There's an unmistakable fall chill in the air. The leaves are changing, the days graying, and I'm beginning to develop a constant craving for apple cider. This all means one thing: college football is just hitting its stride. The thrills of the season are only just beginning, and unfortunately the Pitt football program is nowhere to be found. After the offensive explosion against South Florida, Todd Graham's team fell flat in a sloppy loss to Rutgers. They fell even further against Utah. Now in a bye week, I'm feeling a bit down, a bit contemplative about the season so far. It's been a rocky one, to say the least.The offensive ineptitude has been the story of the year. One quarterback holds the ball too long, the other can't see over the offensive line. The line, if I can even call it that, has been a revolving door of inexperience and around Jordan Gibbs and Ryan Turnley. Pitt has allowed more sacks than any other team in the nation. The receivers have vanished. Mike Shanahan? Devin Street? Haven't heard those names over the Heinz Field speakers for a while.
The lone bright spot of the offense has been the phenomenal Ray Graham, the nation's leading rusher.
The defense has been solid since the Iowa collapse, after which Graham and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson made some adjustments and simplified the scheme. Against Utah, they put up seven sacks and 17 tackles for losses. Ejuan Price looks like he'll be devastating in a year or two, as does Todd Thomas. The secondary, inherently a weak spot for many teams, has held firm for Pitt. Unfortunately, the accomplishments of the defense have been completely overshadowed by the struggles of the offense. It's nearly impossible to say where this season goes when we emerge from the bye against UConn next Wednesday. Despite still being 1-1 in the Big East, I can't say I'm confident looking ahead to opponents like Geno Smith and Zach Collaros. Then again, the defense has done their part. Will the offense start doing theirs?
I think it's safe to deem 2011 a transition year for the program. A winning record and a bowl game are still possible, but that's not where the coach or fans ultimately want to be. I love Todd Graham, his bravado, and his cowboy swagger. I believe in the efficacy of his offense. What I don't believe is that we have the talent to execute it, because we don't. That's been obvious so far and likely will continue to be for the remaining five games, but so goes life. South Florida was our only glimpse of high-octane football up to this point, but boy, was it fun. That's what we have to look forward to in seasons to come.