Dave Wannstedt opened his press conference with a brief mention of the Utah game before, obviously, turning his attention to New Hampshire. Sure he talked about Ray Graham, Dom DeCicco, etc., but I think what we were all waiting for was the explanation of running on third and long late in regulation instead of taking a shot at the end zone. Of course the media wouldn't let him get away that easily and the question came up about Pitt's offense on that final drive in regulation:
“We discussed that (to run or pass on third down). Obviously every call stops with me — offense, defense or special teams. Where we were at with the third down-and-ten, the one thing you don’t want to do in the red zone, which we obviously did in overtime, was to turn the ball over and you don’t want to knock yourself out of field goal range.
“On the third-and-ten they were bringing a lot of pressure. If it’s third-and-three, third-and- four or third-and-five it’s obviously a whole different call. All you have to do is look up the percentages in the third-and-ten situations when you’re thinking in the back of your mind that you have a young quarterback and he can’t hear himself talk, you want to make sure that you’re making the right call. Plus, we thought if we went into overtime that we would win the game.
“On top of it all, you’re handing the ball to a great player. We did the same thing last year against South Florida when Dion Lewis went for 50 yards. Two years ago, if you remember the last play before the half against Navy down there, we handed the ball to LaSean McCoy on the draw and he went 50 or 60 yards. I think they’re anticipating the pass, but you’re also giving the ball to your best offensive player.”
I think I've made it pretty clear that I've switched over to the side of Wannstedt. I was always a bit in between on him, but I think he's really got Pitt going in the right direction.
That said, I still disagree with him on playcalling from time to time, and especially so in this case. Pitt was on the road and really needed to try to avoid overtime at all costs. I understand not wanting to make a mistake, I really do. But there would have been nothing wrong with asking Tino Sunseri to throw towards the sidelines and let Jon Baldwin try to make a play. Sunseri had shown signs of heating up as the game went on and he became more accurate. I think you've got to go to the end zone in that case. And while it's true that Dion Lewis is your best offensive weapon, to pretend like you have a realistic chance of getting ten yards on that play when Lewis had been held in check all night (and perhaps the most of his career) is unrealistic.
Wannstedt referred to the pass rush and I think he was more concerned about taking the sack. Tino had been sacked twice (I think) and while I understand there was the threat of it happening again, I think if you pound it into his skull that under no circumstances can he take a sack, you'd be okay.
Further, as Dan Hutchins proved after that when he missed the second attempt after Utah called a timeout immediately before it, that the field goal they had was no chip shot. Why not take a shot at paydirt?
The play shouldn't have caught anyone by surprise. Wannstedt is conservative by nature and it definitely showed there. Still, I think he made a mistake in not passing in that situation.