Before I highlight the bright spot of the Sun Bowl. Let me just say this, I've been waiting 8 years but after a few short comings we can all now do so: Ladies and gentlemen, your Pittsburgh Panthers are now #1 in the country. Congrats to Jamie and the guys, what a job they have done. If you're a fan who really wants script and an on campus stadium, please put those issues aside for a while and instead help us put some pressure on Steve Peterson to give Jamie a nice extension with a huge buyout so that we don't lose him.
Now on to the defense. The one constant on this years team was that you could expect the defense to play well for 60 minutes. The only time we were disappointed was against Rutgers who ended up being the hottest team in the Big East come the end of the season.
Against Oregon State, we had a very effective game plan. We were able to stuff Oregon State and make plays when we had to. I thought for sure when we had the early turnover, we would put our offense in a nice position to score and keep the momentum going. I thought that McKillop's interception would be a boost to the team since it prevented OSU from scoring late. I also thought the missed field goal would help the team out, but alas all we saw from it was just an impressive performance from one side of the ball.
The one thing I was confused about the entire game was that when we had the Beavers in 3rd and longs, we stayed in the base 4-3. I thought this was a poor decision, especially when OSU had 5 WR's on the field. It didn't make a difference but I feared that we could have been burned big time by having Greg Williams matched up 1 - on - 1 with the slot receiver in many of the formations.
Breaking it down position by position, the defensive line probably had the best game of any unit on defense. Sheard and Romeus created havoc in the backfield and was a huge factor in controlling the game. Even the DT's did a great job clogging up the middle and preventing any type of run game that OSU tried to get going.
At linebacker, Scott McKillop saved one of his best performances in his career for his last game. He made nearly every tackle he could have and had an interception that kept Pitt in the game. He was a true gem for this defense and I really fear heading into next season without #40 ready to make every tackle possible.
Austin Ransom had a decent game too. I was very vocal about how I did not like this move at the beginning of the season. Before Adam Gunn was lost to injury, I felt that Greg Williams would have been the better choice to replace Shane Murray when he was lost early this year. Austin learned the position and often made many plays which I thought he could never make. While I feel that we will be improved at that spot next year, I believe we all owe a big round of applause for the effort and performance given by Austin this year. He certainly exceeded mine and probably most people's expectations.
Greg Williams played a fantastic game. He really looked like a star ready to break out in this game. My only complaint with him was not coming up with that interception which would have resulted in a pick 6 and the victory for Pitt. Outside of that, I think we have something special brewing here. Greg will probably be the leader of the linebacking core next year and I think that maybe we could give that little school out east a run for their money at the title for linebacker U.
As far as the secondary goes, I don't feel that anyone played a special game. Aaron Berry and Jovanni were serviceable at best. At least Aaron came down with that open interception he had. I think that next year we really need to give a shot to Holley, Jackson, and Ricky Gary to win the starting job. Sadly, I think that since we will have a Sr and a Jr on the roster, the positions will be filled without any competition.
At safety Dom and Thatcher didn't do anything spectacular and I don't recall seeing Fields out there much which means if he was, he didn't do anything to stick out. The thought is that for next year if Fields isn't off the team he may go to linebacker. That is a very interesting thought as I would love to give Tags a shot to start opposite of Dom.
Overall the defense gave us every chance to win. If I would have known prior to the game we would only give up 3 points I would sell everything I own and bet every cent I could find on a Pitt win. Sadly the offense didn't allow for this to happen.
Tomorrow I will be back with a post about the offense (which will probably be pretty long) and then later on some comments about the coaching in the game.