On the way back to the tailgate on Saturday, one of the POV’ers suggested I rename this piece “the cardiac kids.” I don’t disagree. Over the past three games Pitt has a displayed a unique talent for dominating the first half of play, making just enough mistakes to let their opponent take a small lead in the fourth quarter, and then rallying for a last second win.
Is it maddening? Yes. Is it entertaining? Absolutely.
It’s also unsustainable.
But lets not worry about that right now. We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat (after we had nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory…) on Saturday and now Pitt sits at 4-2 at the midpoint of the season.
Here are my goods, bads and uglies from the game.
The tailgate & Pitt representation at the game. Seemed like just about every Pitt fan in the South showed up, and some even came down from Pittsburgh (and Ohio). Doug (Atlanta Panther) and Bernie (Big B) organized a great event and the WUP flag was flying all weekend. Pics are below. In the game, a good portion of the seats behind the Pitt bench were occupied by Pitt fans and “Lets Go Pitt” was loud and noticeable.
Kenny Pickett’s three touchdowns. Yes his QBR was a dismal 39.2 (out of 100), yes he threw two bonehead interceptions, and yes he is still maddeningly inefficient (5.6 YPA). But “Cardiac Kenny” is also “Kenny Clutch”, and he delivered when it counted. A perfectly thrown jump ball to Taysir Mack in the second quarter. A strike to Nakia Griffin-Stewart on a rollout. The final touchdown pass to V’Lique Carter that put the Devils away for good. Duke rushed seven on that final play, and Kenny delivered a perfect ball to Carter just before he got hit. You know what happened after that.
Paris Ford. 12 tackles (eight solo). Two interceptions (one pick six), and enough passion to fill two stadiums. Paris Ford was unstoppable in the first half, and got the rawest of deals in the fourth quarter. I’m willing to overlook the muffed punt because he is the heart and soul of our defense. Can’t wait to see what he brings in the second half of the season.
Patrick Jones. Duke doubled Jaylen Twyman for most of the game and Jones seemed to be the beneficiary. “The Predator” strip-sacked Duke QB Quentin Harris twice and Pitt recovered the ball both times. Jones also notched one QB hurry and five solo tackles (six total). Last but not least, his Turnover Dunk was meme-worthy.
Speaking of six turnovers…six turnovers. Pitt more than doubled their turnover total for the season. They don’t win the game if they don’t, and it was exciting as hell to witness.
Kylan Johnson. Continues to play extremely well at linebacker. Was all over the field. Finished with nine tackles, 1 TFL and 1 Pass Defended.
The Defense in general. Besides one long TD pass (which probably doesn’t happen if Paris Ford stays in the game), they dominated Duke for most of the evening. Duke finished with 288 total yards. 165 passing (3.7 YPA). 123 rushing (2.3 YPA). If Pitt offense didn’t turn the ball over three times there is a good chance Duke would not have even sniffed the endzone.
Todd Sibley. Take out his 25 yard run and his stat line looks pretty pedestrian: 11 rushes for 35 yards, 3.2 YPC. But add that 25 yarder back in and you’re now looking at 12 for 60 and 5.0 YPC. In the last two games Sibley has posted 34 for 166, with longs of 20 and 25. He has gotten better as he’s gotten reps, and maybe, just maybe Pitt has found a spark at running back.
Alex Kessman’s new shoes. Alex was seen sporting baby-blue shoes in Durham. Maybe it was just a troll-job for the Duke faithful. Maybe it was done to improve his kicking. Either way it seemed to help. Kessman was two-for-two on field goals (although he did miss an extra point), so we think they are an improvement.
Maurice Ffrench. He did some good things on the field (50 yard put return that could have gone to the house if he’d gotten just one more block at the end, 10 receptions), but he let his emotions get the best of him on the field. He owned it though, and that shows character. I have no doubt Ffrench will finish strong as Pitt heads into the second half of the season.
The offensive line. I almost put this under ugly because this was easily their worst performance since Virginia. ESPN says they gave up three sacks and four QB hurries. I’d say that is a generous accounting for how much pressure Kenny was under. The run blocking also continues to be a concern for most of the evening. On a positive note, it does look like Borbley and Whipple took some steps to shore up the right side:
If Kradel sticks, he’ll have nearly two weeks to practice with the first team before the Syracuse game.
Muffed Punt. Duke TD. Fumble. Duke TD. Int. Duke TD. In the space of nine minutes Pitt shot themselves in the foot three times in row, and put Duke right back into the game. The most maddening thing about it? All of these mistakes were avoidable.
The officiating. Wow, just wow. I’m sure they missed some calls on the Duke side as well, but the home team bias seemed pretty damn apparent to me. That kind of officiating does nothing for the ACC. Sadly, we will probably have to endure it for years to come. Kudos to Pitt for beating both Duke and the referees.
15 penalties for 145. Okay yes, some of these were just bad calls. So let’s knock it down to 10 for 100. Still unacceptable. This one is on you Pat. Get this team under control or it’s going to end up costing a game.
That’s me in the Hail to Pitt shirt. These gentlemen were busy telling me how they discovered how to avoid paying the keg deposit at Mellingers. Apparently the secret is to show up Every. Single. Friday (at the exact same time). Those were the days…
Hail to Pitt and what are your goods, bads, and uglies?