What a day.
I'll freely admit the title's a bit misleading on this one. The day wasn't a total loss as Pitt picked up a pretty necessary 'get' for the football program, recruit Tyler Boyd. We'll have more on Boyd at some convenient point down the road, but he's a big time player and after the loss of Robert Foster, his commitment was a borderline necessity since the wide receiver position really needed a boost in recruiting. But on the field/court, Pitt had a pretty tough time of it on Saturday.
I'll preface this by being totally honest in that I missed a large chunk of both games. Doing a bit of running around this morning, I missed most of the second half of the Rutgers game and was at a gamewatch for the bowl game where I wasn't paying all that close attention. But that said, here are a few thoughts.
The basketball game against Rutgers was tough to take. Pitt got down early and recovering from a 15-point hole is always tough. The team actually got back to within two late in the second half, but it's one of those things where so much energy is spent trying to come back, it's hard to close those types of games out on the road.
Pitt dug itself the hole from really bad shooting. They ended up at under 40% and no one had all that impressive of a game, save for J.J. Moore who led the team with 14 points in 22 minutes off the bench and made 50% of his shots. Tray Woodall had 11 points and eight assists, but also shot only 3-11 in the game. Pitt got outrebounded by ten boards, but that was negated a bit by the fact that Rutgers had 17 turnovers to only nine for the Panthers. The thing that really got under my skin? 26 three-point attempts...26 of them, which is obviously far too many. Pitt shot only 30% from there and really settled for a lot of long-range shots.
This just isn't really the Pitt basketball we're used to seeing. The team isn't rebounding all that well, has shot poorly lately, and isn't playing all that consistent. They are shooting very well on the season, but that hasn't been the case in the first two Big East games of the season. This isn't the end of the world - Rutgers could be a decent little team this year and losing in the RAC by five isn't the worst imaginable thing that could have happened. But it's a game that you expect Pitt to win if they're supposed to do much of anything this year.
On the football front - well, crap.
I've said all week I expected Pitt to lose to Ole Miss, so that part of it wasn't surprising. But I didn't expect the Panthers to look so thoroughly inept the entire game and lose by three touchdowns. Yes, Ole Miss played a bear of a schedule and yes the game was a home game for them. But I really expected Pitt to put up a bit more of a fight.
The Panthers' biggest problem was that they could never get any momentum going. After they scored a touchdown to make it 14-7, Ole Miss broke a long kickoff return and scored a touchdown in a little over a minute. Pitt got a field goal with about two minutes left in the first half to make it 21-10, but the Rebels' ran their two-minute offense to perfection, and matched with a field goal of their own. Anytime Pitt did anything right, Ole Miss countered.
If the game were closer, one could reasonably argue that the two teams were pretty even, but the Rebels showed they were the better team. The home field advantage certainly helped, but if we're being fair, Pitt also had a bit of an advantage having played there the past three seasons and the week for them really should have been pretty similar.
The game also closes the book on the Tino Sunseri era. Sunseri had a great season, but was really lackluster in the game. He had two touchdowns, but also had an interception and completed only half of his passes. He was hardly the only reason for the team's loss, but he simply didn't play very well. For better or worse, Pitt will have a new quarterback next year. But regardless of what Pitt gets out of the position next year, the future there looks bright with both Chad Voytik and Tra'Von Chapman. One of those guys has to pan out (right?) and Pitt has some potential under center for the next four years.
One thing that really hurt Pitt in today's game was the loss of Ray Graham. Rushel Shell and Malcolm Crockett combined for 30 carries and had only 97 yards to show for it. Neither was all that impressive and if you're looking for something that could have made a bit of a difference, it would have been Graham. The sad thing was that Graham was actually on a bit of a roll lately, with over 500 yards rushing over his last five games, averaging about five yards per carry, with seven touchdowns. Throw in the Arthur Doakes suspension and the sure amount of disinterest from the Panthers and you had a recipe for disaster.
The good news? We still have a head coach.