BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — And so the curtian closes on the 2012 Pitt football season, the program's first under Paul Chryst. In the big picture, today's game is really just a blip on the radar. It's much more important that the program has Chryst moving forward and the younger players can actually build upon what they learned under Chryst and his staff this season. That said, let's take a look at three points to take away from this game into the offseason.
- Pitt just had no answer for Ole Miss' speed. I mean this in two ways. First, the Rebel players were just plain faster than Pitt's players. That was especially evident when Pitt had the ball. Ole Miss was flying around, getting past blockers and making plays in the secondary. To some extent, this is just sort of the SEC gap that exists in college football right now. Pitt doesn't have to match SEC teams speed-for-speed to be elite (plenty of elite teams don't), but they have to be that much better at everything else they do. Today, the Panthers were not.
Second, the Panthers defensively had trouble keeping up with Ole Miss' up-tempo offense. Most plays, the Rebels were ready to snap the ball as soon as it was spotted, and that's something Pitt just hasn't seen this season. You can prepare all you want in practice but it's tough to get signals in (especially with an interim defensive coordinator) when you don't have any time to do it.
- The absences were noticeable. I think Ray Graham is one guy who could've challenged Ole Miss with his speed, and his absence really limited what the Panthers could do offensively. Don't get me wrong, I think Rushel Shell is going to be a terrific running back, but his playing time also decreased down the stretch, and he isn't really a "speed" guy. If Pitt had its ideal mix of Graham and Shell today, it may have been a different story offensively, with maybe a few more drives extended, especially in that third quarter.
On defense, Shane Gordon was basically the defense's quarterback when he was in this season. He could've helped getting the unit set and organized on the field facing Ole Miss' hurry-up. Also, Joe Trebitz has been a tough dude this year (I think his 13-tackle performance at Notre Dame may have been one of the best individual performances of the season), but speed is not his strength. That hurt Pitt in the middle of the defense today.
- Hey! Tyler Boyd, everybody! If you turned away during this one to flip on the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, I won't blame you. Pitt got a verbal commitment from Clairton receiver Tyler Boyd Saturday. The staff will have to keep recruiting him because Boyd is a guy who could end up taking some more visits, but if he sticks with Pitt, he makes up for the loss of Robert Foster to Alabama a few weeks ago. In fact, some of the recruiting experts I've talked to like Boyd even more than Foster, simply because of his elite playmaking ability. Pitt's second receiver spot (opposite Devin Street) is wide open for next year, so Boyd has as good a chance as anyone to grab it. Even moreso, Boyd represents a big recruiting win for Chryst with an elite WPIAL guy. If Pitt wants to avoid 6-7 finishes in Alabama in the future (and, really, don't we all?) these are the kind of recruiting battles Chryst needs to win consistently.