MMQB – Tennessee Loss 34-27

First off let’s clear the air about something. When I was in the press box for the first half of the game almost everyone agreed with the referee’s penalty calling and reviews. I know a lot of Pitt fans want to point directly to the SEC refs for somehow screwing us but the media gets live feed for review cameras and I agreed with them also – first half only though as I listened to the second half in my car.

OK, that said, let’s look at what we did correctly and what we screwed up on. My first thoughts are not individual plays, although some certainly effected the game in their own ways, but what the players as a whole actually did out on the field as a team. Therefore, the Offensive Line is almost solely responsible for this loss in my opinion.

Yes, our RB Abanikanda had 154 yards and a well blocked 76 yard TD stroll to put us up 10-0. That was fun to watch. But, when you factor in the yards gained of our two RBs (the only two who took handoffs) aside from that run we had this: 92 yards on 29 carries for a 3.17 yards per carry (YPC). Those numbers are without the QBs’ eight carries for (-)26 yards which includes four sacks given up. After two games we are 76th out of 131 in Sacks Allowed (SA) and 106th in Tackles for Loss Allowed (TFL). Folks, that doesn’t cut it against other P5 schools.

I believe a good OL allows the offense to have sustained drives that results in first downs and points on the scoreboard. Saturday we had 15 possessions and scored only five times. A 1:3 production that held us to 27 points. Our four of 18 third down conversion rate of only 22% ties directly into the above also.

Add the fact that yet again we had our QBs running for their lives, or limping in Patti’s case, with tons of ‘hurries’ and four sacks. So – one last dig at the OL – out of 44 pass attempts they gave up 26 (!) hurries which allowed Vol’s extra pressure on the QBs. Add the four sacks to that and you have 68% of our pass plays where the QBs were trying to complete passes under duress.

So overall I think our OL sucked for the second straight game.

Our new QB, Slovis, had a decent showing in leading the O to 17 points in the first half. His yardage stat of 195 in two quarters looks impressive and the ‘Leaping TE’s’ catch and scurry for 56 yards helped that number. But throwing an INT from the opponent’s 21 yard marker hurt us (and yes, not all his fault there) and stopped a drive that would have given us a commanding 17-0 first quarter lead.

On that drive Slovis passed on every play and had two completions, an interference call then two misses ending with a pick in the end zone. Like this:

  • 1st & 10 at PITT 39(6:00 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass complete to Jared Wayne for 18 yds to the Tenn 43 for a 1ST down
  • 1st & 10 at TENN 43(5:26 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass complete to Gavin Bartholomew for 7 yds to the Tenn 36
  • 2nd & 3 at TENN 36(4:44 – 1st) Slovis, Kedon pass incomplete to Mumpfield, Konata, PENALTY TENNESSEE pass interference (McDonald, Tamarion) 15 yards to the TENNESSEE21, NO PLAY, 1ST DOWN PITTSBURGH.
  • 1st & 10 at TENN 21(4:37 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass incomplete to Konata Mumpfield
  • 2nd & 10 at TENN 21(4:30 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass incomplete to Jared Wayne
  • 3rd & 10 at TENN 21(4:16 – 1st) Kedon Slovis pass intercepted, touchback. Trevon Flowers return for no gain

Slovis then contributed to us giving up the ball on downs well inside the TENN side of the field by not being able to shake pressure and taking a sack on the fourth and three play. That shut down our offense for the rest of the half. Narduzzi took a big chance there and no first down led to TENN grabbing the lead on a quick strike TD to make it 21-17 on the next possession.

The jury is still out on Slovis as he hasn’t shown a true ability to bend rapid developing situations on the playing field to his advantage. We know he’s no Pickett but when he has to start moving his feet before he can get a pass off bad things follow.

Our defense was better but not a ton lot better either. Giving up 27 point in regulation play was fine – not as good as last season’s 21.6 ppg, but was OK on the day.

TENN’s WR Tillman had a great day against our slow, and out of position, DBs with nine catches for 162 yards and one TD of 61 yards that put the Vols up 21-17 late in the second quarter.

Hear that phone ringing? That’s USC with another $3M to spend on a WR. If Tillman doesn’t answer maybe our WR Jared Wayne gets a call.

TENN’s QB Hooker did this: 27 of 42 (64.3%) for 325 yards; 2 TDs and 0 INTs on a fine day passing. We gave up 100 less rushing yards as opposed to last week but allowed 111 more passing yards. Hot and cold as they say.

Here is a statistical comparison of the two games we have played so far.

Our defense did tighten up in the second half holding our opponent to only six new points while we put up 10 for the tie and the right to go into OT. The graphic here shows that we had an almost ten minute advantage in the game Time of Possession (TOP) and to have that and only a 22% third down conversion rate shows that our defense gave up as many points as we had but in ten minutes lass time of possessing the ball. But a +10 minute TOP without converting third downs kills a chance to score more points.

Considering there was only one yard separating the teams in total yards, first downs and equal turnovers it makes you wonder why we couldn’t have done more with that extra possession time. But we couldn’t.

Which leads us to the final chapter…

When, in the first overtime session and needing a TD to tie and force yet another OT (or getting a TD and going for a two point conversion to win which our head coach didn’t have the stupidity to do) Pitt did this:

  • 1st & 10 at TENN 25(OT) Israel Abanikanda run for a loss of 3 yards to the Tenn 28
  • 2nd & 13 at TENN 28(OT) Nick Patti pass incomplete to Jared Wayne
  • 3rd & 13 at TENN 28(OT) Nick Patti pass complete to Bub Means for 8 yds to the Tenn 20
  • 4th & 5 at TENN 20(OT) Nick Patti pass complete to Konata Mumpfield for 10 yds to the Tenn 10 for a 1ST down
  • 1st & Goal at TENN 10(OT) Israel Abanikanda run for 2 yds to the Tenn 8
  • 2nd & Goal at TENN 8(OT) Nick Patti pass incomplete to Konata Mumpfield
  • 3rd & Goal at TENN 8(OT) Nick Patti sacked by Trevon Flowers for a loss of 12 yards to the Tenn 20
  • (OT) Timeout PITTSBURGH, clock 00:00
  • 4th & 0 at TENN 20(OT) Nick Patti pass incomplete to Konata Mumpfield

See how that panned out? From a starting first and 10 at the TENN 25 yard line we ran eight plays for a total of five positive yards. No gain or a loss of yards on five of eight game critical snaps…

Look, that series didn’t define how we played the whole game but as I was on the dark and lonely turnpike listening to Hillgrove, Bostick and Dickerson making sure “Homerism” is the cultural norm at 93.7 The Fan, I could just feel how it would turn out.

It wasn’t even the (-)12 yard sack on 3rd & goal that did that for me, more like when going into the OT coin toss I kind of knew that Pitt had shot it’s best shot on the final game tying drive and wouldn’t be able to do that twice in a row.  The only time we did score on two straight possessions was our FG then that 76 yard run in the very beginning of the game.  So, yeah, I didn’t think we could do that again, especially with a gimpy QB2 in the game.

Considering that the Vols held the lead or were tied for the final 35m 31s and then the overtime win I think it is safe to say we were out played and if it wasn’t across the board it sure was during the critical moments and by their better line play especially.

On toward Western Michigan for a 7:30pm game. Should be a sure win but then again…