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Pitt’s loss was a bitter pill to swallow. The team won the turnover battle, but was unable to capitalize when it needed to. The key point of the game, other than Tino Sunseri’s final interception, of course, was Pitt’s two possessions when they were inside Utah’s ten-yard line, but only came away with two field goals. In a hostile environment, you’ve simply got to punch the ball in there. Settling for three points in that situation is the kiss of death and it cost Pitt dearly.
The team’s two main areas of concern, offensive line and secondary, both did their best to outdo the other unit. And not in a good way. The line committed too many penalties, was unable to create any running room for Dion Lewis, and was unsuccessful at times in keeping pressure off of QB Tino Sunseri. The secondary was bad as well, giving up large chunks of yardage (pass plays of 19, 24, 32, 46, and 61 yards) and allowing three touchdown passes. This unit was supposedly much improved by the reports out of training camp, but you wouldn’t know it by watching the game tonight.
The biggest bright spot for me was the play of Sunseri. He proved, at least for one game, that he can make big plays and is a true on-field leader. His interception on Pitt’s last possession was a poor throw, but he made plenty of good ones and was hardly the reason the team lost. He has a strong arm and will only get better. He’ll prove to be a very good quarterback for Pitt and fans should feel much more comfortable knowing he’s going to be around for two more seasons after this one.
The loss wasn’t the end of the world and while it derails a little of the momentum the team built up, it was a non-conference game and does nothing to Pitt’s chances of winning the conference. But the game also proved that Pitt has a lot of work to do if it wants to reach a BCS game this season.
For more analysis on my thoughts on the game, visit Cardiac Hill.
Despite a furious comeback in regulation, the Panthers fell just short, losing at Utah 27-24. Pitt QB Tino Sunseri threw an interception on the team’s first possession and Utah capitalized, moving the ball down inside the ten yard line and kicking a short field goal for the victory.
The Panthers held Utah on their last possesion and after a short punt, marched down the field for a 30-yard field goal.
There was some drama as kicker Dan Hutchins made the field goal, but just after Utah called a timeout. Utah then called another timeout as Hutchins missed the second attempt. But he made the third to force overtime.
And just like that the Panthers are back in it. Tino Sunseri leads a three-play 63 yard drive with two fantastic throws to Jon Baldwin, the second of which got Pitt into the end zone on a defensive lapse by Utah.
Pitt then went for two and Sunseri went back to his main target in Baldwin on short pass. The connection brings Pitt within three, 24-21.
PItt has been inside Utah’s ten yard line on their last two possessions, but could only come away with six points. That’s been the kind of night it’s been for Pitt – anything that can go wrong has.
The Panthers blocked a punt and got the ball on the eight, but no postive yards, a sack, and penalty held them to a field goal. Pitt sustained a long drive on their next possession and had a first-and-goal on the four. However, Lewis was stuffed and another penalty reared its head and it was time for another field goal.
That became costly as Utah scored a 61-yard TD on their next possession to go up 24-13.
With less than two minutes left after the interception, the Panthers chose to run the clock out and go into halftime only down seven.
All in all, the way the team was falling apart, halftime could not come at a better time for Pitt. The defense looked shaky and tired while the offense simply looked confused. Pitt has simply not been able to capitalize, even though Utah has turned the ball over three times to Pitt’s one.
Utah will get the ball at the beginning of the third quarter.
On Pitt’s last drive, Tino Sunseri apparently banged his thumb against a helmet and appeared to injure it. His next throw was off-target, though he had little time to throw the ball. The offensive line is struggling a little more now and Tino has had increasingly less time in the pocket before being pressured. He was being looked at on the sideline, but is now back in there.
Meanwhile, the defense is fading fast, giving up large chunks of yardage on the ground and in the air. Utah was deep in Pittsburgh territory yet again, but Jared Holley got a key interception in the end zone, keeping this game from being blown open.
And just like that Pitt gives up an easy TD, allowing the Utes backs to run at will. Pitt promptly forgets to cover Utah’s best receiver, and just like that, it’s 7-7.
But that’s not all.
On the kickoff, Jason Douglas brings back all the bad feelings about handling kickoffs for Pitt over the past two seasons, fumbling the ball and Utah goes in again on a short TD pass.
The last two drives have really looked easy for Utah and Pitt has got to do a better job on defense.
Dion Lewis got Pitt on the board with a three-yard TD run and the Panthers lead 7-0.
It was all made possible by Utah’s second turnover of the night, a botched punt return. Pitt’s Buddy Jackson recovered the ball and Pitt was deep into Utah territory.
The Panthers also got some more help when Utah committed a costly penalty on a 3rd and 1. That turned it into a first down and Lewis punched it in.
The offensive line is doing a modest job giving Sunseri a bit of time and Lewis is finding a few holes. Still, they’re far from dominant against Utah’s strong defensive line. Pitt has taken care of the ball on all of their possessions and looking composed.
Pitt and Utah are tied through the first quarter of tonight’s game. Neither team has looked particularly good, although both have moved the ball a bit. Pitt has been in Utah territory, but unable to come away with any points after a missed field goal by Dan Hutchins.
A small sampling of some picks and predictions out there:
The Sporting News’ Accuscore Forecast picks Pitt by a nose.
ESPN’s Big East blogger Brian Bennett sees a three-point Utah win.
Len Robbins of the New York Post also calls for a Pitt loss.
Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sees it 24-20, Pitt in his weekly chat.
Robert Jackson of KSL’s network in Utah thinks the Utes win. Big.
And for the record, I called for a narrow Pitt loss in my Q&A with BlockU.
Paul Zeise of the Post-Gazette notes that Greg Romeus is ready to play in tonight’s game. He still remains a little skeptical about backup RB Ray Graham, though:
I saw tailback Ray Graham (knee) run today and he certainly looks a lot better than he did last week. Now, whether he is truly ready to play remains to be seen but he was listed as “probable” today on the Panthers initial injury report. Whatever that means.
Romeus is also listed as probable on that injury report and all players listed as out were not expected to factor in as key players.
Zeise also has the news that Greg Williams is the starting weakside LB over Tristan Roberts, but that both will see time.
Tonight Pitt heads to Utah in the highly anticipated first game of each team's football season. The Utes are a light favorite mostly due to their home field advantage.
Pitt, ranked 15th nationally, will look to continue the momentum built up from approximately eight months of offseason hype.
Check back throughout the night for continual updates before, during, and after the game.