CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Missed opportunities have killed the Panthers this year in all three of their losses and guess what - they are really hurting them here today.
** On the first drive, Dorin Dickerson dropped an easy touchdown pass - a ball that hit him right in the hands -- and there is no reason in the world he shouldn't have made that catch. It is just a lack of concentration, nothing more and nothing less.
** Dan Hutchins then missed a very makeable 40-yard field goal wide right to cap that drive.
** Then Dion Lewis, on the second drive, made a great 25-yard run - and broke Tony Dorsett's Pitt single-season freshman rushing record in the process -- but unfortunately he fumbled the ball into the endzone for a touchback. Lewis made up for it with an 11-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter but it was another example of this team leaving points on the field.
** On Pitt's final possession -- they drove to the 32 and had a second-and-2 -- and Bill Stull fumbles the ball and has to fall on it back at the 42 and Pitt wastes a time-out. Then, after Mike Shanahan catches a pass that puts them well within field goal range with 17 seconds to play, Stull throws the ball to the inside of the field to Nate Byham, who has no prayer of scoring or getting out of bounds........and yes, Pitt had to use its final time-out with six seconds to play and then were forced to settle for the field goal.
Lewis's touchdown should have made it 24-7 Pitt, or at the very least, 20-7, Pitt, instead it made it 10-7 and so rather than enjoying a comfortable lead - against a team with a very mediocre offense -- Pitt is leading only 13-10 going into the half. At the very least, Pitt should be up 23-10 and it probably should be more.
Missed opportunities hurt Pitt all season - let's see if it continues to hurt Pitt right to the end of the game.
Here are some other notes:
1.) Joe Thomas has an ankle sprain, which is why Chris Jacobson started and is playing left guard. Thomas is available though I don't recall seeing him play yet.
2.) Dan Mason made a nice interception to stop a touchdown - or at least a field goal - drive by North Carolina. He has played a lot this game because Greg Williams missed some practice time due to a funeral. Mason started at weakside linebacker and Max Gruder started at strongside linebacker.
3.) North Carolina won the coin toss and deferred so they will get the ball to start the second half.
Things to look for in the second half:
1.) Pitt's offensive line is giving Bill Stull plenty of time to throw and the receivers are getting open. The Panthers have been able to move the ball at will - but now they need to start finishing drives with authority, i.e. touchdowns.
2.) Pitt's defensive front has been able to get pressure on T.J. Yates but tailback Ryan Houston has gashed the Panthers some. Pitt needs to tighten this up and force the Tar Heels into throwing situations because from what we've seen so far, they just aren't very good in that circumstance.
3.) I was told that the Pitt band will play Sweet Caroline at the end of the third quarter, so that Neil Diamond magic should give the Panthers a little fourth quarter boost!