I had a feeling Pitt would lose a close game against Utah, which is why I predicted a 3 point defeat for the Panthers. I just didn't think that while expecting to lose a close game, I could come out of it with such a negative reaction.
I guess I felt that even if we did lose a close game, our 3 hyped studs (Lewis, Baldwin, and Romeus) would all have great games. What we saw was the staff limit the success of the offensive guys, and the defensive line disappear.
On offense, Tino looks like he can be the real deal. He isn't the best quarterback in the country, but he does have the skill set and tools to be a successful college quarterback. His biggest drawback is the handcuffs that the staff has placed on him, and probably won't ever take off given Wannstedt's usage/trust of quarterbacks.
Dion Lewis and Henry Hynoski did as much as they could in their positions. They made the plays that they were given room to make. The staff did a terrible job using them though as they were forced to run against 8 and 9 man fronts who knew exactly what we were going to do. If we continue to play this way for the rest of the season we won't have to worry about Dion's chase for the Heisman because he will be injured and won't have a shot to pile up stats. He was getting crushed out there.
The offensive line was terrible. If your name is not Nix or Pinkston, you should be worried about losing your job. The interior of the line could not have looked worse. They didn't get any push for the run game, didn't provide Tino time to pass, and looked exactly how a group of linemen should not. Greg Gaskins might be the worst lineman to ever suit up during the Harris/Wannstedt era. I never thought I'd wish to see Dom Williams return to play guard, but he would be starting on this team if he were here. Ryan Turnley and Jack Lippert need to be given serious looks this week in practice because if this line does not turn around quickly, we will be hard pressed to win 8 games.
The wide receivers were the bright spot of the offense. When they were given a chance to make plays, they did. The nice surprise was Cam Saddler showing some good ability as a slot receiver. His speed will compliment nicely to Shanahan and Baldwin. Speaking of those two, how can we not be using them more, especially in the red zone? As Paul Zeise pointed out, of 17 red zone passes, only 1 was to the end zone. Even if you aren't planning on throwing to Baldwin, having him on the field in those situations immediately draws the attention of 2 defenders away from him giving your offense more room. There were even situations where he was in single coverage and we refused to utilize him, instead opting for the runs against a 9 man front.
Mike Cruz showed again that he is a pretty good player. He has very nice hands, but shouldn't be counted on to block too much. For that, we were using Brock DiCicco who right now looks just as bad on offense as his brother does on defense. His false start penalties and poor blocking prevented us from sustaining drives that could have been a difference maker in the game. The big question I have from this group is, Where was Greg Cross? If he truly was to replace Dorin's role from last year, this is one game and one time we could have used it. I guess we're hiding it for the big 3rd place showdown against WVU in November.
Overall my biggest complaints are with the coaching and the offensive line. We saw Wanny's achillies heel back in full force Thursday night. I don't care if it was his or Cignetti's game plan, but it was awful. An audible, play action, or mis-direction play might not be in the 1990 Chicago Bears playbook, but it should be in the 2010 Pitt Panther's playbook.
Given our redzone opportunities and expansive set of skill players, we should have put up much more than 24 points. This is what we need to realistically expect from this type of team the rest of the season and the rest of our lives as long as we are playing this type of football. Regardless of what the defense does, we will run our standard offense and try to force our will over theirs, even if we are losing all game long.