Strategically, it was the right plan, and in more disciplined hands it just might have worked.
Rest your banged up starters for a meaningless game against a lesser opponent. Save them for the upcoming ACC grind.
Get your backups some experience, and ride to an easy victory.
This is Pitt, remember. Where at least once per year the fan base is brought to the most exuberant highs, only to have their hopes dashed upon the rocks of reality within the next seven days.
Shame on us for believing things would be different. Shame on us for daring to think the program had turned the corner, because – at least based on last Saturday – it has not.
At the very least we know this team’s floor.
- 13 penalties for -115 yards. More on that later.
- Two controllable turnovers – one a pass into double coverage, another where the ball was literally taken off of Maurice Ffrench’s arm.
- 14 points given up, even though our opponent gained only 170 yards and rushed for 1.4 YPC
- A secondary that looked lost during some of the biggest moments of the game.
- A second string quarterback that displayed some nice touch on long balls, but clearly has a long way to go when it comes to reading a defense. Patti struggled to connect on intermediate routes for most of the game, threw the aforementioned interception into double coverage, and had another pass bounce off the hands of the defender and fell harmlessly to the ground. That one could have cost us the game.
- An offense that totaled 443 yards and scored only 17 points…against a team that gave up 28 to Penn and 31 to Delaware State (who is 1-3 and has scored 21 points in three games since, by the way.)
It’s the lack of scoring and the penalties that are most concerning. The scoring (I suppose) can be attributed to the fact that we started Patti, although if you take out the UCF game we haven’t scored more than 20 all season. Still you’d like to think we’d developed enough depth to where our backup QB could lead the team to more than 17 against an overmatched defense. Patti gets a pass though because a) it was his first start b) he’s just a redshirt freshman c) he was good when it really counted. Technically speaking, Patti is 1 for 1 when it comes to fourth quarter comebacks. He’s thrown as many TD’s In two games as Pickett has in four. But…you’d ideally want him to be able to avoid the whole “we had to mount a comeback against an FCS team” thing in the first place.
The penalties on the other hand are inexcusable. Some people are saying it was inexperienced guys that made the mistakes. I wish that were the case. In a fit of hapless desperation I detailed Saturday’s penalties one-by-one. Read on at your own peril.
First Half Offensive Penalties (1):
- Pitt went the entire first quarter without an offensive penalty
- Pitt comitted one offenseive penalty in second quarter. (Senior Jimmy Morrissey, false start, we got a first down on that series anyway)
Second half Offensive Penalties (6):
- Senior Nolan Ulizio – False start on 4th and 4. Forced us into a Punting situation (we had lined up to go for it…who knows if we would have made it)
- Offensive holding on a touchback – Freshman AJ Woods. Gets a bit of a pass because he’s a freshman, but anybody on the starting punt unit needs to be better than that.
- Two penalities on the second half touchdown drive (“the second half touchdown drive” smh) – rJr Bryce Hargove holding on on 2nd 10 (negated 13 yard completion), and an ineligible man downfield (I don’t know who) on 2nd and 7, which was declined. At the end of the day we scored on the drive because Patti connected on a long bomb to Mack.
- Delay of game on 2nd to last possession. I’m assuming this was intentional in order to give Christendoulu more room to work. Moved us from the Delaware 39 to their 44. The punt was downed at the 12.
- Senior Nolan Ulizio False start in final drive of the game on 1st and 10 (got first down anyway…. Three Todd Sibley runs)
- It does not take a genius to see that Nolan Ulizio screwed up in two key situations. I don’t know how his blocking graded out on Saturday, but damn it Pat, you rolled the dice on a lot of backups. Did you even think about giving Van Lynn a try?
- Not a penalty but Senior Maurice Ffrench failed to cover the ball while fighting for extra yards on a WR screen, and he was stripped. Led to second Delaware touchdown. Again, not a penalty but an egregious mistake from an upperclassman that could have cost us the game.
First Half Defensive Penalties (4)
- rSophomore Paris Ford Pass Interference on 1st and 10. Was on Delaware’s 2nd possession of the day.
- Senior Amir Watts Offsides on 4th and 3. Same posession as Ford’s PI. Delaware ultimately didn’t score. Watts did split a sack with Twyman two plays later, so he did slightly redeem himself.
- Senior Dane Jackson Pass interference on 2nd and 8. Delaware missed a field goal on that drive, thankfully.
- Junior Damarri Matthis Defensive holding on 1st and 10. This was the play right after the Patti interception. Delaware scored a touchdown on the drive.
- All of the defensive players that committed penalties in the first half are in their third year or better and have logged significant playing time all season. Three of the four were defensive backs.
Second Half Defensive Penalties (2)
- rSophomore Cam Bright Personal foul – out of bounds late hit after we stopped the Hens on 3rd and 1. Delaware didn’t score on this drive, but they did march thirty more yards and flip the field. This was arguably the most inexcusable penalty of the day.
- Roughing the Kicker – Freshman Jared Wayne. This is one penalty that I think was poorly called. It was pretty clear that their punter took a dive. Also it had no impact on the game. Moved the Hens from 4th and 11 to 4th and 5. They still punted.
- rSophomore Paris Ford – Blown coverage (and complete cluelessness of where he should have been pre-snap) on Blue Hens touchdown. Not a penalty, but and egregious and controllable mistake that could have cost us the game. The Hens WR was uncovered and caught and easy TD.
In case you aren’t keeping score at home, a full ten of the thirteen Pitt penalties were comitted by third year or better players who have logged significant snaps this season. There were also two egregious mistakes by players who are leaders on this team. This is a very bad look, no matter how you slice it.
This is not going to be a hot take, but this starts with Narduzzi. It’s his job to keep the squad focused heading into games like this. He clearly failed.
And this may be a hot take. It ends with the players. Every single one of the upperclassmen listed above knows they are better than that. Every. Single. One. And at the end of the day the future of the program is largely in their hands. They need to hold themselves and their teammates accountable, if not last week, then starting right now.
And so to sum it up, I’ll articulate what so many of us are thinking and feeling. This team earned the nation’s respect ten days ago with their win over UCF. That was tremendous and well-deserved. However, thanks to the slop they put out on the field last Saturday, this team squandered the nation’s respect like a drunk squanders his wages. And look, I know that these guys are just people, and lord knows we’ve all made mistakes. The key is that the best of us have redeemed ourselves in time. That is the mark of a person with character. This team – from Narduzzi all the way down – has seven chances to redeem themselves. Seven chances to prove they are a team with character. Are they good enough to rise to the challenge? We’ve seen the ceiling and it’s pretty damn magnificent. Or will they continue to play Same Old Pitt, and play to the floor, squandering what could have been an outstanding season?
Time will tell, but – as usual with Pitt – we are back to one game at a time. Good, bad or ugly.
Hail to Pitt