During the drive home from the game, I kept thinking about Pitt's insistence that they could play better
There really are no words to describe this win. I never got to an official prediction this week, but told my wife on the way that I was going with 27-17 in favor of Pitt. I expected Pitt to win a hard fought game, but wouldn't have been all that shocked if they weren't able to get to that 7-1 mark, which has eluded them for nearly 30 years. This game was like the 'alternate universe' game of the Rutgers debacle last year. I was as incredulous of this one as I was that one.
Here's what stood out to me from the game:
- I was kind of surprised at the attendance for the game. We got over to the North Shore for lunch around 10:30 and the lots were only about half full. The announced crowd was 50,000, but that was with the presold tickets. Bob Smizik said the crowd actually there was about 40,000 and I'd tend to agree with that.
- Look what Pitt can accomplish if they play mistake-free football. Yes, Stull had an interception, but Pitt was comfortably ahead at that point. No fumbles either and only two penalties for 20 yards. And it wasn't just that they avoided mistakes - they moved the ball effectively all game, not punting even once. Here were Pitt's drives: TD, TD, TD, FG, TD, INT, FG, TD, and two turnover on downs as they were running out the clock. 7 of 8 of their drives were scoring drives. It would have been hard for ANYBODY to beat Pitt today. They were that good. How good? Well, I can't recall when Pitt played this well of an all-around game vs. a good opponent.
- How complete of a game did they play? The biggest negative was probably that Dion Lewis 'only' had 111 yards because he only played three quarters. It took 1 1/2 years, but Jonathan Baldwin finally had the breakout game that made you say 'WOW.' Yes, he's had some excellent games in the past, but 6 catches for 144 yards is an unbelievable performance and is his highest total at Pitt.
- South Florida looked downright awful. Their running game was non-existent and their passing game was even worse (90 yards passing, three INTs, and a TD with 10 seconds left in the game). One thing I will say - that team has some great athletes. Yes, they could not stop Pitt from moving the ball. But on some plays, their defenders got to the line so quickly. That team has a lot of speed on defense.
- I hope the few remaining people (yes, they are still there) who have questioned Bill Stull were watching today's game when Tino Sunseri missed two wide open throws (including one that should have been a TD). And those throws were not in pressure situations either.
- Nice to see Dan Hutchins get back on track, making both of his field goals today after his crucial miss in the Rutgers game last week.
- I was a little surprised to see Chris Burns come in at running back late in the game. There was a mention in the PG a while back that said he was changing positions.
- Finally, and I'm still a little hesitant to say this because I've not always been in this guy's corner - Dave Wannstedt may be the coach for this team. A caller to the local post-game show hit the nail on the head. He's an excellent recruiter and the coaching has gotten considerably better. And don't forget, last season was the first one in which his recruited players were seniors. How'd that work out? 9-4. This year so far? 7-1. Pitt is 16-4 in their last 20 games and Wannstedt has really developed some good players. Hiring Cignetti looks to have been a good move. Oh, and by the way, they have another very good recruiting class coming in next year. I like to call a spade a spade and the fact of the matter is that he's done as good a job as you can really ask for. As recently as the Sun Bowl, I wasn't so sure about him. But barring a total collapse, Pitt is on their way to having another very good season and has a pretty good shot at getting to 10 wins.
Depending on who loses, with a bye week and a win against Syracuse, Pitt could be knocking on the door of the top 10 heading into the Notre Dame game.