Enough is enough. Let’s have no more excuses for this horrid Pitt football team…not from HC Pat Narduzzi, not from DC Josh Conklin, not from OC Shawn Watson, not from AD Heather Lyke, and please… not from us POVers or any other Pitt fans.
What we watched last night was the result of inept and running-scared coaching from the position coaches on up to the head coach himself. For all his bluster and posturing Pat Narduzzi coaches in fear. He is so risk-adverse that he purposely makes our offense one-sided and so maddeningly inconsistent that it can’t be relied on to get points when needed.
When your approach to an offensive game plan – that he himself approves every week mind you – is to do anything humanly possible to avoid interceptions you get what we have seen since Max Brown went down with an injury. That is Pitt starting, and sticking with come hell or high water, an untalented less-than-average QB in Ben DiNucci. We’ll discuss him in detail later.
What we watched unfold last night came as no shock to me. In this week’s Roundtable I said that a loss to North Carolina wouldn’t shock or surprise me and it doesn’t. Why? Because even with every excuse made by others about this 2017 team I have completely understood just how poor at playing football this team is.
How many times have we read on here “But look at our Strength of Schedule” or “We have played superb quarterbacks…WRs… RBs… . or “We have injuries...’, whatever. It doesn’t matter and is all excuse making. NC had 16 starters out and just gave us our 6th loss.
Allow me to take an editor’s prerogative of swearing on here and call total bullshit on each and every one of those excuses said then, now and in the future.
Let’s try to be as honest as possible in looking at what the Pitt team has been this season shall we? The unvarnished truth is that we have a bumbling coaching staff who have done an average at best job both in training and in recruiting so that now we are fielding players out there who just aren’t all that talented. Certainly not talented enough to win more games than we lose and not talented enough for consistently good play.
And youth is no excuse either. Unless you watch only Pitt football and pay zero attention to the 127 other FBS teams you’ll see that a lot of schools have numerous young players also and many of those teams do just fine. Yes we are young, but not six and counting losses young.
C’mon – we just watched a rsSO QB in his first ever start rip our pass defense apart by completing 70% of his passes (12 for 30) for 235 yards and 2 TDs. Guys – the only other passing action this kid has seen in his career was as a back-up against The Citadel and James Madison last season and last night he owned our DBs. The total passing stats for NC were 22/31 for 270 and 3 TDs and they got screwed on a deep no-call pass interference also.
But this is what we have become – a team which other teams feel like they can beat no matter who is starting for them. And I’m not talking about those other teams even being good ones; NC certainly isn’t a good team and coming into Heinz Field at 1-8 they were a better team than we are.
It goes on and on. Looking at last night I can point to two main issues where we lost this game.
First, and some will not like hearing this, is Ben DiNucci’s play. With all the talk of his being a ‘gamer’ and a ‘tough kid’ he showed us exactly the opposite last night and in previous games. He ran around the backfield like a chicken with his head cut off because he doesn’t have the moxie to stand fast and complete passes.
There were many plays where he had ample time to step up when those big NC DL were putting pressure on him and each and every time he pulled the ball down and scrambled. I got so sick of hearing the announcers praise DiNucci for running for eight or so yards last night when his main task is to complete 15, 20 , 25 yard passes downfield to extend drives.
We have running backs already – get a QB in there who has the guts to stand up to pressure and take the risky shots downfield. I laughed out loud when one announcer said that “DiNucci was looking deep but settled for the TE.” DiNucci never “looks deep” in a game because that would entail standing in the pocket for an extra second.
His two deep completions were both pitch and run plays – a 1 yard pass to Henderson against OK State for 74 yards YAC and another to Lopes for 49 yards against Duke. I can’t remember him completing any deep route passes at all this year.
Instead he’ll pretend to be Tino Sunseri on a bad day, take the shotgun snap and dance around then maybe throw the ball away if he remembers that is what he’s supposed to do when you have already totally screwed up the pass play.
He’s not D1 material. He’s shown that much- he isn’t even a good game manager. If all Narduzzi wants is a QB who can hand the ball off to his RBs and complete 5 yard passes then anyone can do that. At least do it with someone who can throw the ball on a line and deeper than that.
That box score for him last night is very deceptive. It shows 11/17 for 142 yards but that doesn’t count probably 8-10 called passing plays where he chose to scramble instead of trying to complete the pass. It is a hidden fact but an important one.
We have written about this for two years now and he’s not going to get any better with experience. He just does not have what it takes physically or, in my opinion, mentally to play at this level of competition.
If ever there is a time to make changes at the QB position it is now – the season will not be a winning one in all probability. If anyone feels that we can beat both VT and Miami to get to 6-6 and a bowl game they are wrong. That isn’t going to happen so in essence this is a ‘lost’ year. with that right now is the time to look at 2018 and get ready for that.
Which means put in either Kenny Pickett or slap the headphone off Thomas MacVittie and get them playing time. Since MacVittie is, in my belief, firmly out of the ‘competition’ for QB that means Pickett’s the guy. Get him in there right now. Give him the QB1 practice snaps then put him on the field and let him sling the ball around and get the good TDs completed… and the bad INTs under his belt when they don’t matter and really groom him for next season.
When you have a team whose wins come over opponents with a combined 11-31 record including victories over teams like NVC Central, a 1-8 Baylor, UCONN, William and Mary, and UTEP… then well, now’s the time to face facts and actually plan for the future.
And playing Pickett wouldn’t be like throwing the towel in on either the QB position or the season – it may well be a big upgrade at that position and lead to more inspired play by his teammates… something we sure didn’t see last night.
When you go down 14-3 in the first eight minutes of play against a terrible NC team and then spend the second half watching your DBs and LBs point fingers at one another for poor play… you have a team that is lost out there. And that is exactly what we have.
Funny this – Narduzzi spends halftime screaming at his players (according to James Conner) and they go out, score twice, then lose the game with the last 13 minutes being uninspired play That showed by having only 10 offensive plays (for 14 yards total) with two punts and giving up a game winning TD. Obviously he wasn’t that successful at inspiring his players onto victory but boy did that make him feel like a man doing it!
Fans love that tough guy image surrounding Narduzzi so much they forget he isn’t that good of an actual gameday HC. He got owned on the timeout swap with the NC head coach at their successful FG attempt. Narduzzi spent a ‘kicker freeze’ TO when he knew that he was getting the ball back and needed TOs to sustain a last-minute drive.
But what we saw happen at the end of the 1st half was this :
- (0:30 – 2nd) Freeman Jones kickoff for 65 yds for a touchback
1st and 10 at PITT 25
(0:25 – 2nd) Ben Dinucci run for 8 yds to the Pitt 33
(Why no TO here?)
2nd and 2 at PITT 33
(0:05 – 2nd) Ben Dinucci pass complete to Chris Clark for 15 yds to the Pitt 48 for a 1ST down
(0:02 – 2nd) Timeout PITTSBURGH, clock 00:02
1st and 10 at PITT 48
(0:01 – 2nd) Ben Dinucci run for 31 yds to the NCaro 21 for a 1ST down
I ask you – where is the Pitt TO between the end of the DiNucci scramble and the pass at 0:05 left on the clock? In Narduzzi’s pocket, that’s where.
We went into halftime with no TOs left at the end of a non-scoring drive. Had Narduzzi not wasted that ‘kicker freeze’ TO he would have had it to use at the end of that 8 yard run so we could have tried a FG and made up those 3 points we lost by. Instead we wasted 20 seconds off the clock and went into the clubhouse down by 7.
And don’t get me started on that last run by DiNucci – that was the epitome of what I said above. He couldn’t even throw a Hail Mary pass without trying to run first.
This game was bad. There is no denying that getting beat at home with 10 days to prepare is unacceptable and what is worse is that it is indicative of how this Pitt team has played football this season.
With half our wins being over YSU and Rice and another one over a poor Duke team we have nothing really to hang our hats on. Our Virginia win was a nice job but they are no powerhouse either.
This last week I wrote an article detailing what new head coach’s third years were like and we saw that it wasn’t unusual for them to have a dip. But this is more than a dip and it feels to me like instead of being a starting point to an upswing it may well be the what we’ll see in the future.
I’m not sure that the starters we have played, even given it their young age and inexperience, are going to become more talented and productive and will be able to play much above the level they are playing at now. And that level is not good. I do not see Narduzzi becoming a better HC in his 4th year either. He is what he is.
So if that is the case Pitt needs to make decisive moves over this offseason and the first one has to be Josh Conklin’s firing. You all know how I have felt about this for almost two years now… but when you allow the 104th scoring offense with only 21 points per game to waltz into your house and put up 34 points to win the game – you basically suck.
When your defense comes off a horrible 2016 season then plays not much better and loses at least six games and counting… you are expendable. it doesn’t matter if he’s buddies with the HC or doesn’t command a high salary so fits into budget. Fire him and get anyone else who may have a single clue on how to defend opponents.
I don’t really like the phrase “It can’t get worse” because it always can, but in Conklin’s instance I truly believe that – anyone with half a defensive brain will be more productive than he has been.
Now onto to two very good teams starting with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA next Saturday. Let’s keep our fingers crossed our team has a win left in them but I ain’t betting on it.
How was Fran’s POV tailgate yesterday? Photos and videos please….
I’m still thinking of driving up to watch the Pitt vs VT game at Archie’s Tavern but only if we have a POV group show up to watch it with. I’m more interested in sitting around with you guys than watching the actual game – I can do that from home. So – let me know if you can make that and we’ll plan it out.