offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky reports Bruce Feldman. Sources tell FootballScoop the move is in the works (but not finalized) as well.

    Like

  22. Beyond the poor play the thing that bothers me the most was our inability to get off the field. Allowing 3rd and 16, 3rd and 7, 3rd and 9….and of course the 4th down conversions. I’m will to bet if we were only able to get off the field the outcome, despite the poor play, would have been different.

    It’s going to be a loooooong off-season.

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  23. Florida: Mike Locksley has agreed to join the Florida staff after Alabama’s playoff run. Prior to serving this season as an analyst at Alabama, Locksley spent the past four seasons at Maryland as offensive coordinator.

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  24. Utah: Assistant head coach/running backs coach Dennis Erickson is retiring and co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick will not return, the Utes have announced.

    OC opening at Utah –

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  25. Temple: Coastal Carolina offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude will join the Temple staff in the same role, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer and multiple reports. Patenaude spent five years at Coastal Carolina and previously coached at Georgetown. In addition, the paper reports Temple defensive line coach Elijah Robinson is up in the air about whether to remain at Temple or follow Matt Rhule to Baylor. It had previously been reported that Robinson would join Rhule.

    Western Kentucky: Northern Iowa co-offensive coordinator Ryan Mahaffey will join the WKU staff as tight ends coach, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. Mahaffey spent 2016 at UNI and previously worked with Mike Sanford Jr. at Notre Dame in 2015 as a graduate assistant.

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  26. Houston: Mississippi State co-offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson has been named offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach at Houston. Johnson spent three years at Mississippi State and previously worked at Utah for four years.

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  27. Gee Erie you hit on everyone but Pitt.

    No, there wasn’t much discussion about a new OC but there was a hell of a lot of talk, even before the game, about having Conklin back for a 3rd year. I’d say the consensus was that the wrong coordinator was leaving.

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  28. BTW – Nate Peterman ended the year #8 nationally in Passing Efficiency. He had a very good year for us and at 164.3 was better than any Pitt QB who played regularly but David Priestly who ended his career at 169.2.

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  29. Thanks Reed. I was wondering why I didn’t see Blair. I knew he had some injury problems the last few games and therefore wrongly assumed it had to do with injury.

    For those of you curious as to what a competent defense could have done to a Pitt opponent, Stanford has held UNC to 17 points and Trubisky to 164 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT late in the 3rd. Stanford ranked #51 in passing yards allowed in FBS 2016. Trubisky threw for 453 and 5 TDs against Pitt. UNC had been playing from behind since early in the 2nd.

    @EE Good point regarding kicker next year. Blewitt has indeed won some games but has also some terrible misses that played a big part in some losses.

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  30. I don’t care who the next OC is as long as they don’t change the play language. I think the uproar over Canada and Barnes leaving played a huge part in the utter lack of focus. Ask any gambler…coaching transition is a great bet any time it happens.

    I’ve given Narduzzi a pass while he learns ( on our dime) how to be a head coach. I drove my Pitt friends nuts all year asking why we don’t play another QB …you never know…and then it happens and Dinucci even said, “it’s been a longtime since I’ve seen live action!”

    No more free pass for Narduzzi from me! Pitt needs a real HC. Someone who can put a decent D on the field, get players focused for games, handle in game decisions better than DW, recruit and prepare his team to look like a big time NCAA D-1 team. So far. Meh

    Get us a decent OC and let this be the last bowl game we STB!

    Miami, VA Tech and other ACC teams are way ahead of Pitt. We seem to be going backward.
    That was an awful performance on Tuesday.. No more F’n excuses!

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  31. While we are at it – why are our guys the one slipping on the field of play all the time? -Aston and QO are two that come to mind at the baseball field.

    Someone who attended the game said NU was in the field 2 hours before game time and they walked the entire field to inspect conditions.

    Pitt showed up 70 minutes prior to the start – makes you wonder. It sure doesn’t cost much money to arrive 50 minutes earlier and inspect the field so you have the correct spikes on your shoes.

    Wait, but it does cost you in the win column.

    I’m ticked if you haven’t notice.

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  32. Hoping Pitt picks a top notch OC quickly, with ènough of a reputation To bring a few good recruits with him. We need some positive energy around the program.

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  33. Upitt
    Vertigo with a headache .. could be sinus infection.
    Vertigo without a headache .. there are head movement exercises that may correct it.

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  34. Speaking of OC Canada, I would have liked to have seen him leave the room with Narduzzi’s bootprint on his ass the minute he turned in his notice. He was no help in this game, and was possibly a liability. And hopefully, contrary to what Narduzzi said, the search for a new OC was started long before the bowl game. (I assume it was).

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  35. First time poster here. I have really enjoyed the articles & the posts on these sites over the years (Blather, Cardiac Hill, Etc.) but never chimed in. It is kinda therapeutic for me rather than breaking remotes, coffee tables, etc. every time SOP rears it’s ugly head. I bleed blue & gold but it never gets any easier. Especially living in Penn State country. This loss was one of the hardest (well at least top 10) to take in recent years IMO. A chance to be ranked in the top 20 at the end of season, beating a Big 10 team for the second time this season, and probably a pre-season top 25 ranking for next year. But no, we crap the bed. Will it ever get any better?

    Welcome aboard and don’t hesitate to jump in with your comments..

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  36. The effort was clearly not there by the players or the coaches – Nard putting in the 3rd string QB instead of trying to win (though DiNucci has no arm he did throw one Td, ripped off a long run and had Orndoff drop a perfect TD pass). Unless it involves a nice warm climate Pitt can shove ice bowls. I made a great decision in not altering my schedule to go – a good bowl ? ha. To quote Clint Eastwood “Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining. Interesting about Pitt not coming out early, thanks for the observation Tommymac – it was clear watching the game nobody’s head from Pitt was in it. This routinely happened in the glory years of the 70s – play Temple like we were too good for them and damn near lose. Hello Pitt football players and coaches you have to give everything on every play; every game!!!. YOU ARE NOT NATIONAL CALIBER.

    Reed one point I disagree with you is the head shots. I NEVER argued it affected the game yet you take my and other comments redefine them to make a point which is cheap (no offense but you sound like an attorney on that and as one i know if you cant win an argument redefine it) – it was inexcusable conduct that should have led to calls and suspensions. Unless of course you are advocating such conduct and you think it indicates a team more dedicated to winning to go for cheap shots to the head, It had little effect on the game but the officiating sucked and the announcers spent the whole game going on an on about NW. Pitt again go no respect – then again we didn’t earn it. In fact up to the point of their injuries JC and NP were not tearing up the joint but the head shots were inexcusable. Period.
    The result did come down to heart, we had none and NW did. They destroyed us in the trenches, dropped balls and interceptions are a lack of concentration. NW wanted to get their 2nd bowl victory – In their history, They came out, kicked our ass and got it.
    With all the OCs hired we look like a joke in not moving on this as well – maybe we are waiting till after Georgia plays to bring back Doughboy (sarcasm), This job may be too much for Narduzzi.

    I will buy my season tickets as I have since 1990 and will go to at least one road game but at that joke of a stadium I will feel free to boo my a$$ off rather than silently sit through another year of the defense.
    HAIL TO PITT..

    RKB – I wasn’t thinking of you at all when I wrote that. I just didn’t want to get into the weeds of the play and calls because we did that in the game thread.

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  37. Pitt might as well pack it in and go D-2. I see little commitment for what it will truly take to be competitive in the ACC from our mighty Chancellor and carpetbagger AD.

    Show me the MONEY!

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  38. Bandito I could not agree more – you don’t want to be here – bye bye. And Gallagher bragging in today’s paper that BArnes would be on the job till February. Doing what Pat? Scratching his balls? Packing up his belongings with his dozen wives? Scheduling future games? Drinking with Upitt? (sorry uPitt) He should be outta here. This is why you have associate ADs. Don;t want to be here, call security, pack the boxes, escort out of the building. Canada and Herman were more of a distraction. SOP SOP SOP.

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  39. I’m sorry you live in Altoona surrounded by Pedos my Pitt fan and friend. At least its not West Virginy. Where there are no Virgins nor Vaginas in their women.

    Like

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