CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 06: Ralph David Abernathy IV #1 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs for a touchdown during the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Nippert Stadium on September 6, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Once again, Pitt's opponent moved the ball with ease while the Panthers couldn't even keep the quarterback upright.
Once again, the defense was just dreadful, giving the inexperienced Bearcats offense huge play after huge play.
Once again, the offense couldn't produce anything remotely resembling a passing attack, allowing Cincinnati to stack the box against Ray Graham.
Once again, Pitt loses in spectacular fashion.
Cincinnati sacked Tino Sunseri six times on the night on their way to a 34-10 beat-down that wasn't even as close as a 24 point win implies. Cincinnati was far, far superior to Pitt on both sides of the ball and it showed, as Pitt's first possession was a quick three-and-out followed by George Winn taking Cincinnati's the first play of the game up the middle for an untouched 58-yard touchdown.
I can't say that things got worse from there - mostly because that's about as bad as they can get - but they sure didn't get any better.
Perhaps the most infamous disaster of last night - and there are several to pick from - will be the last play before the half. With five seconds on the clock and Pitt with first-and-goal from the one, Chryst elected to get a play in and then kick the field goal. It was a gutsy call made easier by Pitt's inability to move the ball or stop Cincinnati from doing the same. The problem was that they never got to the field goal:
Sunseri dropped back to pass, waited too long and threw incomplete to Mike Shanahan through the back of the end zone. The hesitation caused the clock to expire.
"We didn’t do a great job, myself included," Chryst said. "I thought we had time to get two plays, had a chance to communicate that. Tino thought he could get something on that play, and obviously, he didn’t do it.
"I thought we wasted some time the play before, before we snapped it. Obviously, we weren’t prepared for that situation as we should have been. That one’s on me."
Nope. That one's squarely on Sunseri. Tino Sunseri is now in his third year as a starter. He's started 28 games now. I understand that his development may have been hindered by the whole three-systems-in-three-years thing, but this is basic football clock management. He didn't throw an incompletion to Shanahan - he threw the ball away through the goalposts. If he had just thrown the ball into the ground, Pitt would have had the chance to kick a field goal at least get something on the board. Instead, Pitt marches up to its own goal-line and walks to locker room with nothing.
Worries about rushing the quarterback? Forget about it. The Bearcats got to Pitt’s Tino Sunseri six times. How to replace Isaiah Pead? Look no further than Winn and Abernathy. Who’s going to fill middle linebacker JK Schaffer’s shoes? Greg Blair picked off a pass in the end zone to snuff out a Pitt scoring drive.
Yes, it was only one game, as Jones said afterwards, but it couldn’t have gone any better for the Bearcats, beginning with the crowd, complete with Reds and Bengals players watching from the sidelines.
"This is what it’s about," Jones said. "This is what a hometown crowd is supposed to be."
So UC gets to keep the River City Rivalry trophy forever, having won four of the last five meetings between the two schools, while Pitt has to get through 10 more games before limping off to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Bright side: Pitt doesn't have to pay to keep the River City Trophy in storage somewhere.
Rushel Shell debuted for the Panthers and looked good enough, but blew a critical blocking assignment that result in Sunseri being absolutely leveled on his blind-side. Shane Gordon showed signs of life on the defense, but defensive end TJ Clemmings was just terrible in his first start. Clemmings broke into the backfield and nearly tackled running back Ralph David Abernathy for an impressive loss, but instead failed to complete his tackle and Abernathy broke free and took off for a first down.
Through two games, Pitt's defense has yet to record a take-aways and has gotten to the quarterback exactly one time. They've given up 200 rushing yards two games in a row and allowing their two opponents an average of 416 total yards. The offense is -4 in turnovers and on pace to once again lead the FBS in sacks allowed. Two of Pitt's three touchdowns this season have come in the fourth quarter when the team was already down by multiple scores. Pitt has yet to have a lead for a single second of the season.
There's still 10 games to go, but we're already getting perilously close to Pitt's season effectively being over. It's tough to say how good Cincinnati really is, but Pitt made them look really, really, really good. With two loses already - in games Pitt was never even really in - the Panthers still have to face impressive looking squads in #23 Louisville, #22 Notre Dame and #15 Virginia Tech. It's tough to see where the four wins will come from this season, let alone the six wins needed to send Pitt back to Birmingham.
Sorry, I couldn't resist.