Despite hot start, Pitt stumbles through 41-13 blowout

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

It was good for a half, anyway. Right? Well, technically, it was only good for about a half of a half.

Come on, admit it. You felt a glimmer of hope when Pitt promptly marched down the field on their opening drive, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. It was impossible not to, if you were in the stadium. The opening montage had been shown, there was some weird ACC tribute where flags of opposing schools were marched out, and hey, you probably were full of ribs from the rib fest outside of the stadium. Things were good - life was good.

You can never truly point to one play (or even a few plays, for that matter) and say that's what cost a team a particular game. But Tom Savage's interception on the next drive didn't help the upset cause. Having just held the Seminoles to a punt, Pitt had the ball back and a 7-0 lead. Marching towards midfield, though, Savage threw an ill-advised interception and a mere two plays later, Florida State cashed in a touchdown.

Well, then.

On the night Savage was as expected - a little good and a little bad. He's been hailed by so many Pitt fans as a potential savior while Tino Sunseri's been thrown under the bus. But the fact is that with two picks, Savage already has nearly as many interceptions as Sunseri had all last season. His 53% completion percentage wasn't impressive and neither were the 7.2 yards per completion, strengthened by a late, meaningless 52-yard completion to Devin Street.

Now, I'm not ready to throw Savage under the bus, mind you. He was playing in his first game in three years and had to do it against one of the top defenses in the country. Savage should and will get more opportunities. But as a whole tonight, he was pretty unimpressive.

Part of the problem for him was that the offensive line was subpar. Not only that, but Pitt failed to pick up most of the corner blitzes thrown their way and Savage was hurried quite a few times. We thought tackle could be a concern and freshman Adam Bisnowaty was practically sleepwalking on one play where Florida State ended up in the backfield nearly immediately. Savage had time on occasion, but also was under a good deal of pressure.

The big takeaway was just that Florida State was simply bigger, faster, and better than the Panthers (Side note: And ICYMI, check out Bud's comments on our recap from last night. Bud is the Editor over at Tomahawk Nation and was able to speak effectively to the talent advantage vs. our own frustrations about Pitt's coaching from last night's game). Their offensive line not only gave quarterback Jameis Winston (more on him in a bit) as much time as he wanted to throw, but go back and watch some of the running plays. Their line simply pushed Pitt's defenders any which way they pleased and opened up huge holes for the backs.

And about Winston ... holy crap. I expected he could play well against Pitt, but I really expected at least a few mistakes. Maybe not even turnovers, but just, rookie errors. 25-27, 356 yards, and four touchdowns later, I'm still waiting for one - just one. How he does against better defenses is anybody's guess, but he has all the tools, folks.

On the flipside, Pitt's defense was, in a word, abysmal. I'm still trying to pick out bright spots here. The defensive line didn't get pressure, the linebackers were confused in pass coverage, and for some unknown reason, the cornerbacks were repeatedly playing 5-7 yards off of receivers, despite Winston's continued ability to find receivers wide open. Oh yeah, and everyone missed tackles. They just had a very, very difficult time matching the talent that Florida State had on the field.

You can blame any number of players on that. Aaron Donald and Bam Bradley (among others everyone) flubbed tackles. Badly. The defense didn't force one turnover. The secondary we've hyped so much gave up nearly 400 yards in the air due to laying back in coverage. Florida State's running backs averaged 4.6 yards per carry. But the finger-pointing is going to start with defensive coordinator Matt House on this one. The team just wasn't ready to play and talent disadvantage or not, there's no reason that any freshman quarterback should complete 25 of 27 passes in a road night game that also happens to be his in his debut. That speaks to the inability to make reasonable adjustments and all of the questions about his hire earlier this year are going to increase exponentially this week. It also speaks to Pitt's clear lack of talent in comparison and no real way to slow down the Seminoles' offense. It's on both the players and House, but House will take the brunt of it since his hire was so questionable to begin with.

Again, like Savage, we've got to consider the quality of the opponent. But House and the defense simply have to do better.

A big bright spot for me was the play of the freshmen on offense. Tyler Boyd had a monster game with 151 all purpose yards and he'll be a star for the Panthers. James Conner looked very good to me and Chris Blewitt at kicker is only 2-2, but looks comfortable out there. Several positives there.

Look, let's not paint this any other way - it was a disaster. I didn't think Pitt would win but like most of you, hoped they would keep it close. That didn't happen and while they may not be as bad as the score indicated, they're nowhere near the elite teams in the conference. This was a measuring stick, but in actuality, a poor one. We've figured that Pitt wasn't the best team in the ACC and all this game really did was prove that. But as far as beating teams like North Carolina, Georgia Tech, etc., we've got no idea what this team is capable of.

Also, consider that it's a long season. This doesn't mean you should give up on the team or even that they can't be over .500 this year. Pitt has some winnable games coming up in New Mexico, Duke, and Virginia. Assuming Pitt will be 3-1 after those games would be foolish. However, it's not out of the question and we'll know a lot more about this team after those contests.

Patience, my young Padawans.

Padawans learn the ways of the light saber in the USA - no comment (via nocommenttv)

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and manager/editor of Cardiac Hill @AnsonWhaley

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