Averting Disaster

Okay, so would it really have qualified as a disaster if Pitt lost? If they had been thoroughly outplayed, I would say maybe not. But Pitt really was the better team on the field today. Let's start by going over my keys for the game:

1. UCONN really didn't seem all that bothered in their first true road test until Pitt began their comeback. When Pitt got behind by 15, the defense really shut UCONN down the rest of the game.

2. The carries weren't split all that equally between Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. I was kind of surprised by that given that both backs had the same YPC (6.6) and during the pre-game chat with Dave Wannstedt, he basically said we'd be seeing a healthy dose of Graham. Lewis carried 24 times and Graham 8. However, the result was just fine as they racked up 200+ yards. Lewis had another huge game with 158 yards and could have had more if one of his long runs (about 50-60 yards) weren't wiped out by a penalty. Part of me thinks that Lewis had the bulk of the carries after Pitt got behind because Wannstedt was afraid Graham would turn the ball over. Plus, Lewis had shown the ability to break longer runs (even though many observers said the opposite during training camp).

3. Bill Stull did indeed have some slip-ups in this game. But he really bounced back nicely to make some nice passes, including the key 2-point conversion. The two picks were really bad and people in my section were calling for Tino Sunseri, which would have been the wrong move. His deep ball has been significantly improved and he had another nice one to Dickerson late in the game for a TD.

4. Pitt was able to get to the quarterback while UCONN could not. The official stats aren't out yet, but Pitt had two forced fumbles (which I think were both fumbled by UCONN's QB). They had several hurries and got to the QB a lot. UCONN conversely pressured Stull very little.

5. Dan Hutchins did in fact get to kick a field goal - three in fact. A lot of people sitting around me were calling for Pitt to go for it early in the game when Pitt kicked their first field goal, a 42-yarder. I was actually glad to see them kick it. Hutchins to that point had only one field goal on the year and it was under 30 yards. It was good to see him get in there in a somewhat pressure situation to get Pitt on the board. I also think Wannstedt didn't want to come away with nothing early in the game as Pitt did in the Louisville game when they went for it on 4th and 5.
EDIT: Hutchins had four field goals coming in, not one. I incorrectly read a stats page that said he had four coming in as four after this game. It was still nice to see as it was his only field goal of more than 40 yards this season.

6. The secondary looked decent, I suppose. There was of course the 79-yarder and UCONN only ended up with 197 yards passing. But there was a lot of short to mid-range passes where Pitt just wasn't playing close enough to the receivers. They did make some nice plays, but weren't lights out. It seems like we might have to expect the big pass play will be there every game, but they were lights out when Pitt began the comeback.

7. Don't remember how many times Jonathan Baldwin was targeted deep. They seemed to focus on the little screens again, which did okay. Baldwin ended up with 8 passes and 104 yards - I'd say probably 3-4 of those catches were of the screen variety. No long catches, but a solid day he was for him. Receivers have a hard time winning the award, but I think he could be considered a long-shot for the Heisman next year if they can manage to get him the ball.

Other things about the game:

- Pitt had serious red zone issues - one interception, and twice when they got inside the five, they had to settle for chip shot field goals. You've got to capitalize there. People, including myself, have wondered why they don't go to the fade more often, but if you saw Stull's throw today, that should answer the questions. For some reason, they just have a hard time connecting on that pass - it might be best to let it go.

- That last drive had me nervous. Particularly when they got down to 3rd and 1 and tried a QB sneak. I would have given Hynoski the ball again, but it worked out. With Stull having the ball, I was afraid of a fumble.

- For the first time this year, I was seriously questioning a lot of the offensive playcalling. The fade to Baldwin on 3rd down, too many rushing plays on 2nd down leaving them a lot of 3rd downs (Pitt had 15 compared to UCONN's 9), the QB sneak near the end of the game when we just needed to hold onto the ball. Again, it worked out but there were a lot of calls I didn't agree with.

- I didn't see Nate Bynam's personal foul on Lewis' long run, but man, what a killer. Not sure if it was hands to the face or whatever, but even from my seats in the uppers, you could see Wannstedt was not happy. You can only say it so many times without it getting old, but these penalties have to stop.

- Stull could easily have had three picks today - he went to throw the ball away on an attempt, throwing it at a defender's foot, but left it a little high.

- I actually saw a decent amount of people leaving after Stull's 2nd pick to give Pitt a 15 point deficit. A bit early considering it was still the 3rd quarter.

A good win for Pitt. This got them to 2-0 in the conference and they showed they can come back and win against a good team. Next week's game against Rutgers on the road will be another test.

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