There's no other way to put it other than this game was an epic collapse. The only thing I can even compare it to is the game against Cincinnati where Pitt held a 21-point lead, and ended up losing 45-44.
Before I get to doom and gloom (and trust me, that's where this is headed), the thing to point out is that before the game, no one would have looked at this as an absolute must win. Sure, Pitt needed to look good, but a loss wouldn't mean the end of the world. Iowa was a non-conference foe and just as I pointed out after Pitt started 2-3 dropping games to Utah, Notre Dame, and Miami, conference play is a whole 'nother animal.
Okay, now that that's finished, here goes.
This was the ugliest thing I've seen since that Bearcats' game and is the reason Pitt's perception (which we discussed earlier this year) is the way it is. Pitt has a penchant for the disappointing. For the lackluster. For the 'Keeping you interested until they stab you in the heart.' That can't and (rightfully) won't change until, well, stuff like this doesn't happen. These things happen to everybody, but I'm not so sure it happens as often to others.
I blame the players, trust me, I do. But this falls a lot on Todd Graham and the coaches for refusing to adjust defensively. If Graham is really about accountability, really about changes, then he needs to make some. And I'm not talking about simply changing schemes or players.The defense in the fourth quarter these past two games has been abysmal. It's only been the last two games, really, but when they've been bad, they've been real bad. Over the fourth quarters in each of the last two games, Pitt's secondary has jobbed more than Jack Swagger in recent months. Two late scores by Maine shouldn't happen, but because Pitt won, they were excused.
But this cost Pitt a game. The thing that was frustrating was that Pitt's defenders were so far off the receivers. Again. I don't know why this keeps happening. You could see them line up before the game and you knew there was no way they were stopping the pass.
The two elephants in the room are Tony Gibson as the secondary coach and Keith Patterson as the defensive coordinator. We all know about Graham's defenses not having a ton of success and if they continue to have fourth quarter collapses, then heads need to roll. There's no PC way of saying it.
That's probably going to be tough for Graham, especially in Patterson's case where they've been long-time friends and were college roommates. But this is simply inexcusable. If Graham wants to rant and rave about Tino all week long and finding someone else to run his video game offense, then he should be equally demanding of his coaches.
It's not even so much the three-touchdown lead (well, okay, that's a big part of it) - it's the fact that it was a pedestrian quarterback, James Vandenberg. Vandy had thrown for 400 yards before this season...over two freaking games against Iowa State and Tennessee Tech. How Pitt held him mostly in check and then allowed him to turn into Steve Young in the 1994 Super Bowl is beyond me. Sorry, but that falls on the coaches.
If the players were able to keep him in check for three quarters, they clearly have the ability to do it. So what is it? Is Pitt going to a prevent-style? Are the getting worn out? Whatever it is, the coaches need to be on top of it and they're clearly not. It's weird, Pitt's defense plays extremely aggressive early on, blitzing from multiple places and then suddenly turn into the Oilers playing against the Bills.
I don't know if I'm a full-fledged card-carrying member of the fire Tony Gibson/Keith Patterson train just yet, but Todd Graham needs to be ready to part ways if things don't get better. And in the interim, at the very least, get them some help. They haven't shown me enough to instill a whole lot of confidence that they know entirely what they're doing and if that means transferring some duties, then so be it.
Don't give me this crap about it's only a few games, either. The Patterson/Gibson combo haven't exactly been lighting things up over their careers and a quick Google search will turn up plenty fan frustration on both.
Tino? Typical game - a few good plays, a few bad ones. If you're hanging this loss on him, then you simply don't like him. That's your right, obviously, but Sunseri didn't cost Pitt this game. Sure there was the last pick, but it shouldn't have come to that. He completed about 70% of his passes for about 250 yards, had two touchdowns and the two interceptions. Not great, not awful ... I don't know. Are we going to see Trey next week? Maybe.
He could have made more plays, but you're not going to get a a great game from him because ... he's not a great quarterback. He's not even a very good one. He's adequate, will occasionally make a big play and will occasionally hurt you. He made some big-time throws today, but those two picks were really bad balls.
Get ready for a fun week.