Any momentum Pitt gained from last week's upset win against Notre Dame is gone, vanished into the Pittsburgh evening. The Panthers deserve some measure of credit for their improbable second-half comeback, but it's hard to argue you deserve a win after falling down 27-3. Here are three thoughts to end the night with...
- It may not have been the Notre Dame hangover, but Pitt didn't show up to play in the first half. I think you could argue either way whether or not Pitt struggled in the first half tonight because their minds were still stuck on last week's game. Pitt looked very strong on the first couple of series, driving the ball down the field against the Tar Heels. The first drive ended in a field goal, though, and the second one ended with a Tom Savage fumble (which Paul Chryst pointed to as the turning point in the first half). After that, it came down to the Pitt defense struggling to contain mobile North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams, who ran for a pair of touchdowns in the first half. Pitt did a pretty good job stopping designed option runs from Williams, but struggled whenever he decided to freelance and scramble.
- The defense does deserve credit for the second half. For as bad as the unit was over the first 30 minutes, they were that good in the second half. North Carolina had 107 yards of total offense in the second half, and Williams ran for just 19. The defense, along with a couple of turnovers, did its job in the second half to get the ball back in the hands of the offense, which wasn't necessarily firing on all cylinders, but was doing enough to find the end zone in the situations they were in. I know defensive coordinator Matt House has come under fire this year, but the unit as a whole has played well at times this year. They've also had more than there share of struggles, but the second half was pretty good from the Pitt defense tonight.
- No reason to panic, but a golden opportunity squandered. This past week has been unlike any in Pitt football for a long time. There was optimism, talk of momentum and even debates over whether or not the Panthers could somehow sneak their way into the ACC title game. Seems kind of silly now, right? Pitt had a golden opportunity to close out this season with a nice winning streak and build some real momentum heading into the third year of the Paul Chryst era. Instead, it's more of the same from last year, fighting in your final games to secure a bowl bid. I think the team has made strides, and I don't think one loss to North Carolina is an indictment on the team or program as a whole, but it's losses like this that illustrate why it's so hard for Pitt to gain traction both within the city of Pittsburgh and college football as a whole.