After a promising start, Pitt lost to Iowa, 24-20, after a massive second half collapse. Not completely unexpected, but with a dominant first half and the ball to start the second, the Panthers looked like they were on their way to a comfortable win.
The secondary, as I previously mentioned as an area for concern, was an absolute train wreck and something's going to have to be done there. Lafayette Pitts, Avonte Maddox, Reggie Mitchell and crew were just ... bad. Part of it, though, is on a defensive line that brought about as much pressure as I probably could have in my thinner days. The secondary can't cover forever and Pitt is going to have to do a better job in terms of blitzing (you know, kind of like Iowa did in the second half) to shake things up. Defensive coordinator Matt House has escaped criticism so far, but after that hot mess in the third and fourth quarters, that won't last long.
This one was really just about missed opportunities. Pitt couldn't capitalize at the end of the half with a late score, couldn't stop Iowa on numerous 4th and short plays, couldn't stop a backup quarterback chucking the ball all over the field, couldn't get more than one second-half scoring drive. The Panthers just didn't make enough plays and unfortunately, they learned games are about two halves. It's easy to come out of this believing that Pitt is a better team and the box score is an indication of that. But as I said in my Q&A with Black Heart Gold Pants, the better team doesn't always win. In close games, it comes down to making the plays at the right time - Iowa did and Pitt didn't.
And while solely blaming penalties in this one would be foolish, an eight to two advantage in favor of Iowa (Pitt had eight for 106 to Iowa's two for 20) didn't help matters. I didn't have an issue with the calls that went against Pitt and the team just has to play smarter. Several of those were just dumb, dumb things, and ironically, one that went against Iowa was a bad personal foul call that led to three points. But Iowa surely had several breaks and seemed to get away with a good deal. There were numerous non-calls against Tyler Boyd where I thought a whistle was warranted - on one, in particular, he was virtually mauled going across the middle of the field.
This isn't about Big Ten officials - I just don't typically buy that conspiracy garbage and I'm certainly not starting now. If that's what you're hanging your hat on, just stop. But that said, eight penalties to two is extremely one-sided and I've got a hard time believing that Iowa was that much more disciplined than Pitt. The Hawkeyes came in averaging only about one fewer penalty per game than Pitt, so I don't buy that they played that clean of a game. A nearly 100-yard advantage in penalties is something that's difficult to make up.
Pitt dominated almost every facet of the game - they had about 125 more total yards, had more first downs, were better on third downs, won the time of possession, and outside of Chad Voytik's last-second interception, even won the turnover battle. But again, you can't lay an egg for an entire half and expect to win. Momentum was the key here and once Iowa's backup quarterback came in, they just really looked like a different team.
If you're looking for a silver lining here, it's that the loss wasn't in conference and Pitt really isn't any farther away from being able to win a Division that's really up for grabs. A loss to Iowa is a better thing than, say, a loss to Virginia Tech or Duke, in that regard.
If you're looking for anything else, though, that's about it.
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