We wanted a win and we got one and it was done in convincing fashion against the Great Danes of Albany, NY.
Here’s our first edition of the 2018 season’s Monday Morning QB (MMQB) articles. We’ll usually post them up two days after the dust has settled from the game itself so that some emotions drain out and we all can look at the game with a more critical eye.
First let’s see how we POV’ers did on the game predictions front. My prediction was off by a TD for each team. I called for a 27-13 win and, as we know the score was 33-7. So who came closest?
Emel called for a 33- 3 score so he was off by only 4 points and Huff III had Pitt winning by a score of 33-14 – off by 7. So Emel wins the POV Prediction Crown for the week… but next week’s game is not going to be so easy. It’s one thing where everyone and his Brother know Pitt is going to win a game – another thing when we have no real idea what will happen or what quality of play we’ll get from both teams.
OK – back to the game. I’ll state now that I left the game at halftime because I physically couldn’t sit or walk much any longer. But I listened to the game on the phone for the 2nd half and then re-watched the whole game later.
First and foremost when reviewing this game we have to put the opponent in context to the rest of our schedule. Albany resides in the Colonial Athletics Association. That is the lowest rated conference in Division 1’s Football Championship Subdivision.
So we really have to look at that when we discuss how good this Pitt team really is. Not how well they played on Saturday however – that was evident and on the whole well done – but how good they are in relation to the rest of the schedule we play. To the right is Albany’s conference member’s – and let’s just say that YSU, Akron, etc… are a cut above who we played the other day.
But as I have written many times – you play who is in front of you so here goes:
Obviously I saw all the good stuff before I left Heinz at the half. So my viewing window was somewhat limited. With that here are our traditional three issues in the “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” categories that we do on MMQB.
∞ Pickett’s first half. I don’t think you can find any fault with a 13 for 13 for 129 yards and two TDs performance really. In the first 30 minutes of play he completed passes when he dropped back to throw and some were bullets. His completion and his attempts yards per were identical at 9.90 – a bit on the low side for completion yardage but, then again, on the high side for attempts yardage.
We saw him with one deep pattern completion which he underthrew but Lopes made an excellent adjustment on the ball and then juked the coverage for a scamper into the endzone. That was only a 25 yard LOS to receiver throw so he’ll have to work on that deep patterns aspect of his passing game a bit I think. But that was minor when you look at his 1st half as a whole though.
He was in control and he was fun to watch play. We’ll discuss his 2nd half later.
∞ RB Quadree Ollison’s work on the day. A lot of Pitt fans picked Ollison to be the leading ball carrier this season and he didn’t disappoint with his running Saturday. He rushed 7 times for 73 yards (10.4 ypc) and set up our first two offensive touchdowns in a short field starting point at the Albany 19 off Hamlin’s INT with runs of 9 then 6 yards to put us at the 5 yard line where Pickett ran it in.
Then on the next possession he took the ball 20 yards from the Albany 29 to the 9 yard line where Ffrench put it into the endzone. That is what we want RBs to do and he did what was asked and more. As did Davis with a couple of swervy runs. The OL helped with the run game also. They allowed the backs to get past the LOS and do their own thing and that is what is asked of the OL to do.
∞ The defensive front seven of ours played well also. Five Sacks and six Tackles For Loss (TFLs) is a good day and it was all done by our DL and LBs. That is what they are supposed to do and what they didn’t do well at all last year. An under appreciated statistic but one that paints a good picture is “Pass Breakups” and “Quarterback Hurries“. The front seven was in the Albany backfield all day it seems and 9 QB hurries means that their QB Testaverde was under the gun. Our kids were flying around and playing with abandon and that was really fun to watch.
It is the job as a writer covering well, almost anything but especially sports, to be as objective and to use the critical eye as much as possible. I say this because there are readers on here and Pitt fans elsewhere who will have watched the game and said to themselves “We won by 26 points – what could have gone wrong!” To which I’ll say – you weren’t paying close attention. As good as things went overall there sure were troublesome spots also.
∞ First off would be the 2nd half let-down. We saw the same thing against a lower-level opponent in the opener last year and thank goodness Albany didn’t have the firepower to close the half-time score gap that YSU did in that game. 33-7 is a big score but it really should have been much larger spread by game’s end. So I’ll say the players not keeping the high level of play going for 60 minutes jumps out here. If we do that against any other team on our schedule we’ll lose the game.
∞ Our inability to sustain long drives on the field by the offense. Of course the ability to capitalize on your opponent’s mistakes is of prime consideration and we did that especially well in the 1st half of play. WR Maurice Ffrench’s opening kickoff return put a very quick six (and only six) points on the board. Then CB Damar Hamlin’s INT deep in Pitt’s territory and subsequent nice 79 yard return set us up for a red-zone short field where we only had to go 19 yards to score. Those plays gave us a quick leg up in the first five minutes of the game.
And we did get two longer drive in that 1st half; one was a 9 play 75 yard TD drive followed by a 12 yard 81 yard drive with another TD. But that was it.
In the 2nd half we had only one long drive of 9 plays for 57 yards which was shut down by an Albany interception. But we played really rather poorly on offense in the other five possessions that half. On the other series we gained only 75 yards on 18 plays (4.1 ypp) and with only 15 yards per possession.
Whether we took the foot off the pedal – which Narduzzi adamantly denies us doing, or we went pure vanilla in the 2nd half – doesn’t really matter. It was a poor showing against a weak opponent. Thankfully the kids played well enough in the 1st half to allow that to happen and still win the game.
∞ Pitt’s penalties. After being one of the least penalized teams in the nation last season we came out and committed six – and gave up 55 yards doing it. This is a relatively minor thing to have happened on Saturday but to do so against a better opponent could lead to situations we wouldn’t be in otherwise.
∞ The pass defense and the Safeties in particular. It seemed like Deja Vu watching an opposing QB throw completions all over the place and having some of those happen by stupid and poor play by our defensive backs. There is really no way to look at this and excuse any of it. Testaverde threw for 263 yards against us – with 113 of those in the 1st half and 150 of them in the 2nd. That scares me (again) folks and that 1st half was with our DB starters in almost every play.
The fact that most of these passing yards came in the 2nd half is a bit disconcerting for me because Pitt wasn’t the only team on the field to play their 2nd string kids in the late 3rd and all of the 4th quarter almost. Albany made substitutions also.
Last year we were horrid in our Passing Defense in giving up 254 yards per game and being ranked 105th nationally for it. We just gave up 263 yards in the opener and just cannot afford this to happen again in 2018.
But that was it for “The Ugly” and even “The Bad” wasn’t all that bad. Saturday was a fun day to watch our Panthers do something they haven’t done in a while – beat a lower classification team by 26 points and good for them!
But, and isn’t there always a ‘but’ when talking about a whole season vice one game, Pitt has to play much better all around football to compete against and beat the rest of the teams on our schedule. I mentioned it above but Albany is a true and big negative outlier when it comes to quality of the rest of our opponents.
Penn State is next and we’ll see a much, much better team lining up against us then we had Saturday. Forget about their close win. I have heard and read 100 times since Saturday the “Teams jump in quality of play the most from Game One to Game Two” and that is mostly true – but it isn’t just applicable to Pitt. It happens with other teams as well.
Both Pitt and PSU are going to be stoked to play next week and its well they should. But to expect the team that gave up 45 points to Appalachian State last week to be the exact same defensive team we see on this Saturday is, I think, wishful thinking. Just as we hope our passing defense gets it together I’m sure they hope some of the aspects of their team does the same.
Starting off 1-0 and feeling like it was a well-earned win is so much different from last season when we squeaked by YSU and were left wondering if we even had decent chances to win against the better opponents. Not so after this win.
Pickett really shone for a while, our front seven played solidly and we have certainly things to point to and be very happy about. If the staff can fix some ills that we experienced against Albany and there were some and one big one, then we’ll give PSU a real run for the money.
Guys and Gals…have to say a huge THANK YOU to Fran for the frantastic (get it – Fran…tastic) and surperb tailgate for the game. Over 50 POVers, family and friends attended. Send me your photos please…
I had such fun and really wish I could be at every game. Truth is I drive up to see you guys and can always watch the game at home…but your company is just what we all need and we make new friends every time, don’t we?
It was great sitting with John (Majormajors) and his son. And, no it doesn’t bother me at all that a kid over 20 years younger than me outranked me Colonel to Commander. Not one stinking, lousy bit!! Tell you what folks, point directly at him whenever you hear someone bitching about the generation that came after us because he’s the best of the best…that will shut them up.
You guys are going to have to bring in the wins without me for the rest of the year. I know you can do it because I’m a curse anyway. Every time I’ve left a game early we either play badly or lose.
Hail to Pitt my friends and know that even if I picked 5-6 wins on the season I root my head off for a win every game.