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Armed Forces Bowl (Pitt vs. Houston): Panthers comment after debacle

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Like most of you, I was sort of curious to hear what Pitt's players said after the game. Fortunately, the good folks at the Armed Forces Bowl have been kind of enough to send me their press releases.

The official presser only included coach Joe Rudolph, and players Chad Voytik and Ray Vinopal. Still, I wanted to see what they had to say.

Rightfully, everyone wanted to give to credit to Houston for not giving up. Rudolph said, "You got to tip your hats to Houston. I think they did a heck of a job of fighting and believing and working through it." Vinopal added, "It's a tough one. Like Coach said, credit to Houston." Voytik also wanted to make sure Houston got the credit. "Credit to Houston," the Pitt quarterback said. "They made plays, and that's part of football."

One thing I noticed that Coach Rudolph did was make sure not to put this all on the defense. He cited the offense's issues in the fourth quarter as well as the onside kicks, of course.

"Think about the last offensive drive even before the two‑minute, getting a touchdown instead of a field goal," Rudolph said. "The opportunity to recover an onside or to make a stop or to finish it off with the ball in your hand in a two‑minute drill and just weren't able to finish that one."

While this may be more on the defense, that's just what a coach has to say. Can't blame him for that and, as I said in the recap, the offense did have their chance to win it. Voytik had a similar sentiment. "Yeah, kind of like what Coach Rudolph hit on, it's easy to point fingers and play that game," said the Pitt quarterback. "But this goes on all of us, and there was opportunities for every phase of the ball to do better. And as we saw, it wasn't enough in the end. So we all take this on us."

Rudolph also made a really good point. Did the team lose focus? Not necessarily.

"I don't think there's a loss of focus. I think sometimes when teams make plays and you have to respond to those plays, I think sometimes it can make you a little bit nervous to just cut it loose and go."

That sounds a little like coachspeak, but is absolutely fair. On the other side of it as fans, it's hard for us to realize that sometimes. These guys have to make bang-bang decisions and I'm sure once the snowball gets going, it can be hard to stop.

My only answer to that would be that that's something the coaches have to kind of handle - rallying the troops. Getting guys settled down, re-focused, etc. They may have tried to do that, but those efforts clearly weren't successful.

The Post-Gazette's Sam Werner also had access to some guys, including Tyler Boyd. Boyd, for the record, took full responsibility for his late drop.

Can't argue with that. Boyd had a big game and played pretty well. But he had an earlier drop and this one was quite possibly the difference between a win and a loss. We know from the Duke game that no field goal is a gimme for Chris Blewitt, but earlier he connected on a 52-yarder and a Boyd catch would have given him a very manageable kick.

For me, the Boyd drop was really big. Not only because it was a well-thrown ball, but because he's a team leader. Team leaders go out and do things to help cover up the mistakes of teammates. Boyd had a chance to do that and fell short.

None of that is to suggest that he's not a good player, obviously. But if we give him credit for all of the other catches, it's only fair to point out the drop that he had that could have won the game for the Panthers.

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