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Field position dooms Pitt against Virginia in football opener

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NCAA Football: Virginia at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt football head coach Pat Narduzzi met with the media today to brief them on last weekend’s game against Virginia and also discuss this weekend’s opponent, Ohio. As it usually is, the discussion revolved largely around last week’s game.

As I expected, Narduzzi heavily referenced field position as the thing that hurt Pitt the most. Unsurprisingly, he made the same argument that I did in the recap about the distances Virginia had to go to score vs. what the Panthers did.

“Their three touchdown drives were 19 yards -- they scored three touchdowns: 19 yards, 27 yards, 29 yards,” Narduzzi said. “That’s their touchdown drives. We’d love to have that field position, but we weren’t afforded -- our two touchdown drives were 85 plus.”

Obviously, coach and I agree 100% there. The field position certainly was a big part of what made it difficult for Pitt and can certainly be considered the biggest reason the Cavaliers were able to win. Simply put, the Panthers’ offense is not good enough, at least right now, to put all kinds of points on the board against decent opponents and that disadvantage killed them.

Where we disagree a little is the attribution of that.

To be fair, Narduzzi did try to give Virginia credit a few times and not come off as a sore loser here. But he also sort of made it seem like it was less about what they did and more about what Pitt did.

“I don’t want to say that’s a gift; I give them credit,” he said, in continuing his discussion about the field position advantages Virginia had. “But that’s kind of what it was.”

His introduction was more blunt. “Really when you look at it, it’s a lot of self-inflicted wounds as far as what we did, not what they did,” he said. “You don’t look at it and go ‘Wow, we just got overplayed or outmatched.’ It was just carelessness I would say on our part, just details that you fail to get done, whether it’s on the sideline and getting it out there on the field, whatever it may be. Just details.”

Here’s the thing. Did Pitt make some mistakes that cost them a little? Absolutely. And as I said in the recap, I think that the jury is still out just on how good Virginia actually is. BeatinThat said, you’ve got to give Virginia more credit than that.

Yes, there were Pickett’s interceptions. Yes, there was a missed field goal. But Virginia did quite a bit to win the game.

The Cavaliers held Pitt to an abysmally-low 78 yards rushing after Narduzzi guaranteed Pitt would be able to run the ball. They made quarterback Kenny Pickett uncomfortable all night, forcing him into two interceptions (his first ever two-interception game) when Pickett has made a living out of playing mistake-free ball. Those picks are completely uncharacteristic of how he’s played so far. Virginia also played mistake-free ball allowing no turnovers to Pitt. They made three field goal attempts while punting well and blocking a Pitt punt.

That’s not ‘a play here, a play there’ and maybe you win. Virginia was 100%, undoubtedly the better team.

Sorry, but Narduzzi has this one wrong because Virginia absolutely outplayed Pitt here. That doesn’t mean the Panthers didn’t make some mistakes along the way but the Cavaliers dominated in just about every facet of the game.

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