MAC Loss – The Good, Bad and Really Ugly

Well, if no one else is going to chip in I’ll do a quick recap of the loss to Western Michigan- but honestly the thread of Game Day comments – some very long and well written – will provide more background and info as that post will.

The Good:

Pickett’s stats – great for padding the Pitt fan’s appreciation of him. Sorry – he played a good game yesterday but also had some troubles that we will discuss in the Bad and Ugly sections.

Also good (kind of) were are players that use their feet for success. Sam Scarton, our placekicker, almost got 100% of his Point After Touchdown (PATs) kicks through the uprights – only missed one for an 83% success rate. Maybe it was the crowd noise that distracted that last one.

The Aussie punter, Kirk Christodoulou, who we have had for years showed up to play, and not drunk like every other Aussie I have ever met, but his effect on the game wasn’t that great. A 37.5 average yardage is at a MAC-like level. Actually his first punt put the WMU Broncos on their own 19 yard line so that was well done.

DE Habakkuk Baldonado did a good job also with 5 solo tackles and seven total, one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. – kind of like the only tree left standing after a forest fire. The rest of the DL and LBs? Blah at best.

The Bad:

Remember Pickett’s great stats yesterday? Well, sometimes numbers do lie. Six TD passes is pretty impressive in gaining points on the scoreboard. Unfortunately a huge part of a QB’s job is to keep the ball in his offense’s possession long enough to deny the other team’s scoring opportunities. That sure didn’t happen.

In seven combined 3rd and 4th down plays where Pickett dropped back to pass he either threw an incomplete pass, threw a too-short completion that was well defended or was sacked (twice!) for a loss of downs. If you are as appalled as I am by Pitt’s only have a 20 minute time of possession (TOP) in this game you can look directly at our QB play – and play calls by the offensive coordinator (OC)… then glance real quickly at the running game before looking back at the OC and QB.

I suppose you can blame the Pitt defense for some of the 40 minute TOP WMU had – but if we had gotten even a few 3rd down conversations (vice only 1 of 7) then the defense wouldn’t have had to homestead on the field of play.

But this has been somewhat of a trademark in Pickett’s 13 years as a Pitt QB – guady stats with not a whole lot to show for it. Fans don’t want to hear that but it’s true.

The Ugly:

In my 60 years of being a Pitt football fan (started going to games in the stroller) I’m not sure I ever saw a more ridiculous play then when at the 7:44 mark of the 3rd quarter two Pitt safeties tackled each other and allowed the WMU wide receiver stroll into the endzone for a 54 yard TD. That broke a 34-34 tie and WMU never looked back until their victory was complete..

Wasn’t just that play though – a rather average MAC QB lit up the defensive back’s islands by doing this: 23 for 35, 337 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs for a QB rating of….drum roll please…186.3. I say again: a MAC QB had a QB rating of 186.3 against our (crap) defensive secondary. Ugly!

I said this yesterday and will say it again – why is anyone who has followed Pitt football under Pat Narduzzi in any way shocked at this loss? Look, we had bona fide star defenders on our team last year and still played just about .500 ball at six wins to five losses. We replaced those 2020 stars with 2021 average talent players (or even poor in some cases) and we lose games. That is how football and sports work. You have to keep getting better talent, not worse.

Each year the local media falls for this HC’s bullcrap and they slobber all over him – then act oh so outraged when we don’t win games we are supposed to. Well, who in Hell says which games we are supposed to win or not? The betting line? Ask the bookies how much confidence they have in Pitt to do what they are supposed to do.

I do find it hilarious that now local pundits are calling Narduzzi “arrogant” and want him fired like that negative trait is something that no one had realized he had before. Ask anyone one who isn’t in his sacred closed circle of acquaintances what he’s like and you’ll have heard that word being used often since 2015 when describing him. Here is a quote from Pittsburgh Sports Now that says it pretty clearly (albeit years too late):

That certainly won’t be the case when Pitt and Narduzzi eventually part ways. I can promise you that very few people will shed a tear when that day comes, which certainly wasn’t the case with Wannstedt.

With the arrogance in which he has always conducted himself, you’d think that Pitt is currently a Top 10 program with a trophy case full of recent championship trophies but that’s hardly the case. The reality is his personality only drives people away from caring about Pitt football, which isn’t the smart thing to do when you’re a perennial 7-8 win team which draws 25,000 to 30,000 actual fans a game.

Now – I read PSN pretty often and I can’t remember anyone on there calling Narduzzi “arrogant” publicly before today.

One last thing: every local media outlet is full of outrage and vitriol against Narduzzi for this loss to a middling MAC school. They all are basically saying “I told you so” or at least implying it. But wait! Let the truth be told – the only media outlet on Pitt football who didn’t buy into the off-season hype was The Pitt POV when we predicted 6 or 7 wins on the season and stuck with it…

Take a look at this article in PSN dated September 2, 2021 – only two out of 18 writers (experts I tell ya!) felt that this season’s team would be just like every other season Narduzzi’s had his own committed players on his roster (save one 8 win season). All the others should be eating crow right now. Holy Hell – Paul Zeise was practically kneeling at the Narduzzi alter 48 hours ago and now he’s saying this: “

Narduzzi has been given a lot of time to build a program. He has succeeded in some areas but he has failed far too often when it counts. There’s a lot of football left to play, but if things aren’t corrected immediately, the end could be closer than you think. 

Seven years is plenty of time to build a program that wins, but — so far — Narduzzi has fallen short. At some point, time will run out.

2021 Pitt Win Total Predictions

Dave Wannstedt (Fox Sports): 10
Paul Zeise (PG/93.7 The Fan): 11 (Paul has Pitt winning the Coastal)
Chris Mack (93.7 The Fan): 9
Bob Pompeani (KDKA-TV):  9
Chris Mueller (93.7 The Fan): 7
Joe Kaap (93.7 The Fan): 8
Mike Asti  (Steelers Now): 8
Rich Walsh (KDKA-TV): 8
Chris Peak (PantherLair): 9
Joe Starkey (93.7 The Fan): 9
Mike DeCourcy (Sporting News): 9
Josh Taylor (KDKA-TV): 8
Brett McMurphy (Action Network): 8
Andrew Stockey (WTAE-TV): 8
Bill Bender (Sporting News): 7

Harry Psaros  (PGH Sports Now): 9
Mike Vukovcan (PGH Sports Now): 9
George Michalowski (PGH Sports Now): 9

Could go on and on and on… But will save some for the Monday Morning QB article tomorrow (any takers on writing that article for me?)

Here are Pitt’s National Rankings after three games- note that anything ranked with a number higher that 60 is pretty damn poor:

Hail to Pitt? More like:

Oy Vey to Pitt!

Pitt vs W. Michigan Game Thread; 9/18/21

Western Michigan Broncos 2018 Football Schedule & AnalysisHere is the Gameday Thread for PITT football as we play the Western Michigan Broncos at Heinz Field starting at 12:00 noon. Following are some websites that might help you all get ready to cheer the team onto a win. 

Kickoff time, TV broadcast set for CMU vs. WMU rivalry football game -  mlive.com

These can be used for in-game commenting research also.

Pitt Football Homepage

Pitt ESPN Homepage

Pitt Football Sports Reference Homepage (current & historical info)

Pitt Football 2021-22 Schedule

Pitt Football 2021-22 Stats

Pitt Football 2021-22 Roster

Here are some sites for info on our opponents:

Pitt vs W. Michigan Game Notes

W. Michigan Football Sports Reference Homepage (current & historical info)

W. Michigan ESPN Homepage

W. Michigan Football Roster

MAC Football 2021-22 Standings (w/ links to team pages)

Here is Pitt’s Two Deep for the game:

HAIL TO PITT!

2021 Season – Western Michigan Broncos

Pitt is coming off a 41-34 road game victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. I am not going to recap the game as “Erie Express” (Rick) and “6 & 34” (Jay) did a superb job in recapping the game.

I will say that I expected Vol QB Joe Milton to miss all of his deep throws. He badly missed on the two or three he threw against Bowling Green (BG). He did get better in his accuracy. He was overthrowing his receivers by 5 to 7 yards against BG. Only 3 or 4 yards against Pitt. No more will I soft pedal or make you read between the lines with words like: “could have played any other QB on their roster with better passing results. To me and I am no expert, Milton seems to throw a hard pass with no touch when needed.”

On to the Western Michigan Broncos (WMU):

WMU rebounded from their opening game 14 – 47 loss to Michigan with a dominating 28 – 0 victory over the visiting Missouri Valley Conference FCS foe the Illinois State Redbirds (Normal, Illinois). Here is a recap of that game from the SBNation site “Hustle Belt”.

2021 Mid-American Conference Football Game Recap: Western Michigan 28, Illinois State 0 – Hustle Belt

Stats, Stats, and more Stats:

In my preview article, I mentioned the WMU QB Kaleb Eleby was rated as the fifth best QB that Pitt would face during the 2021 season. A reasonable assumption based on his 2020 passing efficiency rating. He finished third with a 195.1 rating. That rating put him only in the wake of Alabama’s Mac Jones (203.1) and BYU’s Zack Wilson (196.4). Jones and Wilson are spending this season as starters in the NFL. Is he living up to his 2020 potential? At this time, no. It is harder to put up the same numbers when you main 2020 target (D’Wayne Eskridge) joins Jones and Wilson in the pro’s.

Here are Eleby’s and WMU offensive stats for the 1’st two games:

Rushers and receiver stats for the first two games. Those on the left are year to date. On the right are stats against Michigan.

Last of the stats – a comparison of NCAA stats. Compare, enjoy, and look for anomalies.

My take is that Pitt starts off sluggish, regains their composure and cruises to a 34 – 17 win. I celebrate post game with Fran, Wolfe and others in Red 5A.

Hail to Pitt!!!

Could Happen…

Here is a fun piece by our resident playwright Eric…Heard outside Neyland Stadium in the parking lot after the game…..

Big B: Woo hoo! Hail to Pitt. What a win! We’re gonna fly the WUP flag high and proudly tonight!

Richman: Someone toss me a beer from the cooler. Better yet, make it two. A win over Tennessee warrants double fisting.

Joe L: So that’s what it’s like to play in a real college stadium? The orange and white stripes were pretty impressive and Rocky Top was awesome. Did I mention that Penn State sucks and so does Sweet Caroline?

(An unnamed “Panther” Fan arrives)

“Panther” Fan: Hey boys! I drove 14 hours to see that? Wow did we suck. How did we win? We couldn’t tackle. Couldn’t run the ball.  And couldn’t cover in the secondary. Thank god that Milton and Hooker reminded me of Tino Sunseri. Couldn’t shoot fish in a barrel. 

Big B: Come on. We just went on the road against a talented SEC team, in front of 80,000 fans, and pulled out a “W”. You can’t be a little satisfied?

“Panther” Fan: Did I mention that our special teams were a disaster? Does a blocked punt ring a bell?

Big B: For the most part I can’t argue with you there. But hey, did you see Tipton, my boy from Apollo, down that punt on the 2?

“Panther” Fan: You mean the 7th year Senior who now qualifies for AARP? 

(Richman belches)

Richman: Sorry about that guys. 

Joe L: You at least have to admit that Kenny looked good today. How about that dime he threw to Stovall for our first TD?

“Panther” Fan: Whatever. Getting back to special teams, and speaking of dimes, Narduzzi must have a dime-sized brain for trying to kick a 56 yard field goal, on the road, with a freshman kicker. He got bailed out by a lame penalty flag, otherwise we might be talking about that boneheaded move after a loss instead of a win. By the way, did I show you guys the list of replacement coaches that I always carry around in my back pocket? I tried to email it to Heather this week, but apparently she wasn’t receiving e-mails due to being on vacation in the Outer Banks.

Joe L: Listen, Kenny completed 66 percent of his passes, had two passing touchdowns, one rushing, and converted two fourth downs with his feet. That’s a great game by anyone’s standards.

“Panther” Fan: Well, he should play that way, he’s been at Pitt long enough. Wasn’t he our starting QB when Obama took office? And if you look at the stat sheet, Kenny only averaged 7.9 yards per completion. Surely Reed won’t be impressed with that. We throw horizontally, not vertically, which is a problem.

(Editors Note: Hey it’s Reed here. You know, the guy who started the POV, the best blog in the history of Pitt Football. The mention of Obama borders on political discussion, which you all know is frowned upon here. Keep it up Panther Fan and I might have to ban you.

Big B: You also can’t ignore the effort of the defense. Five sacks, big goal line stand in the fourth quarter……

“Panther” Fan: Hold on a second Bernie. Did you watch the same game as I did? We gave up 34 points to a team in complete disarray. Only 71 scholarship players dressed for the Vols. 35 kids have left their program in the last two years. New coach, new playbook. Terrible quarterbacks. I could go on and on. If we were any good, we’d have won by 30.  And by the way, on the goal line stop, Petrishen and Pine were both unblocked due to incompetent Tennessee linemen. Hell, if UPitt were in the game, he’d have made that tackle.

Richman: Speaking of UPitt, he texted me during the game. Said he was impressed by the size of the Tennessee logo painted at midfield. He also mentioned that the tiny Panther head painted on the 50 at Heinz Field for the Massachusetts game looked like it was microscopic and involved third graders from the Carrick middle school.

(Big B’s cell phone rings. It’s Ike. Calling from LAY-TROBE. Bernie puts him on speaker)

Ike: Bernie!!! How about that win! Bring on Alabama! I told UPitt this week that we would cover and that he should bet big on the Panthers. He said that he might put ten grand on Pitt. He also said that he would donate the winnings to Pitt Athletics and ask for the AD office to be named the “Mehalovich 2000 Yellow Blouse Athletic Director”. Has a catchy ring to it, doesn’t it?

Big B: So Ike, do you actually believe that this win could propel us to the ACC Coastal Title?

Ike: You think too small Bernie. You saw what Georgia did to Clemson, didn’t you? Clemson lost to an SEC team. We just beat an SEC team. We are primed for the ACC title. We’ve got Clemson’s number. This is Pat Narduzzi’s year. I think if things fall right, we might make the College Football playoff.

Big B: I was thrilled with the win today, Ike, but isn’t that going a bit too far?

Ike: Heck no! If we can become national title contenders in Women’s Volleyball and Men’s Soccer due to Heather Lyke’s excellence, we can do the same in football.

“Panther” Fan: Uh, Ike. Ms. Yellow Blouse didn’t hire either Dan Fisher or Jay Vidovich.  And it’s a pipe dream for our Football program to be anything but mediocre as long as she is our AD and Meatballs is our head coach…. Man, I’m thirsty. Hey Richman, toss me a Fanta.

Ike: I’ve gotta go. I can’t listen to your negativity after such a program-changing win.

(Ike disconnects call)

Joe L: I just got a text from Richard in South Carolina. He is concerned that we rushed for less than 100 total yards and averaged under 2 yards per carry. He says that statistically speaking, we can’t expect to win many games with an abysmal running game.

“Panther” Fan: He’s right. Our offensive line sucks. Our running backs suck. And our 80 year old offensive coordinator sucks worst of all.

Big B: Come on now. I know that we’ve become a pass-oriented team. But when we needed to salt the game away in the last 5 minutes, the line opened holes and both Flea and Izzy moved the chains.

“Panther” Fan: Listen, Bernie, you are forgetting that we are Pitt. SOP, remember? We just beat a mediocre SEC team that won 3 games last year. How is that impressive? History under gorilla calves tells us that he’ll lose to Western Michigan or New Hampshire. As a matter of fact, Erie Express is so confident in that happening, that he told me before the game that he has already made a tee time for next Saturday afternoon so that he doesn’t have to watch the carnage. I got a call from danh72 too. He hates Narduzzi so much,  he predicts a 4 win season.

JoeL: Well I know where I’ll be next Saturday morning. I’ll be in the Red 5A lot bright and early, setting up an epic tailgate with Lastrow, a.k.a., Fran the Franchise. This team is different. I’m going to channel my inner Ike and say we get on a roll and wind up winning 9 or 10 games this year.

(Editors note: Hi. Its me again, Reed. Don’t you people pay attention? Don’t you understand that we are never going to win nine or ten games under the Chris Bickell ’97 Head Football Coach Pat Narduzzi?  We are a crap program, recruiting two and three star players, playing in crap bowls until further notice. When will you people get that through your thick skulls?)

Big B: I’m starting to get on the bandwagon too Joe L. Did you see our receivers today? Addison, Mack and Stovall were terrific. Shocky threw a great block. Krull is a weapon that we have been missing for years. We have scored 92 points in two games. The receivers only had 2 drops today. What’s not to like?

“Panther” Fan: How about Heather, Narduzzi and Whipple to start? And just to be thorough, I’ll toss in our defensive coordinator, Bates. Our linebackers and secondary couldn’t cover anyone today, and treated tackling like it was an accident.

Big B: Whaddya say we just celebrate a hard earned victory here in Knoxville and worry about the rest of the season on Monday. We all invested a lot of time and money to come here for the weekend, and it was all worth it. For me, it was the best Pitt road trip since the Clemson upset. The Tennessee fans were fantastic, the Pitt fans turned out in droves, and a great weekend was had by all. 

Hail to Pitt!