Pitt provided their most recent version of 'Pitting' today in a 51-48 debacle of a loss at Heinz Field against Duke. Despite an up and down game, the Panthers had a chance to get the final laugh on Saturday, lining up for a chip shot field goal.
Pitting (Pitt-ing): Definition - 1. To Pitt 2. To utterly provide hope to an apathetic fanbase only to snatch it away at the last possible second 3. To find as many ways to lose games as possible 4. To play egregiously bad in one or multiple phases of the game for no apparent reason
Pitting has become a common occurrence numerous times this season.
- A horrible second half against Iowa
- A horrible first half against Virginia
- A loss to Akron
- Five fumbles on their first five drives in a 56-28 whopping at the hands of Georgia Tech (on Homecoming and after a script release, no less)
We've just seen far too much of it, but Saturday's act may take the cake. With two seconds left in the game kicker Chris Blewitt shanked a 26-yard field goal attempt, tossing away what would have been the team's biggest win of the season and kept in Pitt in the race for a Division title.
Pitt curiously ran the ball right before that final kick instead of going to the middle of the field to line up the kick. I'm not sure of the reasoning, but Chad Voytik's run on that play was deliberately to the right towards out of bounds and the only logical conclusion is that is where Blewitt wanted it to go.
There aren't any excuses here and none should be made, though. That ball could have been spotted on the sideline and, realistically, should probably still have been made. With the game (and really the season) on the line, there's no way you can miss a kick that short.
This isn't all on him, of course. The defense was abysmal and the fact that their fourth quarter stop before Pitt's final drive was so wildly celebrated shows how inept that unit was all day. But if we're being fair here - the other units did their jobs leading up to that kick. The defense got its much needed stop to give the Panthers the ball with a few minutes left. The offense got the ball down the field. Blewitt had a job to do and he didn't come through. Team loss, but if we're looking for an obvious goat here, it's difficult to pin this on anyone else.
Really have to feel for a guy like James Conner here. Career-high 263 yards. Three touchdowns. With all due respect to guys like Chad Voytik and Tyler Boyd (who had nice games) Conner was a load all day. The entire stadium knew he was getting the ball and Duke still couldn't come close to stopping him. He consistently took the brunt of hits and still bounced back to move the sticks. Really hard to see a guy put forth such a superhuman effort denied a win because of terrible defense and a missed field goal.
The season is effectively over here if you were hoping for a Division title. Pitt would need so much help to still win the Coastal that it's not even worth discussing. A bowl game is still in reach, but a 6-6 season (or even to a degree, a 7-5) season with this schedule not only shows no progress, but arguably some regression in the program. Paul Chryst will still get 2015 to turn things around, in my opinion, but if he's unable to take some real steps forward at the end of that season, the calls for his head are only going to get louder.
More specifically regarding the coaching, the pass defense, as it has been all year, has been a wreck. You don't have to look far for criticism being lobbed Matt House's way and Chryst will have a big decision to make at the end of this season regarding his defensive coordinator. The defense has real issues and Chryst may need to axe/demote House to save his own job. The defense has given up more than 50 points in two consecutive games now and it's clear that the early season success they had in terms of allowing points was an aberration due to facing some bad weak offenses. 13 points today came in overtime, but the defense's effort was, again, indefensible.
As I wrote on Twitter during the game, it can be debated who should get the bulk of the blame - House vs. the players. But this much is clear - someone is at fault here. It's a mix of both, for sure. Cornerbacks getting scorched repeatedly means they have to do a better job. Conversely, though, it's up to House to figure things out and after Avonte Maddox was clearly beaten by Jamison Crowder for two long touchdown catches, there's no reason why Pitt shouldn't have gone to more zone or find ways to get him help ... which clearly didn't happen as Pitts was beaten 1-1 by Crowder after taking over.
I'm also not all about second-guessing coaching decisions, but you can make a reasonable argument that Pitt should have went for two after their overtime touchdown matched Duke's score. It's a risky play, admittedly, but consider the following: Pitt's defense couldn't stop Duke - at all. Even if they had held Duke to a field goal on the next drive (Duke scored a touchdown, anyway), matching with their own field goal was no guarantee considering Blewitt's miss in the fourth quarter. Most importantly, James Conner was a beast all day. Yes, Duke would have expected him to get the ball on a 2-point conversion attempt, but I'd like his chances based on what he did during the entire game. It would also set up a perfect opportunity to free up a receiver for a potentially easy score.
Like I said, I'm not killing Chryst for not going for it and playing to extend the game. But the longer the game went on, you just had a feeling that Pitt was going to have a harder time winning, didn't you?
Pitt can still reach a bowl game, but if we're being realistic here, it's extremely difficult to envision them winning two more games, anyway. If you think what Duke's offense did to Pitt was difficult to stomach today, wait until they have to travel to North Carolina - a top 20 offense heading into this weekend. They struggled against Miami on the road, but that team can score in bunches.
More than anything, Blewitt's miss and the team's subsequent loss continues to give fans a reason to bail on this team. And with basketball season kicking off this Friday with the team's first exhibition game, it's impossible to blame anyone for doing so.
Players can diss fans not showing up but, sorry - when you blow chip shot field goals and can't keep teams to under 50 points in a game you absolutely have to win, I mean ...