DURHAM, N.C. — I mean, what can you really say? Pitt held off a late rally by Duke this afternoon to preserve a 58-55 win in the highest scoring game in school history. Here's a link to my quick gamer on the website, and here are a few thoughts to take away on this Saturday evening.
- That was just weird. I think Duke coach David Cutcliffe summed it up best with the first sentence of his post-game press conference: "That was a bizarre game." That's about it. Neither team played anything close to competent defense, and even though Pitt was pretty clearly the better team, they let Duke make just enough plays here and there to stay in the game. I think it's best summed up by the series in the first half when Duke forced, literally, it's ONLY punt of the half, but returned it 82 yards for a touchdown. Duke couldn't do anything to stop Pitt's offense (though the Blue Devils shored up their run defense a little bit in the second half) but Pitt's defense had enough missed assignments and Duke has enough talented players that it stayed closer than it probably should have been.
That said, some credit to Pitt for not collapsing at the very end as they easily could have. That third-down pass from Tom Savage to Kevin Weatherspoon was the play of the game and sealed the win for Pitt.
Ultimately, this game will probably pop up a lot in the Pitt records books in the future. Savage was the first quarterback to throw for six touchdown passes since Pete Gonzalez in 1997. Tyler Boyd was the first freshman to have two consecutive 100-yard receiving games since Antonio Bryant in 1999. He was also the first receiver, regardless of class, to have three touchdown catches since Dorin Dickerson in 2009.
- The defense needs something. What that something is, I'm not sure. It's hard to say if it's coaching, execution or talent that is the reason, but Pitt's defense gave up way too many big plays today. I think one of the biggest problems is that, after things start to go south, you see guys overcommitting and trying to do a little too much. Especially against a team like Duke, that runs a lot of zone-reads, options and screens, over-pursuing will hurt you way more than sitting back and being, if anything, a little bit too safe.
I don't see Paul Chryst as the type of coach that would making any major coaching changes midseason, and those usually don't work out too well anyways. It's also not like Pitt has anyone buried on the roster that can come up and make a significant impact. The guys that have played this season are the guys that are going to play the rest of the way. That's just college football. If the defense does improve, it will be with the guys who played today.
- Savage looks better every week. The most impressive part about Savage today wasn't the 60-yard bombs he chucked to Boyd and Devin Street. I was way more impressed with a few plays where he checked down to a third or fourth option, looked off some linebackers and safeties, and made some checks at the line. In particular, on Street's second touchdown pass, Savage saw that Duke was going to bring the house on a blitz and checked out of whatever the original play call was. He had Street in one-on-one coverage on the left side and, even though Street was defended very well by Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell, Savage putt he ball where Street could go up and make a play on it.
The physical tools have always been there for Savage, the thing that keeps improving for him is the mental side of the game, and I think we saw that take a big step forward today.