It was all there for us, like a glittering jewel waiting to be plucked off of a satin pillow. National exposure. A top twenty five ranking. Sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division. A chance to control our own destiny. The opportunity to silence the critics, and to validate all those who chose to believe.
The jewel was not plucked. Heaved in desperation towards the opposing team would perhaps be a more accurate description.
I don’t have much else to say about the game. We’ve all rehashed the storylines at least dozen times by now. Kenny Pickett regressed to his early-season form (more on that in this week’s QB corner). The pass-catchers played their worst game of the season. The running game couldn’t deliver when it needed to deliver most.
I suppose we should have seen this coming.
How often has Pitt come through when called on in a pressure situation? Exclude any games before 1984, and exclude last year. Once? Maybe Twice? Give me three good examples of Pitt showing up when the fans, the national media and the rest of the world expected them to, and I’ll send you a free T-shirt.
How often has Pitt won five in a row? I can tell you it’s been ten years since we’ve done it, so that would be the Wannstedt era. I’m not sure if we ever did it under Harris. We certainly didn’t do it under Majors II or Hackett. Gottfried perhaps?
How often have we been able to beat Miami? I’ll give you a hint, you can count on one hand Pitt’s victories since 1984. We’ve won thrice during that span. We’ve played them 23 times.
And how often have we won a big game at homecoming? I can tell you we’ve got a 60% homecoming winning percentage over the last fifteen years. I can also tell you we’ve got a 50% winning percentage in “big homecoming games” over that same time span. (I’ve defined “big games” as an opponent who is either a rival or nationally ranked at the time we played them. I did not have time to go back and look at unranked opponents when “something was on the line”). At the very best this one was going to be a coin flip.
But to temper all this invective, it’s likely that only the most Kool-Aid filled Pitt fans truly expected us to run the table, and despite what many are saying, the sky is not falling. Miami has more talent than anyone else we will play in the regular season. There is still a decent chance for this Pitt team to win eight games…with the 90th worst offense in the FBS. That would be a tidy accomplishment.
Here are my good, bad and ugly. I fully expect the team to rebound next week.
Paris Ford – It’s a pleasure watching him run around out there. This play was the highlight of my afternoon:
V’Lique Carter – Despite the perception that our running backs were not playing well, Carter ran the ball 11 times for 47 yards (4.3 YPC) against a run defense that was yielding 3.0 YPC. He was fast and we was decisive. Carter was pulled out of the game on 3rd and goal from the 1 when he was passionately signaling that he wanted one more shot to punch it in. I believe that if Whipple had given Carter that shot, we’d all be a lot happier today.
The Wildcat – 50% of the time it worked every time. And that’s 50% more than its ever worked before. Todd Sibley netted 54 yards on four carries off this trickery. Whipple shut it down after the fourth go though. Perhaps he should have stuck with it longer.
For the most part the run blocking – I saw a lot more linemen pulling, getting to the second level and actually putting hats on hats then I’ve seen all season, and Pitt bested Miami’s YPC average, even when you adjust Kenny and the Wildcat. Pitt’s ball carriers not named Kenny Pickett ran 33 times for 154 yards. That 4.6 yards per carry. That does include the wildcat, but guess what? The wildcat requires blocking too. If you remove wildcat numbers, then Pitt ran 29 times for 100 yards. That’s 3.4 yards per carry. Miami is currently giving up 3.06 YPC, so we over-indexed against them. Clearly we didn’t over-index enough (ahem 2nd to last possession – more on that in just a second) but Pitt’s line is clearly getting better at creating running lanes. I would very much like to see this continue against the Yellow Jackets.
Patrick Jones – He was a force all day and notched Pitt’s only two sacks. He’s an animal and it feels like he’s just getting started.
Pitt only notched two sacks – Did you know that Pitt is 9-0 when posting at least five sacks under Pat Narduzzi? Miami clearly did. N’Kosi Perry was wildly inaccurate, and that was probably because he was coached to avoid hits and throw the ball as soon as he could. I think we hit him twice in the first half, and it sure would have been nice to hit him a lot more. I also would have been nice to lay some wood on Jarren Williams when he came in in relief at the end of the game. The bottom line is that the 127th-worth line in the country figured out how to slow down our pass rush and not get penalized. Sadly, UNC is probably already breaking down the film (or preparing bags of cash for the officials…)
MM Note: AJ ran for 1 Yard on 1st down, 4 yards on 2nd down and 1 yard on 3rd.
The “directional” punt out of bounds and Pitt’s defense on the final Miami TD Drive – I love our defense. I love the heart and soul they put into every game, and I recognize that the offense put them in an extremely rough position. I know it’s probably going to be an unpopular opinion to say anything bad about them because they played well enough to win, but damn it, Narduzzi’s game plan clearly called for them to step up on this drive, and regrettably they were unable to answer the call. They’ll be back though. Of that I am sure.
Kenny Pickett – He’s had his ups and he’s had his downs, but this was a really bad time for him to be down. Pitt delivered what was probably his best pass protection all season and yet he was seeing ghosts all day. If Kenny throws those two interceptions away instead of trying to force them into coverage we probably win the game.
The Drops – When your team is averaging 4.6 yards per completion you need to make every catch. Someone said they counted six drops. I counted at least five. (Matthews – just a bad drop, Griffin-Stewart – ball was way behind him but he did get a hand on it, Mack – contested ball bounced off his facemask, Griffin-Stewart – just plain dropped it, Ffrench – wide open with two steps on his guy and a full head of steam when we needed it most).
“The Call part II” – In some alternate universe Pat Narduzzi has gone for it twice on fourth and goal from the one, and Pitt is 7-1 and nationally ranked. I actually agreed with Pat’s decision to kick the field goal and put the game on the defense, but we all saw how that worked out. What’s more, if you watch the replay of the game it looks like Narduzzi, Whipple and Pickett were talking about going for it and then ran out of time (Maybe Pickett was just trying to sell them on going…) I like Pat and I think he’s generally going to win more than he loses, but this is further proof that his gameday coaching skills are way below average. That is all.
What say you POV nation? Any more goods, bads or uglies to add to this list? Get it all out now because tomorrow we turn the page…
Hail to Pitt