After an up and down effort, Pitt fell to Virginia, 24-19.
Things started out fairly promising with the game tied 3-3 after the first quarter, but a disastrous 2nd quarter set the team back 24-3 at the half. No offense, pick six ... things got ugly. The Panthers rallied (more on that in a bit), but fell short in the end.
The first half of the game was pretty much the same Pitt we'd seen for the past six quarters against Iowa and Akron coming into the game. Uninspired playcalling on offense, a bad Chad Voytik interception that was returned for a touchdown, and problems on defense. Pitt just gave people few reasons to keep watching.
If you did, though, you saw a much different team in the second half.
The Panthers played as inspired of a second half as you'll see. They completely dominated the second half, outscoring Virginia 19-0. The team just looked the most interested I've seen them since the first half against Iowa and played well on both sides of the ball. The effort there was enough to not only win, but dominate the Cavaliers if they had given it the entire game. That just wasn't the case, though.
One big problem that put the team in so many holes (and also stopped the comeback from falling short) was the occurrence of more offensive line penalties. I wrote this in the comments section of another post, but one of my three keys for the game was keeping the penalties down. That didn't happen, and it was again the offensive line that were the main culprits with numerous false starts. There's just not much more to say there and the team has got to do a better job of being disciplined. Unfortunately, we've heard that tune before and it's really frustrating.
You can argue that one false start (along with a questionable call by the refs on the previous play where James Conner was ruled down just before getting to the goal line) actually cost them the game when they were on the 1-yard line and backed up, having to settle for a field goal instead of getting a touchdown. Simply put, that potentially cost the team four points and with an extra point instead of the failed two-point conversion point late, that's your difference in the game.
I wrote at halftime that the game was going to result in a loss but that Pitt just needed to show some signs of improvement. If you're looking for a positive here, the team gave you that and then some and I don't think anyone anticipated them playing as well as they did in the third and fourth quarters. The second half team we saw was the same one that we got in Pitt's 3-0 start. Disappointing loss? For sure. And to be fair, you've got to play a complete game. First half efforts like the team gave earlier aren't acceptable. But there's no way you could have watched the effort in the second half and not been a little encouraged.
In addition, Paul Chryst gets crushed all the time for not making second half adjustments. So if we're doing that, it's impossible to not give him credit for getting the team to play like they did after the first half. Great job all around by the coaching staff in that regard.
The big thing will be if Pitt can carry this over into the rest of the season. Hopefully the days of Iowa/Akron are behind us, but the possibility exists that they revert back to the sluggish start like we saw tonight. Right now, it's up to the team to determine their fate for the rest of the year and what we get from them is beyond me.
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