Pitt opens against Virginia on Saturday, and I approach the game with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. On one hand, there is a nearly palpable sense of confidence radiating from the Southside, and if you quiet your mind and turn your ear towards the Mon you can nearly make out the faintest of whispers saying, this year is different. It is a siren song that Pitt fans yearn to believe. One that is backed by the steely gazes of the upperclassman, and heard in the timbre of their voices. It is projected through the stolid words of center Jimmy Morrissey, inferred by body language of the wide receivers licking their chops as they talk about the the passing game, and made that much more audible by grim determination of quarterback Kenny Pickett.
And yet for every reason to believe, there are a dozen reasons not to. Jimmy Morrissey’s confidence? There are four first-year starters surrounding him. Those wide receivers? Useless if they can’t get the ball. And Kenny Pickett? The last time we saw him, he was nothing more than a shell-shocked sophomore, gritting his way through the last three games of the season. Oh and don’t even get me started on the running backs and tight ends.
There are fewer questions on defense, but they are there. The loss of Rashad Weaver was unfortunate, but the defensive line is drawing rave reviews even without him…if you believe the hype. The linebackers have enough pieces to be solid…at least on paper. The secondary has more talent and depth than it’s had in years…if Paris Ford delivers.
Special teams should be fine, I think, as long as our down-under punter can manage to show up for the game without a hangover…and keep the laces out.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi is downplaying things, and surely this means he is hiding something. Assistant coaches Dave Borbley (offensive line) and Chris Beatty (wide receivers) have been refreshingly candid, refreshingly optimistic. Surely they have no reason to mislead the public. Oh I want to believe!
Still, I am nervous. Pitt opens this season against ACC Coastal favorite Virginia. You could argue this is Pitt’s most meaningful opening game in nearly three decades (1991, West Virginia…although 2008 @ #15 Utah could also be a candidate). During that span Pitt fans have been selectively bred to be mistrustful. You can count on your right hand the number of times Pitt has delivered in this type of situation.
And so despite the siren song emanating from the south bank of the Mon, despite the tangible excitement around Pitt’s new colors and branding, and despite the fact that we are in year five of Head Coach Pat Narduzzi’s regime, I can’t help but to approach gameday with a gambler’s emotion. For the gambler is both titillated and terrified until the dice are rolled. And us Pitt fans, we are gamblers. The currency is our emotions themselves, and the outcome will bring us either misery or euphoria. We will revel in the momentum of defending our Coastal Crown, or we will drown in the depression of yet another missed opportunity. Yes, Saturday night is a spin of the wheel, a flop of the cards, and a proverbial toss of the dice. We can only hope that first toss comes up seven.
Hail to Pitt