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Suspensions at Pitt worse than the final score

You can point to many negative plays, decisions and trends in Pitt’s embarrassing 31-17 loss to Youngstown State on Saturday night.
– How about allowing the Penguins to rush for 204 yards?
– How about Pitt’s failure to gain 3 yards on two running plays from inside the YSU 25-yard line in the third quarter?
– How about creating no turnovers while coughing up two, one at the Penguins’ 10, the other at the 24?
– How about no sacks for the first time in two years?
– How about a passing game that never got in sync?
Those elements of the game are important, and reversing a couple in Pitt’s favor could have made Youngstown State sweat out this victory, instead of winning by two touchdowns and barely getting threatened after the midway point of the third quarter.
But nothing that happened inside Heinz Field is remotely close in significance to what happened outside of it in the 24 hours before kickoff.
Six players were suspended by coach Paul Chryst for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. They included starting nose tackle Tyrone Ezell, who had played well in camp, and freshman running back Rushel Shell, the team’s most heralded recruit this year. The others are senior defensive end Shayne Hale, sophomore wide receiver Ronald Jones, sophomore safety Anthony Gonzalez and freshman wide receiver Chris Davis.
The fact that Chryst was forced to take disciplinary action against six players only hours before the first game of his coaching tenure had to disappoint him more than anything he saw between the lines when the game started.
That makes seven players suspended by Chryst since the start of training camp, including offensive tackle Juantez Hollins, who is out for the season.
Chryst wouldn’t say what any of those players did, or if any of the six will play Thursday in Cincinnati.
But even if the indiscretions were nothing more than curfew violations, Chryst sent a message. Stay in line or don’t bother getting back in line.
“That is one area in this program that will not be sacrificed, and we are going to hold guys accountable for it,” he said. “We will not plan on talking anymore about it. We have a family, and we have some matters we have to take care of and we did.”
Call it putting down another block in the reconstruction of a football program – an apparently painful process.

One last (football) thought:
I’m not going to criticize Chryst for not attempting a field goal with his team down by 11 points and six minutes left in the third quarter. Good teams – or teams that aspire to be so – convert those situations into first downs and touchdowns.
He stubbornly believed his team could gain 3 yards on two plays, get the first down and go on to score a touchdown and put the heat on Youngstown State.
He also didn’t want to give the football back to his opponent without taking a big bite out of the lead because he didn’t trust his defense to stop the Penguins’ offense.
“Part of it was the way Youngstown was moving the ball,” he said. “I didn’t feel like we were going to get a lot of possessions.”
I don’t blame Chryst for not trusting his defense. It allowed an FCS team to successfully convert 11 of 16 third downs and two of three red-zone possessions into touchdowns.
Pitt fans, you can complain all you want about the quarterback, but until Chryst fixes his defense, the team will struggle.

Comments

  1. Mike Gross says:

    If this were Japan, the Pitt Defensive Coordinator would do the honorable thing and commit hari kari. Of course, I’m only joking.
    Since this is America, maybe Paul Chryst could just suspend him, instead.
    And while we’re at it, isn’t there something in the code of honor about falling on one’s sword. Steve Petersen might want to consider something like that (only kidding).

  2. ExPat says:

    The problem wasn’t that Chryst went for it on fourth and one. The problems were that Chryst called a timeout on 3rd and one, and didn’t call two plays (The 3rd down AND 4th down plays). The other issue was the play Chryst called, a pitch. Seriously? When you’re playing YSU you HAVE to be able to ‘man up’ and push the D-Line back a yard with a ‘Sunseri sneak’, hell, bring the backs in behind Tino and puch him across.

    The crowd was taken completely out of the game… if Pitt wants to get more than 10K fans for their next contest, they’ll need to give those tickets away.

    Big Least football. No wonder the Mountaineers graduated to the Big 12.

  3. shakeyjakey says:

    It can only get better for Devin Street. Rough one for the whole team, but none played worse than him.

  4. Steve says:

    I don’t think the QB had anything to do with this loss. He missed some throws. It happens. The YSU QB also badly overthrew receivers on deep balls. The defense was shockingly poor and that, more than anything, is the reason Pitt lost this game. The big question now is if there’s any way to get better by Thursday night when they face much better competition. I don’t think so.

  5. Bruce says:

    I think Steve is exactly right. YSU gets 200 yards on the ground, and has 10 minute time of possesion lead. If the defense was good enough to keep the ground yardage around 100, and reverse the ToP, I think Pitt wins going away. Tino’s short passes were crisp, and the receivers were where the ball expected them to be all night! A rare combination last year. We’ve GOT to stop the run – and it would be helpful if the OLine could dominate, esp in the Red Zone.

  6. BW says:

    If Pitt had a good QB, the score would have been 42-31. YSU’s DB’s were terrible. They couldn’t cover anybody. Sunseri missed at least 7 wide open receivers. A good passer would have made the difference. Imagine if Pitt had a QB that could also run. It would have been more like 50-31. Bring on Voytik. What do we have to lose?

  7. Sean says:

    I have been watching Pitt football since I was young, season tickets since 1994. I witnessed Ohio State wholloping Pitt at home. This Sat. was the most uninspired defensive performance I have ever seen from Pitt. I don’t see how Ezell and Hayle-each of whom barely played last year-would of made any difference. Thomas and Price will help when they return. The experienced safties couldn’t cover or come up and make a stick, the cb’s played so soft and still let the recievers behind them, and what can I say about the lbs. I know they will pick it up and strap it on for Cinncy, and I predict an upset!!!

  8. Harrison says:

    Steve,

    As a Pitt alum and fan I can say that Pitt reminds me of the Redskins from a fan’s perspective. Every year is “the year” that the Skins are going to surge back to the top of their conference and make it to the Superbowl. It takes time, the right combination of players and coaches and a good bit of luck. The same will be true for Pittsburgh. The loss to YSU was ugly and demonstrated how far the coaching debacle and recruiting challenges have drained the program but I do believe that Coach Chryst is a step in the right direction. This year will be one of rebuilding and frankly some likely ugly games. All that said, I’ll take that over previous years with new coaches where there were lofty expectations and glitz and fanfare. Here’s to the team and program and steady improvement!

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