I figured Pitt could have some trouble against the FCS Youngstown State Penguins, but didn't think there was much of a chance they'd lose at home. And being disposed of so easily? Not a chance.
But that's exactly what happened with Pitt's two-touchdown loss to Youngstown State, 31-17.
The Panthers actually got off to a good start driving the ball down the field on their first drive until a Ray Graham fumble deep in Youngstown State territory took the wind out of the team's sail. I won't profess that the game would have had a different outcome had the team gone on to score a touchdown, but getting behind early after the Penguins went down the field for a score meant Pitt was playing catchup most of the game.
Before the game, head coach Paul Chryst suspended six players for disciplinary reasons - Rushel Shell, Ronald Jones, Tyrone Ezell, Shayne Hale, Anthony Gonzalez, and Chris Davis all sat out. The suspensions hurt the team, no doubt, but they weren't the difference. The biggest loss was probably Ezell, who was slated to start. Shell's loss was minimal because Ray Graham played and it's hard to argue that things would have been different if Pitt had those six players.
One of the few bright spots was the play of Tino Sunseri. He's the one many of us have been worried about, but ironically, Sunseri played pretty well. He was 19 of 30 for 239 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Those aren't unbelievable numbers, but Pitt will probably take that more often than not.
Youngstown State simply was the better team tonight - by a lot. And if Pitt's season is going to turn around, the effort on both sides of the ball needs to improve significantly. On offense, the Panthers didn't score enough points. And on defense, the team not only had a difficult time stopping Youngstown State, but they couldn't force a single turnover.
The Panthers won't have much time to bounce back - they travel to Cincinnati on Thursday for their first Big East contest. After what we saw tonight, hard to feel confident picking Pitt to win that one.
For more on the Panthers, check out SB Nation Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.