1 Total Update since September 23, 2010
over 2 years ago Update 3 comments
Plenty of blame to go around after this beatdown ... so who do you blame - Dave Wannstedt?
Is it Cam Saddler for his fumble, which clearly cost Pitt a chance at getting back in the game? The offensive line, which was downright offensive? The quarterbacks?
Whoever you blame, I don't think anyone can be surprised that Pitt lost.
When your kicker/punter was possibly the MVP, you know things are bad. At no point in the game did Pitt look better than Miami. They were thoroughly outplayed from the start, and even had Cam Saddler not pulled his best Leon Lett routine and the team was able to score to cut it to seven, Pitt really had no business winning this game. The offense was so stagnant that it was pretty clear from the first quarter that if Pitt were going to win, it was going to need a big play like a pick-six or something along those lines.
It's been a long time since I can remember Pitt be so thoroughly manhandled. But the Utah Fiesta Bowl debacle sounds about right.
Where to start. How about the offense?
Even those of us who know how crucial an offensive line really is got reminder of that tonight. The running game was mediocre and the passing game was, well, far worse. Fans can place the blame on Tino Sunseri if they want ... and they have plenty of reason to do that. He took some bad sacks and was off target on several passes. But he was under near-constant pressure the entire game. And anyone who was dying to see backup Pat Bostick in the game saw that with his two interceptions that the stagnant offense wasn't all Sunseri's fault.
And I don't take the local columnists to task much because they're doing what I'm doing - providing opinions. But Pat Bostick should start? Really? Kevin Gorman is either going to soon be revealed as Pat Bostick's real father on the next episode of Maury or he's extremely delusional. Bostick did nothing to prove that he deserves the starting job and while I didn't mind that Wannstedt put him into the game, how you can determine from that performance that he deserves to be the starter over Sunseri is beyond me. Defenses have been in Pitt's backfield more than Lindsay Lohan's been in trouble, and you can't blame that on Sunseri. To me, the fact that he didn't throw any interceptions tonight was remarkable.
Did he have a good game? Of course not. I'd even call it a bad game. But to pretend like Pat Bostick will suddenly resurrect this offense is foolishness.
One final point about the QBs - this nonsense about Bostick 'leading' Pitt to two quality wins has to stop. Saying he led the team to those wins is akin to saying Trent Dilfer led the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl. The team won despite him, not because of him. In the 2008 win against Notre Dame, Bostick threw THREE interceptions and in the 2007 game against West Virginia that his supporters love to mention, he passed for a meager 67 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. So, enough.
Let's take a look at Dion Lewis. Dave Wannstedt said in his press conference this week that the team was going to 'ride the hot hand' if there was one at running back. Ray Graham wasn't great, but he provided more of a spark than Lewis did. Even if you take out his 42-yard run near the end of the game in garbage time, he still put up better numbers than Lewis. He rushed for 100 yards and also had three catches for 41 yards while Lewis rushed for 41 and had two receptions for seven.
After Lewis couldn't get going for nearly a half, Ray Graham got Pitt two first downs and then scampered for 33 yards on a short pass before Bostick took a sack and Pitt missed a long field goal. Despite the team coming away scoreless, it was clear that Graham provided the spark needed. So did Wannstedt do what he promised? Did he ride the hot hand?
In a short answer, no.
Lewis took over the rushing duties on Pitt's first drive out of halftime. Graham didn't get another carry until near the end of the quarter. But he made the most of his time on the field and again, got Pitt two more first downs. Unfortunately, the next time Pitt got the ball back, they were behind 24-3 and in passing downs. So it was too late to go back to Graham other than for some late carries in garbage time.
I'm not saying Graham is the better back or should even start. But Wannstedt clearly didn't live up to his promise of sticking with the team's best option in the game, which was Ray Graham.
But back to Lewis a bit. He's really struggled this year behind a bad line and at this point, it looks like the NFL could be put on hold for a year unless he can finish strong. Personally, I don't see it. Graham has earned his way to, at the very least, more carries and this could be a two-headed monster the rest of the way. I'm not sure how it played on TV, but you could also see after certain plays on the jumbotron that he was visibly upset, shaking his head and pointing out things to the linemen. He's really having a down year.
Moving to the defense. Well, let's just say it was a debacle. The secondary was, in a word, awful. And while Miami QB Jacory Harris had a couple of interceptions, he basically looked comfortable for most of the game, picking apart Pitt's secondary. And then there's the injury to Mason. Oh boy.
Looking for some good news? Pitt's conference season has yet to start so the team can still put together a BCS team. But the way they looked tonight, West Virginia and maybe even some others in the conference will give them a run for their money.
over 2 years ago Update 2 comments
Pitt takes on the Miami Hurricanes tonight at Heinz Field in a big game for both teams, which have much in common.
At the end of the night, one of these preseason top 15 teams will be off to a 1-2 start. The Panthers and Hurricanes are both looking to take advantage of fairly weak conferences, hoping to reach a BCS game.
While the game won't have ramifications on each team's goal of winning its respective conference, both will be looking to win this prime-time matchup - both have already been defeated in nationally televised appearances this season. Pitt lost to Utah in overtime, while Miami lost to potential National Championship contender Ohio State.
The two teams last played on a Thursday night in 1997 when Miami was ranked and still a member of the Big East. This year sets up a similar scenario - Pitt again enters the game unranked and looks to knock off one of the most storied programs over the past 30 years.
There's also plenty of history between the two coaches, Dave Wannstedt and Randy Shannon:
Wannstedt was one of the first to see Shannon’s potential.
He was Miami’s defensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson when Shannon played for the Hurricanes. Wannstedt liked Shannon right away, yet remembers telling Johnson he didn’t know where to play him, thinking he was too small to play linebacker and too slow to play safety. Shannon added some bulk, and Wannstedt turned him loose as a linebacker.
"Once I was around him, and seeing how football-aware he was, how smart he was, there was no question he was going to help us," Wannstedt said.
With Wannstedt calling the defenses, Miami went 34-2. Shannon was a starter on the 1987 national championship team. And once he graduated, he and Wannstedt saw their relationship continue evolving.
"He went to Dallas and I was a player there," Shannon said. "Just by me being in Dallas, I learned a lot of football."
Pitt's linebackers coach, Bernard Clark, also played at Miami.
The Panthers are looking to get healthy, with the potential return of Dom DeCicco and Andrew Taglianetti in a sorely depleted secondary. And Dan Mason, Pitt's starting middle linebacker, will start the game on the bench due to his involvement in the DUI accident last week with backup running back Jason Douglas.
Perhaps the most eyes will be on the Pitt running backs. Starter and preseason Heisman candidate Dion Lewis has struggled mightily so far through two games. Backup Ray Graham, who had a breakout game last week with 115 yards and two touchdowns, will certainly get carries. The question is how many. Wannstedt has said that both should get their fair share of playing time and even went as far to say both players are 'interchangeable' in his weekly press conference.
While both will get time, Wannstedt also said that if one is performing well, he could see more carries:
"We’ll go in this week knowing that they’re both going to play, but with no specific plan that Dion (Lewis) will get so many carries, and Ray (Graham) will get so many carries. If we get a hot hand, we’ll play the hot hand."
Miami isn't a Big East foe and this game really has no effect on the team's ability to win the conference championship. But with nearly 400 alumni scheduled to attend and the school airing pre- and post-game shows on its new Comcast network, Pitt is clearly making a big deal out of this game. It'd be nice to come away with a win against a ranked team on national TV and carry some momentum into next week's winnable matchup against Florida International.