If you've had the pleasure (or agony ... whichever your prefer) of following Pitt football for several years, you know how this works. The Panthers have repeatedly jobbed to mediocre (and even bad) teams while doing just enough against good ones to keep fan interest. So if you were surprised about Pitt's loss tonight, you're either naive or simply not paying attention.
It's so cliched that I feel guilty even using the phrase, but this is simply what the Panthers do.
Pitt has just two games remaining on its schedule, and the Panthers will need to win both to reach six wins -- and bowl eligibility. Pitt will play host to Rutgers on Saturday, Nov. 24, before traveling to South Florida on Saturday, Dec. 1, in Pitt's final regular season contest -- and perhaps, the final game of the 2012 season for the Panthers.
After an impressive showing in defeat against undefeated Notre Dame, the Panthers bumbled their way to a disappointing 24-17 defeat at the hands of Big East basement dweller, UConn.
For Pitt it was a tale of two halves. The Panthers were thoroughly outhustled in the first half, and trailed 24-0. Both Pitt's offense and defense struggled as the Huskies scored 24 unanswered points and the rout appeared to be on. But the Panthers regrouped in the second half, scoring 17 of their own. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. Pitt actually had a chance to come back to tie the game, but on a 3rd and long, UConn converted a pass play and with time running out, the Panthers were unable to stop the clock any further.
Quarterback Tino Sunseri was one of the few players to post decent numbers. He threw for just over 300 yards, two touchdowns, and again had no interceptions. The amusing thing? Fans were calling for his head on the Twittersphere and asking that he be replaced by true freshman Chad Voytik (who is headed for a redshirt) or backup Trey Anderson. Never mind the fact that Sunseri is the second-highest rated passer in the Big East or that he's not thrown an interception in nearly two months. While it's true that he didn't have a great first half, neither did anyone else. There was no running game to speak of, the defense was abysmal, and the offensive line made things challenging, as usual. To fully blame Sunseri for Pitt's bad start is the same as blaming Roc the mascot for not cheering hard enough.
As I wrote over at Cardiac Hill, the biggest problem with Pitt has been that they've simply been far too inconsistent. How a team can play well against undefeated teams Notre Dame and Louisville, but lose to the likes of UConn and Syracuse makes little sense. A large part of it has to fall back to the coaching staff if only by default, and it's the job of the coaches to make sure there's a consistent effort every game - and that simply hasn't been there.
Pitt now must win both of their remaining games against Rutgers and South Florida to reach a bowl game.
After a near win at undefeated No. 3 Notre Dame last week, Pitt's game tonight against UConn seemed easy by comparison.
Yeah, so much for that.
The Panthers are being routed by the Huskies, 24-0 at halftime and are putting out one of their worst efforts of the season. It's difficult to argue which has been worse - the offense or the defense. Pitt's offense is being shut out and the lone bright spot has been tight end Drew Carswell with four catches for 72 yards. Tino Sunseri is only 8-18 for 107 yards and the running game has been nonexistent. Ray Graham and Rushel Shell have combined so far for a meager 24 yards on nine carries.
Things haven't been much better on defense, either. UConn jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a pair of nice drives and after an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown by Nick Williams, the Huskies went on to score a third touchdown. UConn has been one of the worst offenses in the Big East, so the result so far is disappointing to say the least.