Well, there isn't much more to say about how bad the Panthers looked last night and there is little to feel good about.
If there is a tiny bit of consolation it is this - the Hurricanes are the best looking college team I've seen play at Heinz Field since 2003, when Miami came to town and beat the Panthers 28-14. They are really loaded with talent at just about every spot. Trust me, it is no coincidence at all that all 32 NFL teams had scouts in the press box last night -- that's far more than at a typical game.
Miami still has a little bit of maturing to do and they are still a relatively young team -- they make some boneheaded mistakes on the field -- but as one NFL scout told me last night "you won't find five teams in the country with more talent" than the Canes.
So it isn't like Pitt was outclassed by the little sisters of the poor. That is a very talented team.
Now, that being said - there is no way in the world Pitt should still be losing by 28 points to anyone, not at this stage in the ballgame.
And while it would be easy to spin this way - "Hey, we're 1-2 but our two losses came to top 10 caliber teams and we won't see anyone that good the rest of the way" -- I see very little evidence that this team is going to be able to fix some of the issues in time to salvage this season by winning a Big East title.
At the start of the season I said this would be an 8-4 or 9-3 kind of team and obviously Pitt can get there still, but, boy, they'd have to get things together in a hurry.
** I thought the money quote from last night's aftermath was by Jabaal Sheard, who said in a nutshell that Pitt wasn't playing as a team and that too many guys are worried about being individuals. This is always a concern when a team has so many upperclassmen players who think they are headed to the NFL. There is no question a few of these guys have checked out mentally and frankly there is no question - just in speaking to some of the players it is easy to pick up - that there are certain fractures in that locker room. Again - this thing could go two ways from here, they could pull together and go "us against the world" or they could continue to pull apart and have the whole thing blow up and this turn into a disaster. It isn't a disaster yet because, well, I think most reasonable people believed they'd be 1-2 right now given the way their schedule set up. But given the off field stuff, the injuries, the mistake-riddled games -- this appears to be headed for disaster and will certainly test the leadership ability of Dave Wannstedt.
** The Jeff Knox situation highlighted exactly what I wrote in yesterday's blog post - that certain crimes will not be tolerated and are always going to be treated differently than just a bar fight. What Knox is accused of doing -- beating up his girlfriend - is not negotiable in Dave Wannstedt's eyes nor should it be. Say whatever you want, but he's been consistent and he's said it before "if you beat up a girl, if you are involved in a sexual assault or some other violent crime against a girl, if you rob or steal, if you get caught selling drugs you are gone." And anyone who thinks this is depth chart justice (meaning the only reason Knox got kicked off the team is he was a freshman who was redshirtting and thus not important to the team) is clueless. Knox was one of the biggest recruits in this class, he was a very highly rated player who the coaching staff thought was going to be a star. He also comes from a high school powerhouse in Maryland - DeMatha -- and Wannstedt and company have worked hard to open the door to the Panthers at that school. Obviously, if they were interested in depth chat justice, they'd have let Knox hang around but like Wannstedt said last night after the game when he was asked about it. "We won't tolerate it."
** Where to start about last night's game -- how about linebacker. In the Hurricanes first touchdown drive we saw everything that we need to know about why both Greg Williams and Tristan Roberts have a lot of work to do. The knock on Tristan Roberts is he knows what to do and where to be but once there he doesn't make the play. And early in the touchdown drive, Roberts made a great play to get out to get in position to stop a little wide receiver screen pass - and missed the tackle and it led to a bigger gain and a first down. Then Pitt made a stop down inside its 1 - but the play was wiped out because Williams - who, the knock is he gets lost out there too often -- lined up offsides. It was the first of four offsides called on linebackers last night, which has to be some sort of a record. It is clear that this unit - especially now with Dan Mason out -- has some real issues and like the offensive line, I'm not sure there are many answers, though I refuse to believe that at least one or two of those younger players could be any worse. Basically right now you have Max Gruder, who has played well and seems to be improving every game, and a lot of questions.
** As for Mason, he sat out the first three series but I think at that point coaches had seen enough from Roberts and Williams to know that they didn't stand a chance with both of them out there. The plan truly was to sit Mason and use him sparingly unless the game dictated otherwise and well, it did. Mason seemed to be a little better last night and played reasonably well until he got hurt but with a dislocated knee cap it seems like his season is probably over. That might not be horrible because he can still redshirt and get an extra year of learning under his belt.
** Dom DeCicco reinjured his hamstring on his interception which means it is probably time to think about a redshirt - and a move to weakside linebacker -- for him because it is clear that injury is going to linger. Jason Hendricks has played well at safety and the secondary is in much better shape this year and for the future than the linebackers. DeCicco could spend the rest of this season and next spring learning the linebacker position and he'd be an immediate upgrade. I think both safeties - Hendricks and Holley - played really well last night and Antwuan Reed played well. Ricky Gary, however, had a rough night and looked more like the Ricky Gary of old than the one we saw in training camp and even in the first two weeks - and that is not a good thing. Again, the competition level and caliber of Miami's receivers had something to do with making Pitt look silly but that's no excuse for not even being competitive in some ways. I think it is really time for coaches to start thinking about giving K'Wuan Williams a real shot at being the starter even though he is a freshman. Gary may ultimately work out but there has to be a little bit of heat put back on him because that is when he has responded in the past.
** Overall, I didn't think the defense was horrible. The no-huddle threw them off early but they adjusted and if you think about it -- Pitt's offense was a disgrace last night and yet the Panthers only trailed 10-0 at the half. Sheard had by far his best game, Brandon Lindsey played well and for the most part the defense kept the Panthers in it as long as they could. Clearly the defense gave up hope after Cam Saddler's fumbled punt. That was a huge play in this game. I'm not saying Pitt would have or could have won the game -- but they kick a field goal to get to 17-3 and then the defense is flying all over the field, gets a three-and-out and the stadium is going crazy and there seems to be some momentum and they are going to get the ball at about midfield and then WHAM - a fumble takes the wind out of the sails of the entire stadium and at that point a deflated defense goes out and lays down and Miami scores two more touchdowns. There is no reason to ever quit on the field and I'm not saying that is what the defense did, but it is clear that fumble sucked the energy out of them and they had a bit of a letdown. I really think the defense is going to be good enough, despite what happened last night (they won't see a quarterback or receivers or even a line like that the rest of the way) but they need some help from the offense.
** TJ Clemmings got in a little bit and didn't do much, as expected given it was his first time on the field. He is a youngster with a lot of upside so he needs to see the field every game and really have a legitimate shot of developing. Now that he has played, it is time to really play him and not waste a year like they did with Lucas Nix.
** The offense was a disaster, starting with the offensive line. I don't know what more can be said other than this - I can't believe there aren't younger guys on this team who couldn't do better than the current starters at several of the spots along this line. They can't be worse. It is impossible. Dave Wannstedt talked about looking at some lineup changes -- like at corner - hopefully if nothing else he is considering giving some competition to the starters and trying to light a fire under them. This is the worst offensive line I've seen at Pitt and here is the scariest thing -- three of the players on it are among the highest rated linemen Pitt has ever recruited.
** Ray Graham seems to be running better than Dion Lewis is but I'm not sure it is time to make a change there. Lewis ran better last night than he did the first two games and I think it is a matter of time for him to break out of this little slump he is in. But there is no question that Graham right now is seeing things better than Lewis and hitting the holes quicker than Lewis and finishing his runs better than Lewis so it is a good problem to have as the Panthers now have two legitimate running backs to hand the ball too. But as the offensive line goes, so goes the running game and as long as the line struggles, I'd use Graham more just because he is a little quicker to the hole and because he is a little better at making guys miss.
** I thought playing at Utah would prepare Tino Sunseri a little better for last night's game but this was the first time he looked like a deer in the headlights. He clearly got rattled once he got hit a few times and he wasn't able to complete some easy throws even when there wasn't pressure on him. Hopefully this was just a part of the learning experience for him and he will be better next time he faces a team which is in his face all game - like Rutgers in a few weeks - but he's got to do a better job of connecting with his receivers down the field. And stop with the "Pat Bostick should play" stuff please, Pat is a good option to have and eventually may have to take over but you can't give up on a sophomore quarterback after three games, two of which came against the best two teams the Panthers are going to play.
** A disturbing trend - Pitt has now lost four of its last five games against Division I-A competition. Yep, that's right - 1-4 in last five games against Division I-A competition. That's not a good thing by any measure but again, if there is any consolation it is this -- all four teams they lost to were ranked opponents. That doesn't make it better but it does show that often these "streaks" teams brag about or try and hide from are as much dictated by schedule as anything said team is doing on the field.
** I said it was too early to write off the Big East after week one but now after week three there is clearly enough evidence to write this - the Big East is putrid this year. Not mediocre. Not bad. Awful, just frigging awful. And after watching these first few weeks of inept play from this conference is there anyone out there who thinks Cincy-Oklahoma, WVU-LSU and Rutgers-North Carolina are going to be anything other than more humiliation for the conference? Each year is different, each year is new and while the Big East has been much better than it has been given credit for over the past five years since its rebirth, there is no defending it this year. This is a really bad football conference right now -- which is the one thing that should give Pitt fans hope that this season isn't entirely lost. There is no question the Panthers will have a chance to win the Big East still, though I'm not sure what that means other than they will finally get a banner to hang in the stadium. The Big East isn't always the worst BCS conference as some would have you believe, but this year it clearly is and frankly, for the first time I'm not sure if it is even legitimately as good as the Mountain West.