Every time I look back at this game, it's still bad. The harder I try to find something positive to take away from it, the more negatives I find.
As nauseating as it is, let's take a look at the Panthers from Saturday's game.
Offense: I plan to write a post about this later, but in short I think we as fans expected too much of this team from the get go, which makes efforts like this even more painful to watch. We heard high-octane offense and some, myself included, believed and hoped that the change would be immediate and this team would pick up the new system and make it work. After two games, it's become more and more apparent that the change is going to take a while to complete the transition from Wanny to Graham.
What worked was the running game, as usual. Ray Graham had a dropoff from his 201 yard performance against Buffalo. He rushed for 121 yards on 28 carries, a 4.3 YPC. He also had three scores. As of Week 2, Graham is the nation's leading rusher at 322 yards and tied for most TDs at six. Zach Brown saw more action this week, getting eight carries for 22 yards and a TD.
The passing game, like last week, had its good moments. Unfortunately for Pitt, they weren't consistent enough. Tino went 21 of 35 for 224 yards, no TDs, and two picks. Now, we can debate whether or not Anderson went in because coaches had enough of Tino's poor play or whether they were intending on putting Anderson in anyways, but we did get to see the backup get some playing time - and that's a good thing. He didn't do that badly, going 5-7 for 33 yards. The coaches kept the passes simple for easy completions, although he did attempt one deep ball.
The receivers (when the ball was thrown accurately) did make some nice catches and plays. Devin Street in particular had a decent game. He had six receptions (a career high) for 74 yards (second only to his big game at Syracuse last year). Hubie Graham also saw a number of balls thrown to him and he turned in a four-reception, 59-yard performance. I imagine he will continue to see more passes thrown in his direction and have a Dorin Dickerson-like role in the offense.
The offensive line, to be blunt, was offensive ... and not in the good way. How do you allow seven sacks to an FCS team, no less? Blown assignments, missed blocking, no communication on who to pick up - all not good. It will be a huge battle on Saturday against the Hawkeyes to see if this line can hold up long enough to allow Ray Graham to get through or Tino to attempt a quick pass.
Defense: Like the offense, the defense was inconsistent and was exhausted by the last Maine drive. This team is not conditioned enough to make it through an entire game, which falls directly on the coaches and the offseason workouts. The time of possession was nearly equal between the teams, with Pitt having a slight lead.
The starting lineup was different than the depth chart released by Pitt. One of the biggest differences was Brandon Lindsey, listed as starter for the Panther linebacker, actually started at defensive end while Juan Price got his first collegiate start at Panther. Did it make a difference? A little, but in a defense where the weakness is the linebackers, having a defense which relies so heavily on solid linebacking play is going to hurt, for a while.
The line, when playing well, was in the backfield. The line had a combined five tackles for loss, including two sacks. Caragein was the only player that didn't have a big factor in the game, recording only one tackle. As for the linebackers, they again gave up a lot of short passes over the middle which allowed Maine to keep moving the ball and sustaining drives. The secondary suffered from a couple of mismatches when the shorter back, Jason Hendricks, would be caught in one-on-one coverage against some of Maine's taller receivers, allowing for big gains.
The most alarming stat was the lack of turnovers by the Panthers. Against an opponent with fewer offensive weapons and less talent, the Panthers were unable to turn Maine over on offense. With strong offenses coming in the next few weeks, Pitt has to work on being more aggressive on defense and force turnovers.
Special Teams: The kicking game continues to be a weakness. This week, Kevin Harper missed an extra point and a 39-yard field goal late in the game. The coverage team did do quite well, limiting Maine to under 20 yards on kickoff returns and a -2 yard average on punt returns. As for Pitt's returns, the Panthers also struggled a bit, averaging 16.5 yards on kickoff returns and under seven yards on punt returns.