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In case it wasn't completely clear during the first week, Pitt's in rebuilding mode this season. The Panthers came into the game as a popular upset pick over the unbeaten Cards and for about 29 minutes, looked like they were going to slip past Louisville.
And then at the end of the first half, Pitt lost it completely and it all went downhill from there.
With under a minute left in the second quarter, Pitt called for a timeout on 4th and 1 at the Louisville 42 instead of choosing to run the clock down to around 20 seconds. The Panthers didn't convert and Louisville quickly moved down the field to close the gap to 21-17 Pitt heading into the locker room. The Cards then quickly scored in the third quarter and Pitt didn't have a chance after that.
It was one of those games where we come away scratching our heads. Pitt played really well in the first half and were keeping it close with Louisville and seemingly had the momentum. So to see them simply fall apart in the third quarter was surprising and concerning. You can point some fingers again at the offensive line, who allowed sack after sack in the second half. The Cards are a good defensive team, but Pitt made it easy for them in the third quarter with poor blocking.
Something is clearly not right with Ray Graham. Maybe the knee really isn't as close to 100% as we initially thought, but with just six carries for 20 yards, you have to wonder what is going on here. Rushel Shell did just fine on his own with 18 carries for 96 yards and a TD.
Tino continued to have a solid season, even if the results aren't showing up in the win column. 28-37 for 287 yards and two TD passes. The line, as I said before, gave him little help in the second half, but he continues to play well and do what he needs to do for Pitt to win. I said this last week after the Syracuse game, but I wish Pitt could get one more season out of him because he's making clear, measurable progress as a passer. Who knows what he could have looked like now had Pitt hired Chryst a season ago?
Defensively, Pitt just couldn't stop Louisville when they needed to. The pass defense was blown up by Louisville's receivers and the secondary had a couple of missed tackles that could have kept the score closer. To be fair, Pitt had decent coverage most of the time, but the Cards WRs just made great plays. The run defense was better than it's been in Pitt's other losses - outside of the 59 TD run late in the game, Pitt was keeping Louisville at around 3.3 yards a carry. The MVP of the day was clearly Todd Thomas, who was everywhere on the field making plays, including a punt block (where Louisville had perhaps the worst protection I've ever seen).
I know it's difficult now to see Pitt struggle - I don't like it anymore than you guys do. But I am confident in Chryst and his system. It can work in Pittsburgh. But Pitt's been in a prolonged dumpster fire for the past two seasons with two blown recruiting classes and all the head coaches. It's going to take time.