MMQB: The Big Win Over WVU

Well, time to get back into the swing of things with writing for the POVers. Here goes…

I watched the whole, much too long, game on Thursday night and came away with two feelings. First a win is always good, but a win over the old time rival Mountaineers is great. The second isn’t so strong a feeling – I’m just not sure what sort of Pitt football team we saw out there.

When I review a played game I look at a few things first but go directly to how many yards did our offense gain and how many did we give up. Pitt’s offense did well if you look at just the stats themselves but when you factor in that two WVU turnovers had so much of an impact on the final score, especially DB Devonshire’s highlight reel Pick 6 with 2:58 left in the game that sealed, almost, the win you realize those stats were a bit misleading.

Our defense wasn’t all that majorly impressive overall either. I looked at what WVU did in the first 45:08 minutes and really felt like our giving up that much yardage, both on the ground and in the air, for 31 WVU points didn’t bode well for the future. Let’s be honest here folks – WVU is not a powerhouse offensive team, at least I believe that will show as true over their season, but they pretty much had their way with our defense.

In the end we gave up 404 total yards, and 22 first downs mostly based on the ‘Eers pushing out almost 200 yards! (190 @ 5.6 ypc) on the ground. They pretty much owned our vaunted D line doing that. It was the most rushing yardage Pitt has allowed in years and is something to fix and fix quickly before the Tennessee game. TENN had 218 yards rushing and 351 yards passing in their opener. Granted that was Ball State…

Offensively our stats look pretty good with 378 yards overall. We looked determined to run first, pass second in this game but when the dust settled we had a poor 2.0 ypc overall and 3.5 yards per carry (YPC) by our RBs.

Rodney Hammond averaged 4.6 yards with two TD runs of 11 ands 2 yards and he looked steady but the others; Abanikanda and Carter were unimpressive to say the least. Their 11 carries for 22 yards does not look great and especially nervous making if Hammond gets injured down the way. I also don’t think that WVU’s defense had all that much to do in shutting down the run – more like our OL just isn’t what the hype has been saying they are and 76 yards rushing pretty much backs that up. I say again – 36 rush attempts for a final 76 yards is crappy.

I think anyone who watched the game would agree that up until the end of the 3rd quarter our passing game was not hitting on all cylinders either. Slovis’ 66.7% completion rate for 308 yards and 1 TD looks OK especially if you see his 188.2 QB rating for the game. But aside from that very nice seam pass to WR Jared Wayne for 64 yards Slovis looked not only like was it his first game in Blue & Gold but his first game for a long time.

He’ll be OK as our QB but for the fans thinking he’s another Kenny Pickett it’s more like he’s the second coming of Chad Voytik without the legs to help him avoid sacks and get yardage on the ground…which we will miss in our future games because we had Pickett scooting all over the field getting first downs and TDs.

Slovis ain’t all that great at avoiding those dreaded sacks either. Yes it was his first start with a new team, new system and new expectations but he projected a deer in the headlights on many of his drop backs. Yes, the OL was porous in their protection of Slovis but he had a real hard time being able to go through progressions to his 2nd and 3rd receivers due to the defensive pressure on him. Three of those five sacks allowed led directly to Pitt having to punt on the next play. Three drives killed with one at a score of 10-10 and one at score 17-10 WVU.

Cignetti obviously wants the rushing game to carry the team this season and I wonder about that approach. I wasn’t overly impressed with either QB Slovis or the pass protection by our O line (5 sacks for (-) 39 yards ) and that is something that might just put too much stress on a run game over 12 matches.

We will miss the latest iteration of Kenny Pickett in a Pitt uniform and I just don’t think Slovis will be able to carry the team the way KP did and maybe not even close. It would be nice if we fans could point directly to the running game and think ‘Well, Slovis doesn’t have to really produce because we are a good run first team.’ Well, maybe we need to think again about that.

As you all know I try (note the “try“) to take an balanced look at what goes on with Pitt football. Yes, our D produced two turnovers that lead directly to 14 points and that is reminiscence of what we saw them do last year – that was happy making. Had the D kept the WVU offense tamped down the rest of the game I’d feel more generous in praise. They didn’t do that though.

The fact is that WVU held a lead for the majority of the game; the whole first half until our FG right at the halftime buzzer and approximately 40 of the 60 game minutes, which wasn’t what I believe Pitt fans expected in this opener.

POV’s game MVP Devonshire dramatically changed all that with three minutes left in the game and it still came down to that last 4th down WVU pass, that was almost caught at the goal line which created a turnover on downs with 22 seconds left in the game, before we watchers could let our breath out.

We won the Backyard Brawl and that really is great. It was a nice thing to look at the final score of 38-31 and feel like we did what we hoped we would. However, if we don’t raise our playing level up, both on O and on D, we may be in for some trouble down the road. We’ll see how things shake out this Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers, who won their opener against Ball State 55-10 (I’ll be at the game BTW). I really hope that at the end of that game we 1) have a 2-0 record and 2) feel much better about the remaining games on our schedule.