After this season’s Georgia Tech game I hung around Bobby Dodd stadium until it cleared out, and as I was hopping from bleacher to bleacher I ran into a local Pitt Alumni organizer who I’d met a couple of times. He suggested we head to the area where the team comes out of the stadium after the game, under the pretext of saying hello to EJ Borghetti. I hadn’t said hello to EJ in person in 23 years, and so I agreed. (Side note: I wrote a cover Story on Pitt Football for the now-defunct InPittsburgh Newsweekly just prior to the 2000 season. EJ of course was instrumental in getting this young writer access to the team. I remember writing they would show improvement coming off of a 5-6 season. Luckily they went 7-5 and my sports writing credentials were cemented in perpetuity. ) Anyway, as I was standing outside of the main gate at Bobby Dodd watching the players go by, I struck up a conversation with the Dad of one of the Pitt linebackers. I casually commented that the team looked pretty good this year. He grinned a wide, all-knowing grin and said “well…that all depends on which team shows up”. I laughed along with him and I remember thinking to myself, “now here is a guy that knows Pitt football”.
It turns out that the Good Panthers have shown up more often than not since then. Yes there was that one blip against Miami since that blowout down on the Flats, but now Pitt is the verge of taking the next step towards their goal of winning the ACC. Oh and it’s a realistic goal. Win this one, and they’ll punch their ticket to Charlotte to play in a winnable game against Wake Forest or NC State. There is only one team standing in their way…and it ain’t the Virginia Cavaliers.
Yes the Hoos have a dangerous offense (assuming Brennan Armstrong is healthy). But does anybody think that Pitt can’t keep up with them? Heck, if Good Pitt shows up, nobody outside of maybe Georgia, Ohio State or Alabama can stop them. The UVA team that gave up forty points to Georgia Tech and
forty-two to Illinois fifty-nine to UNC certainly can’t. But if Pitt can’t get it together, if running backs miss in pass-pro, or Carter Warren gets called for more than his usual one holding call, or a rash of passes get dropped, or we suffer a spate of drive-killing pre-snap penalties, well…
Defense is a similar story, and lets be frank, the defense has been hit and miss this season. Yes, they showed up last week, and their performance likely saved Pitt from a humiliating defeat on National Television. And yes, they were outstanding against Virginia Tech and Clemson – two pressure packed games. On the flip side, they seemed flummoxed during Pitt’s losses to Miami and Western Michigan, and they weren’t great against Duke, giving up 29 points to a team that Virginia held scoreless. (Ugh).
The silver lining to all this of course is that Brennan Armstrong had his worst game against the best defense he’s faced. It was Miami. The ‘Canes held him to 268 yards, 1 TD and 1 Int on 44 attempts. No other team has held him below 300. Can Pitt play to that level? The point I’m trying to make is they have, but it seems like our rag-tag collection of two-and-three star recruits lacks consistency more than anything.
And so the stage is set. The ACC Coastal division title hangs in the balance. The forecast is calling for perfect Pitt Football Weather (cloudy with a high of 51). It’s senior day for a super-senior-laden team. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2. It’s a 3:30 kick, so the fan base will be randy. It’s by far the biggest game in a season filled with big games. Win it and the fans will swoon. Lose it and the goodwill that was built during Pitt’s 8-2 run will evaporate. It all just depends on which team shows up…
Hail to Pitt