Friday, October 16, 2009

Averting Disaster #2

Wow, what a nightmare. I'm not even sure where to begin with this but I wanted to post a recap while the game was still fairly fresh in my mind.

- I don't say this to be a jerk, but Rutgers wasn't very good tonight. It seemed like when Pitt really focused, they had control of the game. They couldn't stop Pitt from moving down the field. Taking out the last drive where Pitt simply kneeled to end the game, 7 of Pitt's 10 drives were at least 35 yards long or resulted in scores. But two lost fumbles, two missed FGs, and a blocked kick kept the game close. Conversely, their offense had lots of problems. Their running game was disastrous (36 yards) and while they did pass for some yards, they had a real problem moving the ball for sustained drives. Here were Rutgers' possessions: Fumble recovery and 11 yards for a TD, punt, interception, 3 and out, 3 and out, long drive for FG, punt, 27 yards and missed FG, 3 and out, 49 yards for TD, and a turnover on downs. They really only moved the ball well twice all game.

- Stull was terrifyingly average. Another game without an INT (though he did have the very costly fumble) and overall, a decent game. Yes, he had the woefully inaccurate throws, but he didn't kill the team. Definitely more of a game manager tonight, but that was fine.

- Dion Lewis is an absolute monster. Even though it seems incredulous at someone who is for now, the NATION'S LEADING RUSHER, I find myself more and more impressed with him each week. Look, there's barely a chance he'll even sniff the Heisman this year, but man, what numbers so far. 180 yards and 2 TDs? The funny thing is, I'm more impressed with the way he carried the offense at the end of the game that I am at his overall numbers. He held onto the ball and moved the chains to eat up clock and made a great rushing night even better.

- Tom Savage will be a very good quarterback. He's already pretty good as a true freshman and has a chance to be great. I was really amazed at his poise during the whole game even though he did make some mistakes. He easily could have had more than one INT, but he didn't play all that bad against a good defense. Pitt had him in their grasp several times and couldn't get the sack. He's bigger than you think and I respect him for not just going down to avoid a fumble or whatever. He was always trying to make a play.

- I don't really know how to address the Dan Hutchins issue. Two missed FGs that were both within his range is kind of scary. The fact that he missed the short FG at the end (and it wasn't even that close) was a killer. I hope there aren't any lingering issues with this because Pitt won't always be able to escape those types of mistakes. No, had they lost, it wouldn't have been all his fault. But you can't miss that kick. Period.

- I can't tell you how loud I screamed on that punt return where Dom DeCicco allowed the ball to hit him. The entire time BEFORE the kick, I was just hoping they would get out of the way. We couldn't allow any dumb mistakes that close to the goal line and of course, one was made. You've got to be more aware there.

- THE DUMB PENALTIES HAVE GOT TO STOP. Way too many dumb mistakes. John Malecki pushing the Rutgers player well after the play was over is inexcusable. That's the type of thing that should get you temporarily yanked from a game. No way that crap should be tolerated.

- Oh, and that Jonathan Baldwin catch? Ridiculous. It was surprisingly his only catch, but it was huge. Rutgers really seemed to key in on him and covered him pretty well. I was disappointed not to see more deep attempts to him, but I think part of it was probably due to the coverage.

- Ray Graham only had two carries tonight, and I hate to say it, but despite what he's shown so far, he may be getting phased out just because Lewis has been playing out of his mind. It was nice to see him on kickoff returns, though. And Henry Hynoski was a bulldozer tonight after that embarrassing goal line situation last week.

- Good win, good win, good win. That's what I'm just going to keep telling myself despite all the mistakes. And how bad does that NC State loss taste now? A 7-0 record would put them likely in the top ten by now and Lewis could REALLY be gaining Heisman steam...even though there's no way he'd win it because he's a freshman.

It only gets harder from here.


  1. Lee - you said "I don't say this to be a jerk, but Rutgers wasn't very good tonight. It seemed like when Pitt really focused, they had control of the game."

    ... Well, not to belabor the obvious - but this is what good teams do - they make other teams play poorly. RU looked pretty shabby out there because, for one, we wouldn't let them get any sort of a ground game going at all. When that happens everything else is harder to come by.

    The purpose of having a talented and successful team is to make the opponent look bad by making them playing badly - which PITT has done against both UCONN and RU.

    How is it that PITT fans can't get this and instead make it appear that somehow PITT was lucky to win these games because the other teams didn't play as well as PITT?

  2. Reed,

    With all due respect Rutgers is not a good team, UC blew them out, they beat the little sisters of the poor 3 times and their best win is against Maryland.

    Pitt was very lucky to win this game, Pitt fumbled, missed FG's and dropped a game sealing INT in the last minute.

    Pitt should have won this game by 24 plus points! You have to admit Rutgers made it interesting at the end of the game.

    Did you also notice that when the pressure was on Stull he really short armed his throws and ducked that really effected his accuracy, body language still says it all. Stull still has a hard time dealing with pressure.

    I will take 6-1 but lets see how they do against, USF, WVU, UC, ND if they go 3-1 over this span then they are a good team otherwise don't pop the cork for a clebration, this team is still a work in progress because they have played 7 easy games with inferior competition.

  3. Of course we'll have sterner competition - my point is that after every single game the critics have come out and said "Yeah, big deal - wait until next game!" Yet each subsequent game we've taken care of the win.

    I'm not one for setting some sort of arbitrary standard for our team. To me - each week is a separate competition, and when you go out and take care of your responsibility for that week, and you get the win, then you deserve credit for doing so.

    This is a thing that PITT fans are loath to do...somehow each win just isn't good enough just because down the road there is always a possibility of a loss.

    Well, of course the team could lose down the road. I half expect them to, at least once or twice. However, that will not diminish my joy at going into a BE opponent's stadium and beating a team whose staff and kids wanted to win as badly as PITT did.

    No one thinks PITT is Nebraska of the 1980s or USC of the 2000s - we are who we are. But it's like pulling teeth to get our fans to acknowledge a good win for what it is - a good win. And any win against a BE opponent who you haven't beaten in four years is a good win.

    But here's the weirdest thing about this issue - those most cynical critics are the fans who made the most grandiose predictions prior to the season starting. Personally, I figured the team would go 8-4 or 9-3 this season. The reason was that I think the BE is a better conference than most give it credit for - every season we hear how bad it is, then watch the BE go out and beat the crap out of each other in good, well played games. But the other guys who felt that we were a lock for a BE title or a sure bet to be 10-2 / 11-1 are all upset because we are doing just what they thought we'd do - win against the competition set forth in front of us. How many fans pointed to NC State as a possible loss... lots of them. Then, we we actually lose to them they pull their hair out and scream "How could we?"

    It's a perverse pleasure to be able to point to a 6-1 record and state how terrible we must be because the teams we played must have been terrible also, or else how could we possibly have beaten them?

  4. BTW - I wouldn't say we were "lucky" at all to have won this game. This is what good teams do - over come adversity to pull out the win. Those fumbles and missed FGs were poor plays, yet we kept going and won the game. Lesser teams don't do that - they lose games and point to the TOs and missed FGs as reasons why.

    I assume you want a Tom Brady or a Ben Rothlisberger for a QB at PITT - those are about the only two QBs I can think of who don't feel pressure and when it comes. Bill Stull got a lot of defensive heat in the form of DL pressure and blitzes yesterday and dealt with it. In the past we'd have seen him either crumple for a sack or throw an interception when in that situation. The fact that he didn't shows me that he's playing differently than last season. That 3rd down play in the 4th quarter was a great case in point - last season he doesn't get that ball off and either we punt or are faced with a 4th down try... we'd have punted the ball back to RU. But Stull passed that ball AFTER contact and put it up to where Baldwin could use his talents to make the catch and get a first down. No way that happens last season.

    Hey, Stull completed 66% of his passes yesterday and out of ten 3rd down conversions eight were directly on him. Six 1st down passes and two very nice scrambles for first downs. OK - I'll take that play out of my QB, thank you, especially in a game where the OC was going to run the ball most of the time anyway.

    No one said this kid was ever going to be a pretty QB or play perfectly - but I'll bet a dollar that the coaching staff was congratulating him after the game last night, and really, they are the only ones who matter after all.