Before the Pitt-Georgia Tech game, I opined where I typically do, on Twitter, about an interesting prospect:
With all of the script hype, a loss to Georgia Tech would be utterly deflating. Sounds ridiculous, but even more pressure for Pitt to win.— Anson Whaley (@AnsonWhaley) October 25, 2014
The hype was through the roof for this one. It was already a big game - Pitt was playing a decent opponent. It was Homecoming. There was a lot of talk about Pitt not only being in the race for the Coastal, but maybe even one of the favorites. And as if that weren't enough, script Friday happened.
Things got real.
This loss just killed the enthusiasm that was built up by Friday's announcement. Suddenly, script doesn't matter. At all. And for something that fans have demanded, begged, and pleaded for, that's saying something. In the end, it's the on-field product that matters, and that wasn't real good on Saturday. No one will buy script merchandise if the team can't get out of it's own way on the field.
Pitt's players didn't get the memo about today being a big game, apparently, as they had, in reality, one of the worst starts to a football game you'll ever see. The fumble on the opening drive. A James Conner fumble through the end zone after a long run that should have resulted in a touchdown. That was just the tip of the iceberg, folks. There was a Tyler Boyd fumble, which was a clearly botched call. Then two more fumbles.
All in the first quarter.
The five in one quarter was an FBS record and they added a sixth for good measure later, which added up to an ugly 56-28 loss to the Yellow Jackets.
Look, sometimes these things just happen. It's not Paul Chryst's fault - stop with that. It's careless ball handling or as we saw in Conner's case where he slowed up a little inside the 5-yard line, it's just being lazy. When you lose five fumbles in a single quarter, it's a pretty good recipe for disaster.
Disaster, of course, is what happened, as Pitt fell behind 28-0.
Now, the replay officials were bad. Like, deserve-to-lose-their-jobs-bad. Let's get that out of the way. How the Tyler Boyd fumble or the Chad Voytik fumble stood with the benefit of slow-motion replay was beyond me. Both were pretty clearly down and as if that weren't enough, Georgia Tech also got a big passing play that went their way on a pass that was so obviously skipped that no reasonable person watching could have concluded otherwise. Whoever made the determination in Georgia Tech's favor really has no business doing this for a living. Or even for free, for that matter.
All of that said, you cannot lose six fumbles and expect to live to tell about it. But get this - beyond the horrendous start, Pitt still had its chance. That's right - the team cut it to within two touchdowns at the half and then again in the third quarter. Plenty of time existed and if they were the better team, they could have made up the deficit.
The only problem was that they weren't.
Georgia Tech scored 21 more points in the fourth quarter and Pitt not being able to close the gap after cutting it to two touchdowns was a clear indication that the Yellow Jackets were the better team. They didn't have the turnover issues. They played better defense. There's no getting around it or blaming the officials for the loss. A closer game? Sure, we could have that discussion. But you can't tell me that after they doubled up Pitt on the road.
And if the loss wasn't painful enough, several Pitt players were dinged up in this one. Chad Voytik went out in the second half after a fumble/hit. Safety Terrish Webb left the game and did not return. Bam Bradley and James Conner played through the game, but also were banged up a little. The Panthers certainly aren't leaving this game healthy.
The Panthers did some good things, though you'd be hard pressed to know it. Voytik had a decent game and was 16-21 with 190 yards. A few of the drops by Boyd and Manasseh Garner weren't really on him, either. Overall, he was pretty good throwing the ball. James Conner managed 119 yards on only ten carries and had three touchdowns. Todd Thomas had a personal best for tackles (14, last reported). Boyd caught nine balls for 137 yards. Like I said, though - hard to think about any of that right now.
Pitt just needs to regroup here. Shockingly, they're not out of the Coastal Division race. Virginia lost another game today in the ACC and the Panthers have only two conference losses. They also can still leapfrog the team with only one, Duke, since they still get to (or, depending on your outlook on the season, have to) play them.
But talk of the Division now just doesn't seem like a lot of fun or even all that realistic. While it's true that Pitt carried some momentum into the game, the reality of it is, is that this is still a team that has lost four out of five games.
Now you tell me if that's a team ready to contend for the Coastal.
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