You Can't Just Label Every Pitt Loss as "Pitting" or "Same Old Pitt"

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

I was as upset as anyone in the city Saturday evening.  I drove with my fiancĂ© to 5 o’clock mass with few words exchanged.  I couldn’t even listen to my friend Kraig Riley break down the game on the Fan.  I just needed time to digest the loss.  We drove from church in relative silence as well and it took some Chinese takeout and a bottle of wine for me to really lighten up that evening.  Then the Penguins loss brought me down again.  I was truly demoralized.

However, it is irresponsible to label this loss as “same old Pitt”.  It is simply not that.  That would be a false statement.

Not "Same Old Pitt"

Same old Pitt is last season dropping back-to-back heartbreakers after starting 3-0, which began a 4-game losing streak, and leaving the Panthers with nothing to play for.  Same old Pitt is dropping a Thursday night game to North Carolina in 2018, with still a chance to win the division, eventually leading to bowl ineligibility.  Same old Pitt is kicking the ball over and over to Mardy Gilyard in 2009 and settling for the Meineke Car Care Bowl instead of winning the Big East.  Same old Pitt typically needs to win out to potentially back themselves into the conference championship, on the hopes of very particular division opponent losses.  This is not “same old Pitt”.

And that is because Same Old Pitt does not start the season 6-1 and with hopes of a playoff berth.  I have not had the opportunity to root for a Pitt team that was favored to win their conference, at any point in any season.  I also have not had a Pitt team totally rip my heart out while also retaining so much to play for.  They typically rip my heart out because they have nothing to play for.  This season is still different despite Saturday’s loss to Miami.

In fact, Pitt remains the odds-on favorite to win the ACC.  Draftkings Sportsbook this morning has Pitt listed at +125 and Wake Forest at +300 to win the conference.  Pitt also remains the heavy favorite to win the Coastal division.  The Panthers will also still likely be favored in every regular season game the rest of the season and maybe the ACC Championship as well.  However, Saturday’s loss was still absolutely gutting.

Unprepared and Flat

Pitt came out flat again.  In several of their games this season, despite having one of the best offenses in the nation, the Panthers have a tough time getting points in the 1st quarter or taking a 1st quarter lead.  Typically, I would not be nervous.  Pitt had fallen behind in several games this season and Kenny (Heisman) Pickett always seemed to lead them back quickly. 

Unfortunately, going into the game I knew this was a bad matchup for Pitt on paper.  Anyone who watches the games knew Pitt’s secondary had been bailed out by sloppy offensive play by their opponents.  Errant throws in the Tennessee game and dropped passes by Clemson changed those games completely in Pitt’s favor.  I have talked about it at nauseum, but it became very apparent again on Saturday.  It became apparent because Miami did not make these mistakes.

In fact, freshman quarterback, Tyler Van Dyke didn’t really appear to make any mistakes, aside from a single interception.  Van Dyke, becoming known as TVD, threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns.  Miami’s leading receiver this season, Charleston Rambo, had seven receptions for 101 yards.  Collectively, the Hurricanes pass game could not be stopped, especially by a weak Panther secondary playing in a Narduzzi system that does not fit his current personnel.

However, despite all of this, Pitt still had a chance at the end of regulation.  It helped that Kenny Heisman threw for 519 yards and three touchdowns on the day and Jordan Addison collected eight receptions for 145 yards. 

The Panthers had a chance to get the ball back down just two points with close to two minutes on the clock.  The Pitt defensive line appeared to stuff the Hurricanes for a safety on 1st down.  Unfortunately, the call on the field was that the ball completely came out of the end zone and there were not any good camera angles to say otherwise.

Quick rant: the entire ACC Network broadcast was terrible.  The broadcasters were outwardly rooting for Miami, the camera crew missed several full plays live, and the commercials are comically odd.  Plus, if you toss the officiating into the full responsibility of the conference, the entire ACC should be ashamed.  End rant.

We will never know what could have happened if the Panthers were awarded the ball with time left on the clock down just two points.  The call stood, it was not confirmed, and the Hurricanes were able to get a 1st down and run out the clock, winning the game 38-34. 

Plenty to Blame

There is plenty of blame to throw around.  Firstly, Pat Narduzzi deploys this one-size-fits-all defense where his cornerbacks are left alone to cover receivers.  It is not working, and he refuses to adjust.  Additionally, if he is not going to adjust it his responsibility to recruit personnel that do fit his system.  That is squarely on him and it has plagued Pitt defenses for years during his tenure.

Ultimately, even though they are playing in that flawed system, the defense still has to play better.  They have now given up 82 points and 998 yards in Pitt’s two losses to WMU and Miami.  The offense can only do so much, and they are certainly doing enough to win.  The defense is largely at fault.

Also, as mentioned above, the officiating was awful.  The non-safety call aside, there were several phantom roughing the passer and defensive pass interference calls on both sides that just did not make sense.  They also ruled a play as a 4th down, before overturning it with video replay, when the official was legitimately standing directly over the ball as it rolled out of bounds.  Overall, the officiating was a laughable disgrace.

And finally, some blame can go on Kenny Pickett.  He was outstanding and his Heisman candidacy should be impacted positively by Saturday’s game.  However, his two interceptions were extremely costly and both plays had an open Jordan Addison for a touchdown.  You can say Pickett had an outstanding game while still docking him for the two picks. Both of those things can be true.

Concluding Thoughts

However, this loss is not “same old Pitt” and it is not “Pitting”.  This team still has so much to play for and is playing better with more talent than any Pitt team in recent history.  The Panthers are still in the conversation to be in a New Year’s Six bowl and are not just settling for the Kellogg’s Sun Bowl like teams in the past.  You cannot just label every loss as “Same Old Pitt.”