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And just like that, Pitt's momentum is lost.
It was fun for a while. After a terrible loss to Youngstown State and an embarrassing performance at Cincinnati, Pitt did what they do best and showed us a glimpse of their potential. There was the oh-so-Pitt-like win over Virginia Tech, beating a quality team. There was even the rare blowout over Gardner-Webb.
Things were looking up. Even our shiny, fun Fan Confidence poll showed you believed. And you should have. Pitt was playing well and instead of feeling like we had a dud on our hands, it just seemed that the Panthers needed some time in a feeling out process with new head coach Paul Chryst.
When the Louisville kickoff time was announced this week, we were outraged. Why? Because it was supposed to be a huge game, of course. We even made a preemptive strike, telling you that you should go. Pitt would get by Syracuse and begin their march to try to come back and win the Big East.
Fun while it lasted, peeps.
The 14-13 loss to Syracuse was, in a word, a joke. You thought Youngstown State and Cincinnati were bad? This was a whole 'nother level. Pitt had this game won if they wanted it. I mean if they really wanted it. After giving up an early touchdown on Syracuse's first drive, the defense settled down to pitch a shutout - the rest of the way. greg Maddux couldn't have done a finer job. So when it comes to sitting someone down in the corner, it's got to be the offense.
If you missed the game, here's everything you need to know. Twice, Pitt was in field goal range in the fourth quarter. On the first, with Pitt on the Syracuse 29-yard line, the Panthers took a false start penalty and then a sack. Somehow, that wasn't enough for the Panthers as they came back on the very next drive and moved the ball down to the Syracuse 17. The 17. What should have been a chip shot field goal even I was able to routinely make (seriously, there was a time in high school when I could kick 35-yarders fairly accurately ... ask my gym teacher) was taken away as Tino Sunseri took an intentional grounding penalty and then a sack.
Now, I'm all for giving credit where it's due, but in all honesty, even the most ardent Syracuse supporters would know that the team did absolutely nothing in the second half to win the game. Pitt was able to move the ball down the field several times (in addition to those two drives, Pitt moved the ball to the Syracuse 10-yard line on a separate occasion where they were forced to kick a field goal). The Orange also did nothing offensively after that first drive and a second where Nassib was picked off in the end zone, and the game was really there for the taking for Pitt.
This is really as disappointing as it gets. Coaches never like to point to a single unit, but the blame for this one so clearly rests with the offense on this one that Paul Chryst would literally have to blush if he said otherwise in his post-game press conference for fear of sounding ridiculous. To score 13 points on a team that's given up 40+ points twice this year and also allowed even Stony Brook to score 17 points is nothing short of embarrassing and is flat out inexcusable.
Again, I fear it all comes back to discipline. Not only were penalties an issue yet again (there were only six for 35 yards, but they were big penalties coming at crucial times), but this team really has no sense of direction when it comes to knowing how to act in certain situations. Pitt is really farther away than a lot of us feared and it's looking like the team more resembles what we saw in their first two games than in the VT/Gardner-Webb games.
Instead of making their case to get back into the Big East race, the Panthers fumbled that away ... something we've seen far too often.