No messing around, lets get right to it.
I'll save the play calling for later when I rip apart Cavanaugh so this will just be about the players performances and execution.
Shady really never had a chance to get going in this game. The offensive line didn't give him any holes and he only had 1 carry in the first half. It seemed as if whenever he started to get going the staff pulled him in favor of LSH. I'm not sure if they did this because Shady needed a break or if they wanted LSH to get some more carries in his final game. Miraculously Shady some how gained over 80 yards in the game. When Brian and I were checking out the final stats of the game, we were both in shock that he was able to do so well when the rest of the team fell apart around him. Hopefully this poor performance really seals the deal and encourages him to come back so that he has once more chance to shine in a bowl game. The opposite could be true however that he may be discouraged by the way our offense is run and will try to get out of here as soon as possible. January 15 is the day to watch though as that is the last day for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft.
LSH and Conredge had underwhelming performances in their last games as Panthers. That doesn't mean that they played poorly, they simply just didn't do much to stick out. Given the way our offense was going, that is no surprise. LSH simply doesn't have the power to break tackles and get yards when the OLine is faltering. Conredge is a victim of the system and through out his career did not have the opportunity to carry the ball much. The light at the end of the tunnel for him is that he will be the 1st fullback drafted in the NFL this April and after a very nice career at Pitt, he will have earned his way into the NFL. LSH may be a different story, his size is his biggest weakness, but we have seen small players make their way into the NFL recently. Hopefully his body of work as not only a productive running back, but as a good special teams player helps him along the way.
The wide receivers didn't have a chance to do much as the execution of the line and quarterback prevented them from having a shot. There were a few dropped passes, a few times when it appeared the players had given up on the play, and times when they weren't even given a chance to make a play. TJ Porter had the best day of the receivers as his special teams play really set him apart. It was sad to see Kinder return from injury after a great junior year only to have a disappointing senior year. It wasn't his fault as the last time he played, Tyler Palko was throwing him the ball, this year, sadly it was not Tyler. Hopefully next year Baldwin develops into the guy we expected him to be and can line up alongside TJ to make a nice WR pairing. Also Mike Shanahan, Cam Saddler, and Aundre Wright should find their way into the offense more. I'm not sure what to make of #88 as he has been very up and down in his career and at this point, this team can not afford instability and inconsistency.
The tight ends are and were who they were all season. Nate and Pelusi had decent blocking games and weren't used much outside of that. Dorin Dickerson was completely under utilized. As Phil Bennett said this year "Dorin creates the biggest match up problem for any team", yet we did not use him until crunch time. There were times when he was on the field and ran the same routes as he did in the end of the game when Bostick threw to him, but Stull never found him. Hopefully these 3 come back next year with something to prove and a new offensive coordinator that can get them the ball.
The offensive line.............
Well, I can tell you that CJ Davis and John Malecki played very well. They were the only 2 bright spots on this line for this game. CJ Davis truly had a great career at Pitt. He was never highly touted and had to earn everything throughout his career here. At the end of the day, all Panther fans will look back and see him as a steady offensive lineman that was able to provide some consistency to a line that was often a problem during his years at Pitt. As far as John Malecki goes, I hope that he has another great season next year and makes his way to the NFL. He comes from a very nice family, is a very nice guy, and leaves his heart and soul on the field. If there is one player I'm rooting for on the team, it is Big John Stud.
Chase Clowser, Dom Williams, and Joe Thomas. This really was the reason we lost. Had Shady been given a decent line for this game, he could have won it by himself. Stull wouldn't have been counted on for the big plays, it would have been Shady. Instead we were given two guys on the left side who played like turnstiles, everyone got to go through. We heard on Dec 30th that Chase was sick and may not play and really didn't make much of it since we didn't think he would even see the field. Instead we were shocked to hear and see that Jason Pinkston was hurt and would not be playing. Losing Pinkston last year really killed the team, losing Pinkston this year gave us no chance to win.
I don't understand why Dom Williams was playing. He was part of the last Walt recruiting class and has never impressed anyone during his time at Pitt. All we have heard from Wannstedt was how we needed to improve both lines so that we could run the ball and stop the run. Well that is a good philosophy as long as the right players are getting time. I just don't understand how if you come into Pitt saying we don't have the players for your system, you end up playing guys who were here when you got here. By the 3rd quarter it was evident that Clowser and Williams were not the answer. We have depth at the OL positions for the first time in a while this year and we never used it. Instead of sticking with what was not working, Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobsen should have been given the opportunity to play and give some life and momentum to a team that desperately needed it.
Joe Thomas playing bad was very surprising. I have been terribly critical of him over the last 2 years. Despite poor play last year and during camp this year, Wannstedt stuck with him over Lucas Nix. It looked like I was proven wrong as starting with Iowa, Joe Thomas finally started playing like the tackle we thought he would be. He was consistent and did his job very well. I was very glad to say I was wrong. At the Sun Bowl, we sadly saw the Joe Thomas of old return. He may have had his poorest game all season at a time when we could not afford it. I doubt he will lose his job as next year he will be a senior and Wanny loves the seniors, plus he did play well this year and I wouldn't necessarily say that one bad game should make him lose his job. I would try to motivate him this off season and hopefully use that to help him play to the best level possible.