Sunday, September 13, 2009

Recapping a Beatdown

Holy offense, Batman. At least one thing went right on Saturday as Pitt scored the most points since running up 55 on Temple ten years ago.

Ron Cook was thinking what most Pitt fans probably felt :

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said something late yesterday afternoon that was unimaginable a week ago, a month ago, certainly 9 1/2 months ago when his Panthers defied incredible odds in the worst way to be shut out in a college football game, 3-0, by Oregon State in the Sun Bowl.

"Offensively, we were able to carry the load today. That's a nice feeling."

Can you believe that?

Can you believe Pitt spanked Buffalo, 54-27, here yesterday?

I watched it and I can't believe it.


I would have told you before the game that Pitt couldn't score 54 points combined against any four opponents on its schedule, outclassed Youngstown State aside. Of course, I also would have said no four opponents could score a combined 27 points on Pitt's alleged great defense.

Dorin Dickerson finally 'broke out' and had the type of performance people at Pitt have been waiting for since he arrived on campus:

Dorin Dickerson was the prize of the Pitt's 2006 recruiting class, but, for the first three seasons of his Panthers' career, he was mostly a non-factor.

Yesterday, he showed why he was such a prize catch. Dickerson caught eight passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns as Pitt (2-0) stampeded Buffalo, 54-27, before a crowd of 21,870 at UB Stadium.

Of course, as the Buffalo News points out, some of those points came as the result of miscues:

But the Bulls committed four turnovers that the Panthers turned into 27 points. Before the offense even took the field, UB was down, 14-0. That made for a long day in a game where the Bulls were clearly under the spotlight, hoping to shock the Panthers from the Big East.

Pitt (2-0) is the lone Bowl Championship Series program on the Bulls' schedule and a win over the Panthers could have propelled the program closer to the Top 25. Instead, with the spotlight glaring, the Bulls (1-1) forgot their lines.

"It hurts, it really hurts because we thought we had a shot to go out here and beat a BCS school and that was one of our goals this year," said senior free safety Mike Newton, who led the Bulls with 10 tackles. "We have to come back and rebound from this."

That Newton guy seemed to be around the ball quite a bit.

Even the defense got in on the act scoring-wise.

Oh that defense. There were a couple of downers...

Paul Zeise breaks down a few things and says what everyone should be thinking - you can't give up 500 yards in offense to Buffalo.

Uh, yeah - what he said.

And while we're on the subject of downers, Pitt got some bad news when they found out safety Andrew Taglianetti is lost for the season. Elijah Fields should assume the starting spot. Definitely some bad news, but Fields should be a capable backup.

My thoughts on the game:

- Bill Stull's leash has probably gotten a bit longer with two solid games thus far. He played better in this one and the play-calling has been excellent - good mix of pass vs. run, extensive use of the TE, and keeping Stull within his limits. Yes, the deep play probably will not be there all that much under his reign - even with Baldwin on the team. But he's been accurate thus far on the shorter passes and as long as he doesn't lose games, he could do an accurate job. Even if he remains the starter all year, I hope that Sunseri still gets some reps to get him ready for a competition with Bostick next season.

- Yes, Buffalo was no match for Pitt's offensive line, but man can Dion Lewis run. He looks real solid and Pitt's running game hasn't taken even a small step back from last year so far. The road ahead will be the true test, but so far, so good. Some people might be surprised that Graham hasn't gotten more touches so far, but really, there's no been no reason to give him any with the way Lewis is playing.

- Two missed extra points in a game? I hope that gets fixed soon. Dan Hutchins' punting was, again, pretty good, however - averaging over 47 yards a punt.

- With Stull effectively having trouble going deep, I think it may be another year until we see Jonathan Baldwin possibly have a real breakout season. Maybe not, but it's looking that way so far.

- Slightly irritating, but I AGAIN saw Stull look to only one receiver again on a short pass play. Can't remember if it was Baldwin or Dickerson, but it was a 3rd and 4, I believe, in the 2nd half. They didn't convert and it was a bad play all around. I have seen him look for other receivers on other plays, but sometimes he gets so locked onto one guy that it's not healthy.

Did you miss the game? I think it can still be seen on as of the time I'm posting this assuming you have Verizon or Comcast.

Looking forward to Navy next week - especially since it's a night game.


  1. Funny you should mention Stull "locking on" when I think that he's done pretty much the opposite - really improving from last season in that aspect of his game. Here's a quote from DW after Saturday's game...

    ""I thought Billy played within himself," Wannstedt said. "We called at least four plays for him down the field where he didn't like what he saw, didn't force the ball and checked down to a back. That's all he has to do. Just manage the game and, when the plays are there, make them."

    The TD pass to Lewis in the YSU game was another great example of Stull going through his progressions and hitting his outlet - in that case his FOURTH receiver.

  2. Reed,

    Did you watch or go to the game?

    You seem to be in tune regarding research, what was Stulls completion percentage minus the screens?

    He completed 21 passes but the yardage was pretty light.

    Lewis is a stud, the passing game still is a work in progress. I am not hammering Stull but you have to agree, he still can't throw an accurate long pass. As long as plays within himself we will be ok but there are going to be about 4-5 games that he will have to play out of the box and throw, therefore I am worried.

  3. rkohberger -

    If you actually read that paragraph you're referring to, I was sure to point out that I had seen Stull look to other receivers, including in that game. I was only pointing out one specific play. Ordinarily, it wouldn't have deserved a mention, but:

    1. He did the exact same thing during the first game. He may not be doing it all the time, but it was evident all the way in the 'uppers' when I was at the game last week and in only bits and pieces of this game, I managed to catch it. I didn't even look for it, but it was so blatant anyone would have spotted it.

    2. The play in question was kind of a crucial spot if I remember. It was a 3rd and 4 (again, if I remember) and was in the 2nd half when it would have really helped Pitt to sustain that drive.

    I'm not trying to be too critical of a great outstanding performance - just trying to point out the obvious. Stull may be able to get away with that against Buffalo or Youngstown State, but if it becomes a pattern, he's going to be on his backside more than a few times this year.

  4. Anon- - yes, I watched the game - twice. But, what does his % without the screens have to do with whether he's checking down to the receivers or not?

    And really - your question is kind of weird because the OC called those screens - so we penalize Stull for doing what he's told to do? I don't give a damn what it is without the screens - because I'm glad he completed the screens.

    As to his "light" yardage... Any QB playing for PITT this season will have about the same yardage numbers because we are seeing the offense Frank Cignetti clearly stated at the end of camp he would run this season. He said in an interview before the YSU game that his approach for this year would be a strong running game supplemented by a low risk passing game emphasizing screens, swing passes and short crossing routes - getting the ball into specific player's hands.

    Why is anyone surprised the Cignetti is just doing what he said he's do?

    Lee: I re-read your column after I hit my 'post' button. Sorry - point taken.

  5. Reed,

    Screens are usually predetermined, very little options available regarding alternative locations.

    I do give a damn, because he is extremely inaccurate when he throws the ball, we will never be able to stretch defenses because Stull can't throw deep, I expect to see adjustments to really limit the screen pass options because you have to admit the way Stull throws the ball sooner or later one of those screen plays are going to be picked off and returned for a touch down.

    Stull is mediocre at best, he looked good against Buffalo and YSU. Once the competition picks up his production will drop dramatically.

    Keep an eye on those passing stats after the cupcake portion of the schedule is over!!!!

    Also, Navy will give them a game, they are going to load up on the run and make us pass, Navy gave tOSU a game and I expect the same.

  6. Anon -

    I think the offensive play-calling has been excellent so far, but that's an excellent point about the interceptions once the other team adjusts. The announcers during the Buffalo game kind of alluded to that on one of the throws when the defender was cheating up a bit. It wasn't as close to an interception as they seemed to think, but it is something that could happen if Pitt gets into a lull throwing them.

  7. OK I'll refer back to Stull's 2008 season when he didn't have the added benefit of an OC who could actually understand how to tailor gameplans. Stull played every game with one exception against all those non-cupcake teams and threw 10 INTs in 330 attempts. That's one in every 33 attempts folks - a ratio that put him in the top % of QBs in that category. I see no reason to think that he'll see any better or different type defenses this season than he did last - after all it's not like we didn't throw screens last season.

    As to his completion percentage - using the same points above he hit for 58% of his passes last season - and contrary to public belief a lot of those were downfield throws... all you have to do is look at Baldwin's production last season. He didn't get all his receptions on deep patterns, and Stull made longer throws to other receivers also. To say that he can't do it at all is pretty broad statement.

    I'll take 58% and a 3.03 per hundred INT ratio again in 2009 thank you.

    Bottom line is that I think he'll equal his completion % and better his TD to INT ration this season - and we are already seeing that in the trust Cignetti has vested in Stull to pass the ball in the redzone - something Cav wouldn't do because he had McCoy last season.

    You guys are pretty comfortable predicting failure for Stull down the road - I'm not so much. I think he has an OC who recognizes his strengths and weaknesses much better than our old one - and who has and will tailor a passing game to fit. I don't think he'll set the world on fire, but we'll see...