Not much more to add to the title, but I'm sure this post will go on for quite a while.
Had you told me that Tino Sunseri would play pretty well and Pitt would win the turnover battle, I would have expected a win. During the game, they mentioned that Pitt wins 89% of its games where they win the turnover battle. I would have figured the team would hold serve.
Problem is, the team just gave up too many big plays and didn't make enough of their own. For starters, I'm not entirely sure who kidnapped Frank Cignetti and replaced him with Matt Cavanaugh in the first half, but Pitt's offense played about as unimaginative as they possibly could. I understand the need to simplify things for Tino Sunseri's first start. And frankly, I would have done the same thing. But I expected the team to throw a few more passes that were, you know, longer than five yards. Part of the problem was that even though the offensive line started off okay, they got progressively worse and Sunseri had less time to throw. But Pitt was stuck in some sort of time-warp, Johnny Majors 1990s playcalling funk. I saw very little creativity and it seemed the offense was dumbed down too much.
And then there's the secondary. Oh, boy.
What a disaster from basically start to finish. Jarred Holley managed to get a key interception in the end zone to keep the game close before the half, but other than that, it was a complete train wreck. All the talk in camp was that the unit should be markedly better than last year's. Maybe it was just me, but I didn't see it. Sophomore QB Jordan Wynn went for nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs. Fellow soph DeVonte Christopher, who had a grand total of two catches last season looked like Randy Moss on steroids. Eight catches for 155 yards? Jerry Rice thinks that's a career day.
You might be thinking to yourself, "Well, self - at least they shut down the main guy instead."
The defense also gave up five catches and 87 yards to big-play guy, Jereme Brooks. Worse, however, was the number of big passes: 19 yard TD, 24 yards, 32 yards, 46 yards, and then the 61 yard TD bomb.
One thing that stuck out at me in looking at the play-by-play
was the progression of those plays. That's the exact order in which they happened. Yes, there were shorter passes in between, but as the game went on, the secondary got worse, giving up progressively bigger plays.
The thing that killed the team more than anything was getting inside the ten-yard on successive possessions in the 3rd and 4th quarters and only getting six points out of it. If Pitt scores a TD on one of those, they possibly win. Who knows how the game plays out, but they would have had a good look at it. You can't, can't, can't, can't, can't, can't, can't, CAN'T get that close and come away with FGs. Period. Heck, on one of the possessions, they had a first and goal from the four. FROM THE FOUR.
Another killer was obviously the penalties. Too many times the team had drives stalled because of penalties. 12-75 was simply too many. But, it's the opener, so you hope it gets better from here.
Moving to the offensive side of the ball, Pitt's stars were really held in check. Dion Lewis had not only a pedestrian night, but a below average one of only 75 yards on 25 carries. The offensive line really didn't help that and Utah was stacking guys at the line giving him virtually no chance to succeed. He'll be fine. Jon Baldwin was virtually non-existent early on and only made an impact late in the game when secondary coverage broke down, leaving him wide open for the long TD catch.
And I heard the comment about Ray Graham not playing really affecting the team. I don't know. Yes, he's a change of pace back, but if Lewis had that much trouble finding room to run, I think Graham would have fallen into the same problems. Utah just stacked the box and made running extremely difficult.
A bright spot for me was the play of Tino. He struggled a little early, but I don't place any blame on him. A few of his early passes were off, but he was under pressure as the first half went on and the playbook was really limited. He avoided mistakes until the final, extremely-costly, interception and looked like a leader out there. I really think he's going to be good and I think the QB position is in good hands for the next few years. He was an assassin late in the game, and made two great throws to Baldwin on that last TD drive. He came right back and got Pitt within in field goal ranging making another great throw to Mike Shanahan. It was only one game, but he's looking like he can play.
And the good news is that this doesn't severely damage Pitt's season. All of the silly talk about the team going undefeated and winning a national championship can officially stop now. If this team goes 9-3 and wins the Big East, mission accomplished. The key thing to remember is that things get easier from here. Miami and WVU will be difficult but Pitt will at least have the luxury of playing at home. This is one of Pitt's toughest games on the schedule and the team will get better as the season moves on.
Still, it was a bit of a disappointment to see Pitt lose this one.