While the results haven't been favorable, this Panther team is showing progress under Paul Chryst.
This weekend's triple-overtime thriller at Notre Dame was classic Pitt. As fans we were once again duped into believing this outcome may be different. For three quarters, the Panthers played like, well...not like the Panthers we know. In the fourth quarter and subsequent overtimes, the Pitt team we all know and love reared its ugly and disappointing head. Yes, it sucked. Our hearts were ripped out and shown to us once again. But this time I felt a little different.
I'll explain a bit as to why I felt less crushed about this Pitt loss. The Panthers maintained the essence of a typical "Pitt loss" (which should probably be trademarked, because nobody does it like the Panthers). A "Pitt loss" involves getting up early on the opponent, playing with more swagger, physicality and confidence exhibited in previous games, and then painfully imploding. This implosion usually includes poor snaps, sacks, stupid playcalling, and dropped snaps. Ok, so I'm not making a good case so far. Here's where we can take some positives:
- Tino Sunseri: The senior signal-caller has been great in his final season as a starter (although the "Old Tino" appeared in the final drives at South Bend). Tino has shown more progress under this staff than under both Graham and Wannstedt. If Chryst and company can develop Tino into a reliable quarterback, imagine what they can do with Chad Voytik, Tom Savage, Chandler Kincade, etc.
- Offensive Line Play: Let's face it, Pitt's line is not Wisconsin's. It's not Notre Dame's. But the line play has improved over the season even with injuries and subpar talent. A few years of coaching and solid recruiting and the O-line could be the anchor of Pitt's offense.
- Defensive Backs: Between K'waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts, the Panthers have a pretty talented corner duo. However, the group as a whole has really improved, especially after being a weak link in past years (especially under Wannstedt, in my opinion).
- Attitude: I mentioned this on twitter (@The_Incline), but I really enjoyed the first three quarters of Pitt's performance against Notre Dame. The same can be said for the win over Virginia Tech. They didn't look like a typical Pitt team. They played with confidence and assurance. They finally looked like a team ready to win. That changed of course, but this could turn out to be a great teaching moment for Paul Chryst (he could also practice some of his game management skills).