We said all week that if Pitt can play at the level it did last week in South Bend, the Panthers would have a legitimate shot at winning out and going to a semi-respectable bowl game. To put it mildly, that didn't happen tonight. Instead, Pitt came out admittedly slugglish and flat in the first half, allowing UConn, probably the worst team in the Big East, to go up 24-0 in the first 30 minutes. I'll have a full breakdown up after I have a chance to go back and rewatch this one, but here are a few quick thoughts to leave you with tonight...
- The offense never clicked. Even in the second half, when Pitt put up 17 points, it never seemed like the offense got in an effective rhythm. Tino Sunseri missed several open receivers (usually Devin Street deep) and the running game ran into a brick wall in Connecticut's defense. The Husky defense is certainly worthy of its top-ten ranking, but Ray Graham didn't break off any big plays like he did last week, and it seemed like Chryst once again wasn't totally sure how he wanted to integrate Rushel Shell into the offense. The biggest story of this game was Pitt's inability to stop UConn (and particularly tight end Ryan Griffin) in the first half, but if the offense had any sort of momentum, they could have kept the Huskies off the field and made it a closer game at halftime, making the second-half comeback a bit more manageable.
- The roller coaster ride continues. The ups and downs of this season for Pitt have been almost staggering. The Panthers lost to Youngstown State to open the season, then beat Virginia Tech (despite troubles of their own, the Hokies are a talented team). They took No. 4 Notre Dame, a national championship contender to triple overtime on the road, then gave up 24 points to one of the worst offenses in Division I-A and lose to Connecticut. Paul Chryst's biggest message to the team, fans and media this first season has been "consistency," but the results have been wildly inconsistent. It's probably a case of needing more than just 10 games for a coach's message to sink in, but tonight's game was certainly a bad result for a team looking to build consistency off last week's win.
- Some Notre Dame hangover? Pitt running back Ray Graham said he thought the team came out "flat" and "sluggish" in the first half tonight. When asked if he thought there was any lingering effects from last week's heartbreaking loss, though, he said he didn't think so. Chryst also said he didn't think his team's mind was still in South Bend. Of course, that may just be player and coach speak after a disappointing loss. One week after the team's most emotional game of the season, it's easy to think that those couple of plays that got away last week were still haunting them. If it wasn't a hangover from last week, though, Chryst and company need to figure out why exactly the Panthers came out sluggish tonight. It's a Friday night at Connecticut, which isn't exactly a big-game atmosphere, but Pitt is right on the cusp of bowl eligibility, and needs to make sure that it gets that extra game and, more importantly, those extra practices. Players talked all week about the motivation of playing for one more game with this group of guys, but that motivation didn't seem too evident in the first 30 minutes tonight.