Friday, September 3, 2010

Well, That Thoroughly Sucked

Not much more to add to the title, but I'm sure this post will go on for quite a while.

So Pitt lost tonight against Utah. Unfortunately, I predicted this dead on in my Q&A with Block U earlier this week. I don't know, I figured Pitt would play well but I thought there would be something that kept this team from winning.

Had you told me that Tino Sunseri would play pretty well and Pitt would win the turnover battle, I would have expected a win. During the game, they mentioned that Pitt wins 89% of its games where they win the turnover battle. I would have figured the team would hold serve.

Problem is, the team just gave up too many big plays and didn't make enough of their own. For starters, I'm not entirely sure who kidnapped Frank Cignetti and replaced him with Matt Cavanaugh in the first half, but Pitt's offense played about as unimaginative as they possibly could. I understand the need to simplify things for Tino Sunseri's first start. And frankly, I would have done the same thing. But I expected the team to throw a few more passes that were, you know, longer than five yards. Part of the problem was that even though the offensive line started off okay, they got progressively worse and Sunseri had less time to throw. But Pitt was stuck in some sort of time-warp, Johnny Majors 1990s playcalling funk. I saw very little creativity and it seemed the offense was dumbed down too much.

And then there's the secondary. Oh, boy.

What a disaster from basically start to finish. Jarred Holley managed to get a key interception in the end zone to keep the game close before the half, but other than that, it was a complete train wreck. All the talk in camp was that the unit should be markedly better than last year's. Maybe it was just me, but I didn't see it. Sophomore QB Jordan Wynn went for nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs. Fellow soph DeVonte Christopher, who had a grand total of two catches last season looked like Randy Moss on steroids. Eight catches for 155 yards? Jerry Rice thinks that's a career day.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Well, self - at least they shut down the main guy instead."


The defense also gave up five catches and 87 yards to big-play guy, Jereme Brooks. Worse, however, was the number of big passes: 19 yard TD, 24 yards, 32 yards, 46 yards, and then the 61 yard TD bomb.

One thing that stuck out at me in looking at the play-by-play was the progression of those plays. That's the exact order in which they happened. Yes, there were shorter passes in between, but as the game went on, the secondary got worse, giving up progressively bigger plays.

The thing that killed the team more than anything was getting inside the ten-yard on successive possessions in the 3rd and 4th quarters and only getting six points out of it. If Pitt scores a TD on one of those, they possibly win. Who knows how the game plays out, but they would have had a good look at it. You can't, can't, can't, can't, can't, can't, can't, CAN'T get that close and come away with FGs. Period. Heck, on one of the possessions, they had a first and goal from the four. FROM THE FOUR.

Another killer was obviously the penalties. Too many times the team had drives stalled because of penalties. 12-75 was simply too many. But, it's the opener, so you hope it gets better from here.

Moving to the offensive side of the ball, Pitt's stars were really held in check. Dion Lewis had not only a pedestrian night, but a below average one of only 75 yards on 25 carries.  The offensive line really didn't help that and Utah was stacking guys at the line giving him virtually no chance to succeed. He'll be fine. Jon Baldwin was virtually non-existent early on and only made an impact late in the game when secondary coverage broke down, leaving him wide open for the long TD catch.

And I heard the comment about Ray Graham not playing really affecting the team. I don't know. Yes, he's a change of pace back, but if Lewis had that much trouble finding room to run, I think Graham would have fallen into the same problems. Utah just stacked the box and made running extremely difficult.

A bright spot for me was the play of Tino. He struggled a little early, but I don't place any blame on him. A few of his early passes were off, but he was under pressure as the first half went on and the playbook was really limited. He avoided mistakes until the final, extremely-costly, interception and looked like a leader out there. I really think he's going to be good and I think the QB position is in good hands for the next few years. He was an assassin late in the game, and made two great throws to Baldwin on that last TD drive. He came right back and got Pitt within in field goal ranging making another great throw to Mike Shanahan. It was only one game, but he's looking like he can play.

And the good news is that this doesn't severely damage Pitt's season. All of the silly talk about the team going undefeated and winning a national championship can officially stop now.  If this team goes 9-3 and wins the Big East, mission accomplished. The key thing to remember is that things get easier from here. Miami and WVU will be difficult but Pitt will at least have the luxury of playing at home. This is one of Pitt's toughest games on the schedule and the team will get better as the season moves on.

Still, it was a bit of a disappointment to see Pitt lose this one.


  1. Wow, I would not put the words "well" & "Sunseri" in the same sentence. I thought they should've given Bostick a shot. Sunseri played way too scared for most of the game and routinely under-threw Baldwin.

    I wouldn't have benched him for the next game, but I would have given Bostick a chance.

    People are questioning the offensive play calling, but I think that was a result of having a QB who looked to be in a moment that was just too big for him.

  2. Hi 8th -

    Fair points, but I think Sunseri was under fire for part of that game because Utah's defense was on top of him. He did make some poor throws, but some of the ones he made were pretty good. He hit Saddler on a few short ones, made some key 3rd down conversions, and that crossing pattern throw he made to Baldwin threaded a needle.

    I don't know, I can see how you might not be sold on him yet, but I think given all of the circumstances, I would definitely say he played well.

    I was really skeptical coming in, but I think there was a lot to be excited about. I really think he'll have a good year.

  3. I think he may be good eventually, but I saw a QB that seemed to run INTO sacks at least twice and made far more bad throws than good. If you are picking out good throws, that means that he didn't do too well. lol

    I don't know how anyone CAN be sold on him, yet. He's only played one game and he didn't play very well. The interception in overtime was unbelievable. He threw towards the back shoulder of a WR when the front shoulder is the only place the ball should've gone. Throw it to the front shoulder and either WR catches it or it goes out of bounds. He threw to the wrong should on a deep pass to Baldwin as well. He threw the ball towards the middle of the field when it should've been towards the sidelines. He also underthrew Baldwin on the two jump balls he threw.

    I'm not saying that Sunseri won't be good, but compare OUR sophomore QB to Utah's sophomore QB and I don't think there is any way that you (collective you) can classify Tino's performance as anywhere near the same solar system as good.

    Once again, not saying that he shouldn't start next week. I just think that Dave should've put the team before Sunseri and gave Bostick a look. He at least does have a win in South Bend under his belt.

    Sunseri could've always been put back in, if and when he calmed down.

  4. No, I don't think you can yank Sunseri in his first game. Talk about confidence killers.

    He's a serviceable backup, but has never shown any great level of play - even in the wins he had. The last game he started was in 2009 on the road at Notre Dame as a sophomore and he put up very similar numbers to Sunseri's in the Utah game. The only difference is that he completed less passes and threw THREE interceptions.

    Also, keep in mind Bostick's best career game - his BEST game - was as a freshman at home against Navy, a team with no defense. I had to look it up, but in that game, he went 20-28 for 191 yards with a TD and an INT. Against a much better defense, as a freshman, on the road, Sunseri put up almost the same type of numbers.

    I'm sure Bostick has improved a little since then, but I'll take a pass.

    As for your assessment of Sunseri, we'll have to agree to disagree. Sunseri completed more than 50% of his passes in a hostile environment, with a shoddy offensive line playing against a very good defensive line, in his first college start. He avoided mistakes throughout the game until the final interception. So, yes, I'd classify that as a good.

    Maybe not good in the sense of what he should eventually be...if he's putting up similar numbers next season, I'd classify them as pedestrian. But given all the circumstances I defined, and in that context, yes I'd say he did 'good'.