Well, that was fun. Or not. Pitt lost to Virginia Tech on the road today 19-9 and there really wasn't much to celebrate about the game.
I made this point earlier in the week, but the Panthers' offense, while getting a lot of credit this year, hasn't played particularly well when facing good defenses. Against Florida State and Virginia, the running game in particular, has been non-existent and that was again the case today. Isaac Bennett led the way with 31 yards on seven carries after James Conner went down with an injury early and didn't return. Altogether, the team had only 52 yards on the ground and only 23 if you account for Tom Savage's sacks.
About those sacks, too - wow. Pitt's offensive line that looked a bit better than last year to me was an utter train wreck today. Savage was sacked eight times and more often than not, it's because he had approximately a full second before defenders were in the backfield. Adam Bisnowaty looked particularly bad, being beaten repeatedly, but the whole line was a mess.
Savage doesn't escape the blame entirely, though, either. He completed less than half of his passes threw for fewer than 200 yards, and was wildly inaccurate on a few balls. But in the grand scheme of things, it's hard to get on him too much when the line was that bad. Fact is that even when he had time to throw, he didn't look all that comfortable behind that line and really, who can blame him?
The flipside was the play of Aaron Donald on defense. I won't profess to say I've watched a lot of defensive lines this year around the country, but Donald simply has to be a candidate for First Team All-American honors. He had two more sacks today, disrupted the Hokies offense and had a big stop near the end of the game to keep Virginia Tech out of the end zone. Just made a lot of big plays today and the number of sacks he gets playing on the interior of the line is unreal.
On an ancillary note, the Panthers didn't catch any breaks from the refs, either. It's hardly the reason they lost, so stop with that. But the early call against Lafayette Pitts for hitting a guy out of bounds was pathetic and the running into the kicker call at the end of the game was a bit ridiculous. Both were unreal considering the blatant helmet to helmet hit Devin Street took on a long pass play in the fourth quarter that wasn't called.
That play on Street will be something to watch, too. It was clearly a helmet to helmet hit and he took a long time to get up. Saying he suffered a concussion would be jumping the gun, but man, I hope he's not out for any length of time.
The coaching was yet another thing to be frustrated with in this game. The defensive playcalling was far too soft in much of the game and the offensive playcalling was stale, unimaginative, and reeked of no real planning. I said earlier that Pitt needed to do things to disrupt the Hokies' defense. Particularly, throwing some short screen passes, getting players space in the open field, etc. The Panthers, though, did the exact opposite, often running the ball straight up the middle and looking for bigger pass plays that led to some sacks. Really disappointed in what we got out of the coaches in this one.
In the end, the problem was that the Panthers needed to get some turnovers to win the game with the offense playing so poorly and that didn't happen. Result, a fairly close, but fully uninspiring loss.
All in all, though, here's the thing. Pitt is still 3-2 at this point and looking at the schedule before the season, most of us would have expected that. Pitt hasn't beaten either of the two big heavyweights on their schedule, but they've taken care of business against the other teams. The game wasn't pleasant to watch, but hardly the end of the season.