I have to insert a personal apology here – in my podcast yesterday I called Pat Narduzzi a “liar”. That is something I should not have said as it infers he lies continually – that is not the case. I not only retract that statement but also publicly apologize for it as it wasn’t a gentlemanly thing at all on my part.
Here we are two days removed from our game with Penn State and with the dust settled now lets take a look at what transpired. As always what we do on here is single out three issues for each category; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
This game certainly had its share of all three adjectives that apply…
I have to say that the first positive thing that comes to mind for this is the all-around play of RB rsJR Quadree Ollison who shone again on Saturday. His stats show a productive game again (15 for 96 @ 6.4 ypc), he played well in the YSU match also, but it was the way he ran Saturday that is heartening. He shifted shoulders and followed his blocks better than before and so got those extra yards that he seemed to miss last season.
He’s clearly the bell-ringer of the RB unit… well, Quasimodo was a bell-ringer also, but Ollison is handsomer… and as such he’ll get more and more carries as the season plays on.
rsJR Ben Dinucci’s play in relief of starter rsSR Max Browne. If you look at the stats you wouldn’t jump up and take notice of DiNucci’s play on Saturday – but that misses the intangibles he brought to the offense as soon as he walked into the huddle Bronwe had played poorly all day (more on that) and was required to sit out a play due to the loss of helmet rule.
Instant points on the board as DiNucci scored a TD the first time he touched the ball and accounted for all eight points.
3rd and Goal at PSU 3
(10:09 – 4th) Ben Dinucci run for 3 yds for a TD, (Ben Dinucci pass to Qadree Ollison for Two-Point Conversion)
That bit of work cut the lead down to two TDs at 28-14 with 10 minutes left to play. His next full series showed him with 5 of 9 for 49 yards along with 15 yards on the ground – 64 of the 65 yards we needed to score a TD. That didn’t happen and DiNucci fumbled the ball to end the game – but even his fumble was the result of desperately trying to score points.
He did a good job on Saturday.
Our last “good’ award goes to rsFR PK Alex Kessler who shook of the rust from his 0-2 attempts against YSU to hit two important field goals. Those two FGs were the only scoring we had over the first three-quarters and the first one kept the score at a reasonable 14-3 going into halftime.
His second kept us within two TDs… every little bit helped at that point.
Look – on Saturday Pitt’s players needed every bright spot it could get to keep their morale up and their heads in the game and Kessler really helped with that.
First off – Our run defense. Yes, we held them to 148 yards and on the face of that alone, considering they have the gifted RB Saquon Barkley (88 yards), that looks pretty good. But look deeper and you see we had our problems there also.
We gave up big runs and let both Barkley and their running QB McSorley carry the ball forward for 153 yards at a 7.0 ypc clip – not good at all really. And that came on only 22 carries. We have to do better in that department to win games in the future – but notice it isn’t in the UGLY category
Second has to be the overall play of QB Max Browne, not just his passing but overall. He was 19 for 32 with 138 yards and 2 INTs with no TDs. Not a terrible passing line there at first glance but dig a bit deeper to the yards per attempt (4.3) and the yards per completion (7.3) and you see the ineffectiveness of his play.
His lack of mobility showed in a big way also – Our OC Watson to calling a QB run at all and specifically when we were at a 2nd and goal at the PSU 5 yard line is strange business anyway – and that hurt in keeping our drives alive.
Browne ‘ran’ the ball five times on three sacks a scramble and that run for (-) 18 yards. This hurts his overall game and will hurt us down the road. There will be a genuine QB controversy after the Oklahoma State game I believe and DiNucci’s running ability, and Browne’s lack thereof, will be at the heart of it.
Thirdly we have our receiving corps play on Saturday. I counted at least three drops with two by Weah and one buy TE Chris Clark. Granted a receiving corps can only work with what the QB throws them but Browne put so of his best passes right on the hands of those guys and they didn’t hold on for needed yardage.
As we watched the game my friend noticed two instances where the WRs were finger-pointing and yelling at each other – that is borne from frustration. But that shouldn’t be frustration toward their QB as he kept up his end pretty well – but pointed inward as they broke off routes (first INT) and assumed the pass was going elsewhere and stopping their route (Henderson)
Honestly I don’t see much of what I would call straight up ugly from this ball game. I think we had poor play in areas – but as above balanced that out with some good play also.
However – there is an aspect of the game that I thought was disappointing to watch and will be dangerous if carried forward.
That is the attitude of the offensive players on Saturday. I saw, and discussed during the game, Max Browne’s hesitation at critical moments and his lack of an energetic, positive projecting, demeanor out there. It was evident in our first series after the opening INT he threw. The offense seemed sort of lethargic and almost like they were going through the motions out there after that.
Not always – they perked up 180° when DiNucci was called on it seemed, by overall I think frustration got to them over the course of the game. We did make a lot of mistakes on offense early on – two quick INTs in just a bit over one quarter of play and those drops we discussed.
But I really think that 12 play series we had at the end of the 1st Q / beginning of the 2nd really put the damper on the kids energy. In 12 plays we gained only 31 yards and ultimately had to punt the ball. It was the way the QB played in that series that, I think, led to more frustration.
Here is what Browne did: he passed complete for 8 yards, then 5, 6, 5, 5, sacked, incomplete and incomplete.
See that? No downfield passing either called(?) or executed – I put that question mark in because the QB is the determiner on who to throw to in check-down plays but the OC may well have called those whort passes. Five completions averaging 6 yards, then no yardage at all on the last three tries – and punt…
The big penalty by Officer in there hurt us also and was another issue on the down side.
That’s about it for THE UGLY – and even then it wasn’t really “ugly” but we need to not happen again.
So – you all can chip in with yours – in the main I think we acquitted ourselves as best we could given our talent and experience level – we sure didn’t stink out the joint as some Pitt fans are saying. That game pretty much went the way I thought it would – I called 41-21 and we ended up a 19 point loss – so pretty close.