Pitt entered this weekend in the Top 25 rankings for the first time in a while. After today, though, that will be a short-lived visit as the No. 24 Panthers were routed by Miami in the regular season finale, 24-3.
The Panthers were dominated today and it all started with the Miami defense. Despite missing a ton of key players on offense, the Hurricanes defense didn’t give up much to a Pitt offense that didn’t do much of anything all day long.
I’ve got little in terms of a recap here, folks. I was limited to only radio in the first half and what I saw in the second half only was more frustrating than the first half sounded on my drive back home. Pitt’s defense gave up only 17 points but Miami scored a special teams touchdown and the Panthers’ offense was nonexistent. There’s really not too much more to say than that.
Offensively, Pitt never got anything going. For the second game in a row, the vaunted rushing attack was all but shut down with Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison combining for only 74 yards. Those guys didn’t have a big day last week against Wake Forest, either, but the difference in that game was that Kenny Pickett had a career day throwing the ball. Today? Pickett had only 130 yards passing and was pressured quite a bit by Miami’s defense.
I’m not surprised Pitt’s offense struggled today as Miami has been great defensively. What I was surprised about was how much they struggled. Pitt had been so good on offense lately that I expected they could even luck their way into, I don’t know, 20 points? I don’t know what the first half looked like visually but the team looked uninspired in the second half. They didn’t play with the kind of urgency they did the last few weeks with the conference on the line. That they couldn’t manage more than three points, regardless of the bad field position they had much of today, was unexpected.
One thing I want to hit on here is that Pitt was again heavily penalized today with ten penalties for 100 yards. That followed a ten-penalty performance last weekend against Wake Forest. Both times, Pitt’s opponents were barely flagged, drawing a total of only four penalties in those contests.
I know there will be the same cries as last week about an imbalance there. But man, it seemed like the majority of today’s penalties were self-inflicted. I don’t know how many penalties offensive lineman Alex Bookser has on the year but he seems to get one every game. For a guy that you expect is one of your top linemen, it feels like he gets flagged a ton. He had a facemask today and Pitt had a delay of game penalty for back-to-back infractions. They had a second delay of game penalty later. Sorry, but you can’t blame stuff like that on the refs.
I do think the refs were a little out of control last week but sometimes you’ve got to look in the mirror. Pitt gets flagged an awful lot and I’m not convinced that it’s all some covert conspiracy theory. Maybe, just maybe, Pitt is penalized a lot because they’re an undisciplined team. That’s something that the coaches have to clean up and some of these mistakes are the same ones over and over.
Case in point, the first defensive pass interference call today against Pitt was because Jason Pinnock didn’t turn around to look for the ball. How many times have we seen that? Others were not common penalties but were equally ridiculous. Right before that, Phil Campbell interfered with a return man on a punt. You can’t cry foul when you blatantly commit stupid penalties like that. Want to rail against phantom holds, like we saw last week against Wake Forest? I’m all for it. But these penalties are not questionable ones. They are blatantly obvious to any competent official and they aren’t going to miss them. 12 games into the year, you’d like to hope you could clean up some of the penalty issues.
Sure, you’d like to see the penalties a bit more even. But officials are not required to generate penalties on the opponent just because one team can’t get out of its own way and commits blatantly obvious fouls.
I just thought it was a pretty uninspiring performance. Today reminded me a lot of the last time Pitt was ranked a few years ago against North Carolina. The situations were assuredly different but the recurring theme was that Pitt had just gotten into the rankings, took a bit of momentum, and just came out abundantly flat. They got off to a bad start and just sucked the energy out of the stadium. Pitt didn’t need this game but it sure would have been nice to have, right?
I know there’s going to be a lot of disappointment in this one. I get it and I even wrote earlier about it being a big game. It was and my thoughts on that aren’t changed just because Pitt didn’t come out on top. The reality is that Pitt was 7-4 and ranked and could quite easily finish 7-7. But in the end, today’s game, in and of itself, doesn’t have much affect on the team, really. 8-4 would have been a lot better than 7-5. But the reality is that Pitt is still headed to the ACC title game and, while the quality of bowl game they reach may not be that great, they are still headed to a bowl.
While incredibly disappointing, this is still a very clear, distinct improvement over last year’s 5-7 season, regardless of how things go the rest of the way. That’s not a claim that 7-5 is the ultimate goal or all that impressive. But a two-game improvement in the regular season and a trip to the conference title game is still a big improvement over last season and you sort of take that without much complaining. At least I do.
Take solace in the fact that Pitt also wasn’t the only team to lay an egg this weekend. Look at Michigan. Look at Washington State. You don’t always get what you want and sometimes you just get outplayed. I know others won’t feel the same way and that’s fine. But it’s kind of hard to be too down about this game and even if Pitt loses to Clemson next weekend, as expected, I’ll still gladly take this season over last year. Disappointed but far from the end of the world. Chin up, friends.
Next up — Clemson.
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill’s Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.