Pitt fans might not have been expecting a great season, but with an 0-2 start including a loss to an FCS program, things have been far worse than expected. Thursday night's tilt against the Cincinnati Bearcats saw more shoddy play on the part of the Panthers, but it also showed that the coaching staff still needs to make some strides to get better.
Over at Cardiac Hill, I discussed this a bit, but Pitt's coaches simply need to do a better job. Coaching is only one part of the game and the ultimate responsibility rests with the players, of course. But many of Pitt's problems can be directly tied to coaching.
Players exhibited a strong lack of discipline with silly personal fouls by Chris Jacobson and T.J. Clemmings. The defense also missed more tackles than could be reasonably counted and players were constantly out of position to make plays. The coaches also have the cornerbacks playing far too much off of wide receivers, giving up short completions routinely. And things aren't much better on offense where the playcalling has been stale and vanilla. Simply put, the coaches have at least as much work to do in terms of getting better as the players do.
Quarterback Tino Sunseri had one of the most deceiving box scores of all time. He completed 65% of his passes (24 of 37) for 278 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he also had some of the game's biggest gaffes. Sunseri fumbled early in the game and later, with the team driving for a score, threw an interception in the end zone. He also suffered a mental lapse just before the end of the first half when with five seconds to play, he held onto the ball too long and threw an incompleted pass with time expired. That cost Pitt the chance to at least put some points on the board when they desperately needed them.
Part of that poor play had to do with the Panthers' offensive line, which struggled all night long. Sunseri frequently had little time to think and while some of his mistakes were on him, the offensive line was clearly exposed in this game. They held up fairly well against Youngstown State, but playing against a better defense, it was evident that they couldn't keep up.
Ray Graham, though, was a bit of a bright spot for the team. He had 19 carries for 103 yards and broke out for a big gain in the second half. In only his second game back since the devastating knee injury he suffered last season, he's proven he can still play even if he's not yet at 100%.
The frustrating thing for Pitt is that there doesn't appear to be any end in sight. Even in the down Big East, it's difficult to see them winning many games at this stage. The Panthers will try to rebound in a little over a week when they take on Virginia Tech at home.
For more on Pitt football, check out Cardiac Hill.