For the past several weeks, we've been trying to value the 2012 Pitt Panthers. Who would add value to the team? Which weaknesses would cause the team to lose some value? All questions we've been exploring. After much anticipation, Paul Chryst's squad finally had its initial public offering (IPO) on Saturday and, well...
Facebook, anyone? What was once promising and confident is now shaken and questionable. Whether the team can recover is yet to be seen (and will be largely told, I believe, on Thursday night vs. Cincy). So, with the YSU nightmare in the books, who's stock is on the rise and who's stock is falling? Find out after the jump.
Ray Graham is back and appears to be healthy. That's probably the best news to come out of Saturday's fiasco for Pitt fans. Although he only carried 14 times and had a costly fumble, Graham averaged 5.1 yards per carry and experienced real game speed for the first time in almost a year.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst said running back Ray Graham crossed "a big hurdle," with 14 carries for 71 yards against Youngstown State. "He trusted himself, and the best thing was his confidence grew in what he was doing."
Chryst took some responsibility for Graham's fumble, citing the lack of hits he took in camp. While that doesn't change the fact that it was a huge blow to Pitt's momentum, with Graham getting back up to speed, hopefully mistakes like that won't happen again. Presumably, he'll start against the Bearcats on Thursday. Seeing our star back on the field, despite the final score, was a huge boon to the year's expectations.
Bear (downward trending) - The Defense
Where to begin? Pathetic. Putrid. Nonexistent. Weak. Soft. Horrible. The negative adjectives I've read to describe Pitt's defensive performance are countless. The defense let YSU quarterback Kurt Hess move his offense down the field at will and never created any disturbance. The defense's startling inability to stop the Penguins was the troubling reason for Pitt's defeat.
Senior free safety Andrew Taglianetti used the phrases "shot in the mouth" and "learning lesson" to describe the humbling defeat to an FCS team that lost four games in the Missouri Valley Conference a year ago.
"This is where older guys like me have to step up and say, ‘This is a bad game. It can’t happen again,’" he said.
Unfortunately, it may happen again as the young defense fights through some growing pains. While the talent is there, eight defensive starters (DE Bryan Murphy, DE Jack Lippert, DT KK Mosley-Smith, LB Eric Williams, LB Nicholas Grigsby, CB Lafayette Pitts, CB Cullen Christian, and S Ray Vinopal) are all starting for the first time. That's a lot of new faces.
This is probably going to be a group that gets better over the course of the season, but that doesn't necessarily bode well for the Panthers in the games immediately ahead.