Pitt Vs. West Virginia: Recapping The Backyard Brawl

I went over a lot of my feelings in the comments thread and Greg's already given his thoughts. Still, I wanted to mention a few things from the Brawl from my perspective.

For starters, I missed much of the first quarter in between trying to make arrangements to go out with some long lost friends and see the game. And when I did get to my intended target, I didn't have the convenience of audio, so there's that. And in between sipping on some halfway decent wine and talking about just how great CM Punk is, I probably missed a good chunk of it.

But a few things did stick out to me.

As I wrote in the comments last night, this was a Pitt performance through and through: Team excels and looks like they're in good shape to win the game, said team stalls offensively and cannot get anything going, team falls apart at end and loses a close game.

West Virginia did everything they could to win the game ... and Pitt still refused to take it. Those two punt return fumbles would kill almost any team and I'm still trying to figure out how Pitt didn't come up with a W under those circumstances. The way the game was going screamed that Pitt was going to come out on top to me.

That said, when Pitt had to settle for two field goals after they got inside West Virginia's 15-yard line, I wasn't too encouraged. As I wrote last night in one of the comment threads, I understood where Graham was coming from both times. Pitt's lead was pushed to more than a score on the first one, and the second gave them a 13-point lead. Hard to complain about that in Morgantown. But when they were up by six after a WVU TD, I started to get nervous. A one-point loss was looking like it was how it was going to end, even with Pitt still up ... and I said as much here.

One thing I will complain about, though, was the extremely vanilla offensive playcalling at times.

 

Again, guy sitting in a restaurant/bar trying to watch on a TV and missing plays ... keep that in mind. But there was one occasion where Pitt tried to run directly up the middle on a 3rd down when WVU desperately needed a stop. Pitt's running game was solid, but unspectacular most of the night. And I seem to remember the 'up the middle' attempts a few times. That's not imaginative, it's not creative, and without your best running back, it's not all that smart.

I'm a Wannstedt fan - sue me. Sure, he wasn't perfect and we could argue until we're blue in the face if he was the guy to get Pitt over the hump. But if Todd Graham was brought in because of his creativity on offense, then I want to see that. I feel like we did a bit this season, but all in all, it's been a lackluster display. Now, we can't blame that on Graham fully - in fact, he actually needs to be complimented for dumbing the offense down a bit when Pitt couldn't grasp it. But what I'm saying is that in the biggest game, on the biggest stage, runs up the middle in those situations aren't cutting it.

Okay, as has been the case most of the time this season, we're talking about Tino. Again.

Tino was bad - there's no other way to say it. Not three-interception boo-bird bad, but bad nonetheless. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he simply refuses to throw the ball away. It was borderline annoying when it first happened earlier this season, but 11 games it, it's mind-numbingly painful. I was literally on the verge of screaming in a restaurant (even as I was the only guy there clearly watching the game) on those final few sacks, wondering what he was thinking.

Why doesn't he throw the ball? Your guess is as good as mine. One time when he did late in the game, he got called for intentional grounding, so maybe that's in the back of his mind. But to take ten sacks last night was entirely inexcusable. He's so frustrating to watch because there are times when he looks like he knows what he's doing. He'll read the defense well, and dump it off or scramble for a big gain. And then there are times when he simply plays statue.

The problem for Pitt is that unless Graham decides that moving Anthony Gonzalez away from quarterback wasn't such a great idea, Sunseri could very well be under center again. If Mark Myers hasn't played by now, there's no reason to think he's going to be ready. And the guy who beat him out, Trey Anderson, did nothing with the chances he had earlier this season.

Then there's Chad Voytik, obviously. But as I've said repeatedly, true freshman playing in a BCS AQ conference - that's a lot to ask.

Look, anyone saying the Todd Graham experiment has failed just isn't paying attention. He's got to have more time. But I'll say this - 6-6 (or even 5-7) isn't what I had in mind in his first season with eight home games on the schedule playing in a weak conference (that's turned out even weaker than we first envisioned). Graham probably will (and definitely should) get three seasons to show what he can do. But if Pitt has another six win season next year, the criticism will come and could put Graham in a do or die situation in 2013.

As we saw with the offense this year, it's complicated. He wanted the team to be able to digest about 65% of it and only the team knows about how much of it they've got down. But things are getting harder from here. The ACC is not a world-beaters football conference, but it is definitely a step up from the Big East. The fact that Pitt couldn't win at least eight regular season games was disappointing. The fact that they couldn't seven is ugly.

I think we saw this year that the team in this system has a long way to go.

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