Posted: 6:53 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013
First, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Devin Street's performance in this tomfoolery. But Street caught nine big catches and, in the process, set a new record for career receptions at Pitt. Congratulations are in order for him.
So after the game, I was pretty upset. Before writing an angst doom is gloom post, I figured some time for some actual thought would be better if it came a little later.
Lots to touch on, obviously. But let's start with the season to date.
This Pitt team has caused grief all season. Though, suffice it to say, it seems like it's been extra gruesome to watch this year. I mentioned that on Twitter and got the expected comments about never having watched Pitt before, but honestly, I'm not sure I can remember a season where Pitt has faced so much mediocrity and hung on by the skin of their teeth. At least not one where Pitt was supposed to contend for a bowl. A three-point win in a 100-point affair to Duke after two separate three-touchdown leads in each half. A win at Virginia, who may be the worst team in the ACC, with zero offense, a meager 11-point win to Old Dominion. Pitt has just failed to put other team away.
The Panthers, of course, always cause an unnecessary level of headaches. And no, I'm not going to give a brief rundown on the misery over the years for all you freaks that have fetishes about that kind of pain. But I'm not sure I can remember a season where they've faced so much mediocrity through seven games and looked so, well, bad. This isn't a new thought, either. In my midseason preview before the game and numerous times on Twitter, I've always maintained that this team didn't appear to be as good as their 4-2 record heading into today. The old adage of 'you can only beat who's in front of you' certainly holds true, but Pitt had looked so unimpressive in their victories that it screamed caution.
The offense is, to use an old pun, offensive. Tom Savage drew lots of praise for his play early on against New Mexico and Duke, but as we're finding out, he's not nearly as good as those games showed. Savage is playing more like the Savage that was replaced at Rutgers, which forced his transfer to begin with. Instead of the deep passing play that we thought had finally arrived, Pitt has gone back to the conservative play that had fans up in arms about Tino Sunseri all the time ... only without as many sacks.
He broke the 200-yard threshold for the first time in three games against Navy, but still registered only 203. After dropping 30-, 40-, and 50-yard bombs with a fair amount of regularity in the first four games, he hasn't had even a 30-yard pass play in his past three. Gone (thankfully) are the interceptions but they've been replaced with a conservative, failing-to-take-risk, strategy that has left the offense dysfunctional.
Another problem on offense has been the disappearing act for Tyler Boyd. I'll get more to this in a separate post, but this stat sums it up pretty well in my opinion. Boyd had 100 receiving yards in three of Pitt's first four games but has only 101 total through the last three. I'm not sure if it's him, if it's Savage targeting Devin Street more, the offensive playcalling, or a combination of the three. But he's the one that was able to stretch the field and keep defenses on their toes. To not get him involved is a folly not seen since ... well, okay, last week when those pesky coaches (yeah, I'm getting to them - chill) not playing Todd Thomas against Old Dominion.
The defense played well in the first half but completely melted down in the second. The frustrating thing was that Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was injured and it showed in third quarter. Badly. Instead of making the option easier to defend, for some reason, it became more difficult, even as he hobbled around like old Biff Tannen in Back to the Future 2. Reynolds decided to go all Vince Young circa Texas on Pitt and literally will his team to win. Can't say enough about the way he played but the late scores on the defense were inexcusable as well.
That brings us to the coaches (again). Look, I could rant and rail against them again after this debacle. Sure, I could mention the conservative defense that was used with Pitt clinging to a one-touchdown lead late in the game where I'm pretty sure Matt House thought the Panthers had a four-score lead. The inability to challenge a Ray Vinopal interception that looked like a legitimate grab in bounds (where Pitt subsequently gave up a touchdown drive). Or maybe about the poor coaching of the offensive line where we're still seeing far too many penalties.
Oh yeah, and don't get me started on the timeouts issue. Why Paul Chryst was holding onto them late in the fourth quarter as Navy methodically marched down the field for a game-winning field goal was beyond me. Instead of stopping the clock (you know, like a regular head coach in an actual game) at some point, Chryst foolishly hung onto his, presumably where he'll carry them into the Georgia Tech game. Do you want to tell him or should I?
Point is, bringing all that stuff up is pretty useless right now. Folks, I hate to break it to the anti-Chryst (see what I did there?) crowd but Pitt isn't going to fire Paul Chryst. Matt House could eventually be a casualty but odds are probably even against that, too. But regardless, the head guy isn't going anywhere. At least not this year or maybe even next. If Pitt falls apart the rest of the season and has a similar unimpressive session next year, Chryst is probably still going to be here. After going through the latest coaching debacle of the Wannstedt to Chryst transition, the last thing the school wants is to be in the headlines for another change. As long as Chryst is running a good ship without spot, he's guaranteed at least three (and probably, four) years here.
There's no sense in debating who the administration could bring in because, frankly, a change isn't coming.
I'm still not sure Chryst is the man for the job, but he's going to be given his chances. Certainly more than this season regardless of what happens the rest of the way.
About the game, most of you saw it as well as I did. One thing that shouldn't be forgotten is that there wasn't, at any time, any level of comfort about Pitt having Navy put away. Heck, the Panthers needed a late end zone interception as Navy was driving at the end of the first quarter to even hold a halftime lead. Pitt was off balance all day and that was mostly due to the struggling offense. The defense didn't make plays down the stretch, but the offense was just that bad. Seven points against Navy in an entire second half doesn't do it. A close win against Navy would have raised eyebrows. A loss should be cause for significant alarm. Chryst now has defeats to the Naval Academy and Youngstown State on his resume. Well, then.
And as I said several times this week, Pitt's second half gets tougher and tougher from here. Yeah, good luck with that.