MMQB: Pitt Loses ACC Championship, Secures Four Star, and Finds Themselves in the Sun Bowl

MMQB:  Pitt Loses ACC Championship, Secures Four Star, and Finds Themselves in the Sun Bowl

This won’t be a long one folks, because I may have found msyelf ahem a little bit overserved after a double-shot of Woodford appeared in front of me at a certain Charlotte rooftop bar late Saturday night.  Names will not be named, but responsible parties know who they are.   Suffice to say I’m not exactly at full strength at time of writing.

With that being said, the ACC championship is in the books.  While we were all hoping for more, I don’t think anyone is surprised.  If we had played a perfect game we might have kept it close, but we were clearly outclassed in all phases.

Some goods:

  1.  We ran for more yards that anyone else that played Clemson
  2. The punting game seemed solid
  3. We *for the most part* played pretty good defense.  We held Clemson to one of their lowest yardage totals all season, and forced them to punt a lot, compared to their season average.
  4. Darrin Hall ran well at 6.1 YPC.  He was making people miss and playing fast.
  5. We landed a four star recruit, Daniel Carter, from Florida and beat out a host of SEC schools for his services.
  6. We received a bid to play in the Sun Bowl – a top tier ACC bowl

Some bads:

  1.  We missed some key tackles and they made us pay
  2.  Darrin Hall ran well at 6.1 YPC, and yet they only gave him the ball 14 times.
  3.  On that note, the game planning and play calling was still subpar.  A couple of people who were neither Pitt nor Clemson fans came up to me and told me flat out that our OC has to go.  I don’t share that sentiment outright, but I do think that if we are having the same problems by midseason next year, then 2019 should be Watson’s last season with Pitt.
  4. Complete and utter misuse of the Jet Sweep (except for the first one by Maurice Ffrench which went for 16 yards.  It was was Ffrenchy’s only carry of the game.  See comment #3 about playcalling / gameplanning.)
  5. We received a bid to play in the Sun Bowl – it’s just tough to get to El Paso

Some uglies:

  1. Eight yards passing.
  2. 75 yard TD on opening play
  3.  Inability to defend QB run option in 2nd half

There of course is a lot more to expand upon here so have it it Pitt Fans.

MMQB: Same Old Pitt Returns from the Grave

MMQB:  Same Old Pitt Returns from the Grave

I buried Same Old Pitt last week, but apparently someone forgot to put a stake in its heart, bash its head or shoot it with a silver bullet.

As you know, attention to detail is important.

And as a result, SOP was alive and well on Saturday, and busy playing havoc with our Football Team.   With the exception of three quarters of solid defensive effort, the rest of the team looked sluggish, undisciplined and lacking in the fundamentals.

Here is where I will need to clarify.  Same Old Pitt, by my definition has nothing to do with talent level, and has everything to do with playing the best game possible.  Every Pitt fan on the board, even the most ardent optimist, knows that Miami has recruited much better than Pitt in recent years.  If Pitt had played a clean game and had simply lost to a more talented team that played an equally clean game, no Pitt fan in the world would have the right to hang the SOP collar on this loss.

But Pitt did not play a clean game.

And neither did Miami, and that is what makes this loss so much more frustrating.

As good as the Miami Defense was (and they were very good), their offense was equally as bad.  Miami’s quarterback, N’Kosi Perry, finished 6-24 for 56 yards.  Fifty-Six Yards!   That was for the entire game.  All we had to do was play good special teams and stop the run, and we could have shut these guys out.

Yes that’s right. If we had played a clean game, we could have gone into halftime with a six point lead, nursed it, played good defense and special teams, and probably won 9 – 0 .  Instead we did things like this:

  1.  Phil Campbell committed a 15 yard penalty for running into the punt returner, who had called for a fair catch,
  2. which effectively put Miami in field goal range.  If Campbell kept his head screwed on straight you could have take three points off the board for the ‘Canes.
  3. The Punt Return Unit allowed a Punt return TD where we missed four tackles.  Yes there was a slightly questionable targeting / crackback penalty that was called and then revoked, but the missed tackles happened before that block anyway.
  4. Darren Hall fumbled on the Miami 47.  I’m not saying this would have been an automatic field goal, but 8 more yards would have put is on the edge of Kessman’s range.
  5. Down 10 – 0, knocking on the door of field goal range, Shawn Watson called an end-around that was blown up in the backfield, lost us eight yards and forced us to punt.

And this was all in the first half.

The biggest issue for me was the penalties.  If last week I’d thrown out “10 for 100 yards against Miami” as a clue, you would have responded “What is Darren Hall’s rushing stat line Alex?”  Nope.  That would have been our penalty total.  100 yards of penalties is not

pat narduzzi
We got this many penalties

ACC championship football.  Heck, it’s not even Pop Warner championship football.   10 for 100 yards was was half of our offensive output folks.  If you back out the defensive penalties (I think there were two maybe three) we netted about 130 offensive yards on the day.  Don’t blame the officials either.  The majority of our penalties were false starts, delay of game, personal fouls.  All of those things are completely controllable.

The second biggest issue was the offensive game plan.  It would be unprofessional of me to question Shawn Watson’s preparation.  We all know he and the rest of the staff work extremely hard.

shawn watson
Sure wish they’d stay out of our backfield

But doggone it three plays into the game it was plain to see that any play, running or passing, that took more than a second or two to develop was going to get blown up.  I know they were coming at us fast and furious, and I know that we had a new center and all, but there were some basic (dare I say…elementary?) things Mr. Watson could have done to scheme around Miami’s speed and aggression, and it just didn’t look he did that…at all, and what’s worse, he kept calling long-developing plays as the game went on.  Hopefully the light goes on against Clemson.

Yes there were a few bright spots.  They were mostly on defense.   Damar Hamlin played a very good game.  He’s go some nice athleticism and it looks like he’s starting to get it.  If he stays healthy he will be a difference maker next year.  Rashad Weaver batted down two passes (too bad he couldn’t have caught one of them…), and got a QB hurry (don’t get me started on lack of QB pressure).  Elias Reynolds looked solid at linebacker.  If he sharpens up his speed he will be very good next year.  On offense, Rafael Araujo-Lopes (South Florida native) clearly came to play.  Also Kenny Pickett did not throw an interception although we was sacked six times.

So there are some thought starts for your folks.  Go ahead and tee off with your good, bad and ugly. 

MMQB: Demons Exorcised; Pitt wins ACC Coastal Division Title

MMQB:  Demons Exorcised; Pitt wins ACC Coastal Division Title

Same Old Pitt died on Saturday, just as Kenny Pickett came of age.  Pitt’s defense held the #32 offense in the country to 206 yards passing and 79 yards rushing.  They did it on the road, and in the face of questionable officiating.  Make no mistake Pitt fans, this is what we signed up for.   My good, bad and ugly are below.  Sound off and post yours!

The Good:  

  1. The team’s response in the second half.  How many times have we seen Pitt come out flat in the first half and stay flat for the rest of the game?   Not this time.  Whatever Narduzzi said to them in the locker room stuck.

    Kenny Pickett - University of Pittsburgh
    Eye of the Panther
  2. The Defense.  Yes, Wake missed some throws, but by and large, this is the defense that was advertised in camp.
  3. Kenny Pickett.  23/30-316-3.  At least two of his touchdowns came on third down.  Ladies and Gentlemen, we have our quarterback.

The Bad:

  1.  I think the offense in the first half had every fan in Pitt Nation feeling the same way.  “Oh no, not again”.
  2. Jimmy Morrissey’s injury.  We can afford to lose him for Miami, but we will need every hand on deck for the Championship.  PGH Sports Now has the only update at the time of writing.  “Sources” say it’s an ankle injury.  Stefano Millin says this:  “he’s good”

The Ugly:

  1. I was going to make a comment about the white uniforms, but daggone it we just won the first ACC Coastal Football Championship in Pitt History.  If the uniforms were the worst part of the day, I’ll take it.  Turn on those Victory Lights and keep ’em on all week.  #Hail2Pitt!

 

Coastal Clinched

Monday Morning QB; North Carolina

Monday Morning QB; North Carolina

With an extended time period between the last game and MMQB a lot of the Good, Bad and Ugly has already been discussed… But here goes anyway with one additional category.

GREAT!! (Old Gold font)

Fran’s work each and every week to make sure the POVers attending the home games can have the best time possible. I really regret missing the “BigB Memorial Tailgate” (even though he isn’t dead yet) on Thursday afternoon and evening before this game.  Fran started setting everything up soon after 2:00pm and from all reports the festivities were fantastic.

For those who missed the tailgate and didn’t yet see photos please jump over to this article and check them out.

GOOD

We have to start with RB Darrin Hall’s excellent day. To keep his 100+ yards per game streak alive is a real accomplishment but to do it while scoring 28 points is superb.  That was, save a FG by Kesserman, all the scoring we did on Thursday evening.

His stat line for the NC game was this:  23 for 121 at a  5.3 ypc rate and 4 TDs.  Excellent again but I think one of the more important facts from his work is that he did this with a longest rush of only 17 yards.

It is one thing to pile up 252 yards in a game when you have a 92 yard run and a 79 yard run – hell, that alone is 171 yards but in his last two games he’s broken 100 yards with longs of only 14 and now 17 yards.

In his last three games he’s carried the ball 72 times for 486 yards (6.75 ypc!!) and 8 TDs which is a career year for most D1 RBs.

Quadree Ollison and the TEs blocking for Hall... including #45 Devon Edwards on one of them.

In the video above you’ll see that Hall didn’t get those TDs all on his own. Since Shawn Watson opened his emails and read the one from Ike suggesting that he move Ollison into the H-Back position to lead block for Hall we’ve been getting great yardage on the ground.  Kidding about the email thing – but let’s do give Watson some kudos for making that move as it has turned out extremely well.

BTW – as you are watching said video remember that first passing play on it – more on that later.

BAD

I’m not going to label our QB Ben DiNucci’s work on Thursday ugly because when a QB throws zero INTs that is a real plus… but I have no qualms about calling it “BAD”.

Overall DiNucci completed 11 of 16 pass attempts for 142 yards and no TDs or INTs. That was his passing but here is something else to note;  that first play on the video above was a 30 yarder to a wide open Hall on a swing pattern out of the backfield which only succeeded because it was on broken coverage by the NC DBs.

While Pitt fans will take 30 yards through the air anytime with this QB… if you take that lucky play away DiNucci was 10/16 for 122 yards.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m splitting hairs here but DiNucci is just so very ineffective that it drives me crazy.  However his passing isn’t what lands him in the “BAD” column this week – it is his overall decision-making and simplistic approach to playing the position.

It is like he’s in binary mode out there.  Primary receiver open/closed?  No progression, no looking off defenders and really,  no run/don’t run? choices either.  Once he leaves the pocket it is like his brain blinks off…. on/off?

Maybe we should get him a shock-collar like the ones your dog wears to keep him in your yard. Make him wear it in practice and that way he’ll learn to trust his offensive lineman and stay entrenched in the pocket.

I think the setting #4 would do in his case:

Continue reading “Monday Morning QB; North Carolina”

POV Monday Morning QB; OK State Game

Monday-Morning-QBWell – we have had over 36 hours to digest and accept one of the worse losses Pitt has experienced in our ‘modern’ era.  It was a terrible football game all-around and by ‘all-around’ I mean on the field, off the field and even on television as ESPN’s broadcast turned into an “Insult Pitt Day at Heinz” Special Event.

But let’s be honest with ourselves here – as angry and disappointed as we are in all aspects of what we watched on Saturday – wouldn’t you also have been making jokes at some other team’s expense if Pitt was on the top end of that 49-0 score we had  at one point in the game?

Yes, I think you would;  so what the announcers did and said didn’t bother me as nearly much as what I saw Pat Narduzzi and his staff conceive, design and then put out on the field during for this match.  Our coaching staff swung and missed at every single facet of what makes a successful football team and what makes for a successful game against Oklahoma State.

What bothers me the most now that the OSU pirate ship has sailed with our collective family jewels safely stored in their hold… is that we may see this exact thing replicated more than once or twice in our remaining games… specifically next week down in Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.  Yeah, I feel that poorly when I look at the rest of our schedule.

So – on Monday morning we address what we though was the “Good, Bad and Ugly” aspects of the game that just had been played. Here goes…

THE GOOD

The effect of rsJR QB Ben DiNucci’s play on the rest of his offensive teammates.

At 18m 38s into the game, with Pitt down 35-0, Pat Narduzzi made the call to bench rsSR Max Browne and go with DiNucci. Immediately Pitt’s offensive players perked up and responded with well-blocked short pitch and catch play to Henderson that he took 71 yards to the OSU 11 yard line – and we scored three plays later.

That was our first TD in the last 29 minutes of play against both PSU and OSU – and Ben DiNucci was under center for both of them. That speaks volumes and should be (I say ‘should be’ for a reason) the fact that tilts the remaining 2017 QB1 snaps to DiNucci.

The bottom line with our QB situation is this: after many years of watching, following and now writing about Pitt football I believe that Pitt fans can accept a loss in a match as long as 1) we played competitively and 2) we fans had fun watching the kids play the game. Max Browne does not do that for us in either way – but Ben DiNucci does and will.

He may not be the answer for future wins on the schedule but DiNucci makes watching Pitt enjoyable and so without hesitation on Narduzzi and Watson’s part he needs to be the starting QB against Georgia Tech.

In what may be the most crucial part of future games – considering we have scores close enough that we may win games – rsSR P Ryan Winslow’s work at punting the ball is critical – and it is too bad that his excellent punting on Saturday was completely wasted.

Winslow OSU

As you can see from the box here Winslow was super effective with his kicks and, in a game where field position didn’t really mean anything, still gave us somewhat of a chance on defense .  One punt in particular, early on when we were still in the game down by 7-0, was downed on the OSU 4 yard line.  Of course they drove 96 yards for a TD – but Winslow did his job well on that play and all throughtout day when called on.

That is it – no other “Good” issues to discuss.

THE BAD and THE UGLY

Max Brown’s play along with everything else we saw in person, watched on TV, listened to on the radio and had to experience in what is a true low point in five years of Pitt football. I’d venture to say that as the actual play in games goes this was the worse I have ever seen.

I lumped these two headings together because the whole afternoon, from 13:00 left in the 1st quarter until the whistle blew to end the game, was a complete and utter rout. There is truly no other way to spin this fellow Pitt fans- it was an ugly afternoon from the opening kickoff until the horrid game ended.  So – I’m not going to write a novel describing in detail how truly crappy we played.

Please feel free to add your own “Good, Bad and Ugly” in your comments – there are just too damned many for me to list here.

Continue reading “POV Monday Morning QB; OK State Game”

POV Sunday Podcast; Saturday Edition

As promised we rolled out the POV Round Table series last evening with a two-man show – myself and our long time commenter PittFan28 (Brian Ashcom).  The result was great and we had a good time talking about ourselves, our opinions of and our relationships with Pitt football.

Take a listen above – we came in just a bit over 35 minutes but truth be told we could have gone on for an hour at least.  I think the technical work is OK, I used Skype for the communications bit (I’ll reprint Skype instructions below) and then used a program called Audacity for the actual recording. 

You’ll hear that it came through pretty clearly but with some scratchy bits from Brian’s end, but nothing that really detracts from the content.

As we do this more often, and it was fun, we’ll smooth out any rough spots and with more callers I’ll do a lot less talking. 

Here is how I envision the POV regular season to shake out:

Continue reading “POV Sunday Podcast; Saturday Edition”

Monday Morning QB: Northwestern

Well, we’ve had over 775 comments during the bowl game and describing our feelings regarding the loss afterward so I’m not sure there is a whole lot more to say about the specifics of the game itself, that is how the game was actually played out on the field.

Suffice to say two main things happened, at least to my eyes.  Everybody associated with Pitt from the Chancellor through the AD and coaching staff, through the players and into the fan base, were way too overconfident about facing Northwestern.  They just didn’t see a loss coming and I didn’t either.

I felt that we’d use our experienced and bigger OL to establish the ground game.  We’d use Narduzzi’s “take away the run or else” philosophy to hinder their running game then by default let them throw all over the field until we outscored them at the end.

Number two was a funny thing happened on the way to Yankee Stadium.

No one told the Northwestern people that was how it was supposed to be.  Instead they thumbed their collective noses at our vaunted #9 rushing defense, shut down our vaunted #26 rushing game and finished with more points on the board than we did. Whaaaa? Continue reading “Monday Morning QB: Northwestern”