Pitt drags a 3-4 record and two-game losing streak into its off week, with more questions than answers.
For all the good that has surfaced around the Panthers this season, there is three times as much negativity. In fact, there are three elements that most need to be corrected — most likely, not until next season — and they are:
Offensive line. Quarterback. Wide receiver.
That’s coach Todd Graham’s priority list. In that order.
Pitt’s main area of trouble is centered on the offensive line.
Feel free to disagree with me, and I’m sure there are any number of Pitt fans who would passionately do so. Pittsburgh football fans seem to have a tendency to blame the quarterback — the easiest target — before they think the problem through to its core.
But I’m here to tell you that if the blockers can’t keep the defenders out of the quarterback’s face, it doesn’t matter if the wide receivers get open (which they don’t do often enough).
Pitt’s problems stem from the loss of senior guard Chris Jacobson for the season. That took talent, energy, passion and experience out of the lineup.
Then, when senior tackle/guard Lucas Nix hurt his knee almost a month ago and missed most of three games, the Panthers’ season began to unravel.
No offense to most of the remaining members of the offensive line, who may become serious contributors as soon as next spring, but Pitt was forced to tangle with two aggressive defenses (Rutgers and Utah) without enough experienced blockers.
Other than senior tackle Jordan Gibbs, the other four members of the line that started against Utah — Cory King, Ryan Turnley, Ryan Schlieper and Matt Rotherham — have a total of 13 career starts. Sorry. That’s not enough.
Inexperience on the offensive line is Pitt’s No. 1 problem. That’s not meant to offend anyone, but it just stems from a belief that an offense can’t go without room to move. Pitt has no room.
Yes, the quarterbacks (plural) aren’t blameless, although it’s not Trey Anderson’s fault that he won’t be 19 for three more months and he just graduated from high school five months ago. But he isn’t ready to handle the critical moments of a game, and that’s mainly when he plays. A real head-scratcher, by the way.
Redshirt junior Tino Sunseri has had his moments — good and bad — but his greatest sin is an inability to get rid of the ball fast enough to avoid sacks. When he was dumped on successive plays at the end of the first half of the Utah game, it was only a matter of time until coach Todd Graham pulled him.
At wide receiver, Pitt has no game-breakers, which is what made Graham’s offense special when he was at Tulsa. I also find it unsettling that no upperclassman wide receiver had a catch against Utah.
How does that happen? Simple: A quarterback knocked off his feet can’t throw the ball.