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Some thoughts after Pitt’s rough night in Cincinnati


There is nothing wrong with Pitt that two or three good recruiting classes won’t fix. You think you can wait that long?
Another month of training camp wouldn’t hurt, either.
After watching the first two games of the season (opponents 65, Pitt 27), it appears the Panthers need more practice time, better players and several favorable bounces to reverse their current run of misfortune.
Here are some of the outrageous numbers:
— 845 total yards, including 463 on the ground.
— 17 of 29 third downs converted into first downs.
— Eight touchdowns.
— No interceptions or fumble recoveries.
That’s just the defense.
And then there’s this:
— A record of 0-2 for the first time since 2005 (former coach Dave Wannstedt’s first season). Pitt hadn’t lost a Big East opener since 2007.
Coach Paul Chryst knew he had a lot of work to do to rebuild the program. He has just as much to do to salvage this season.

Where’s Tags
I can’t say I was surprised that Pitt lost to Cincinnati, 34-10, Thursday night. The Panthers have such a long way to go on defense and no killer instinct on offense.
But I was surprised that Chryst kept safety Andrew Taglianetti out of the lineup, except for special teams, for most of the game.
In training camp, Taglianetti was the one player with the ability to make big plays. He wasn’t perfect against Youngstown State, but he’s also a senior who plays with toughness and intelligence. Pitt could use some more of that.
Chryst started Taglianetti and Ray Vinopal at safety last week, replacing them with Jarred Holley and Jason Hendricks in Cincinnati.
Does he plan to alternate the pair of safeties in every game to keep the opposing offense guessing, trying to get any edge he can for his leaky defense?
If that’s his plan, I get it. Don’t like it. But I get it.

Sunseri, Chryst and clock mismanagement
Something else that surprised me:
Quarterback Tino Sunseri letting the clock run out at the end of the first half.
Here’s the situation: Five seconds to go, football at the 2, Pitt down, 17-0. Pitt needs a touchdown desperately.
Surely, Sunseri knows there is no time to waste. Take the snap, drop back quickly and throw. Make sure you save a second to kick the field goal or try another throw.
Instead, Sunseri hesitated before throwing the ball incomplete in the direction of Mike Shanahan. The ball went through the back of the end zone as the clock expired. Chryst also said a few too many seconds were wasted in the previous play.
In the end, the play had no significance in the outcome of the game. If Pitt had scored a touchdown or field goal, the defense, which already had allowed 17 points, still would have given up 17 more in the second half.
But for someone who watches as much video as Sunseri does and is making his 28th consecutive start in his fifth season at Pitt, you would think he would be a little smarter in those situations. Chryst also is not blameless. Pitt went to the locker room with a timeout that it never used.

Wasted opportunities
This is a Pitt team that can’t afford to give up scoring chances, but it moved into Cincinnati territory on five consecutive possessions in the second and third quarters and ended up punting, throwing an interception, letting the half expire, kicking a field goal and punting.

On the run
I’ll tell you what I do like: The running backs.
Ray Graham, Rushel Shell and Isaac Bennett totaled 32 carries for 158 yards. They added eight receptions for 93.
Graham is only 10 months removed from knee surgery, and he surpassed the 100-yard mark (103) for the eighth time in his career. I’m sure his knee aches, but he has carried 33 times in two games. There aren’t many braver, tougher players in college football.
He’s a senior, but Shell and Bennett — a freshman and a sophomore — give Pitt some hope for the future.

Where’s the penalty?
By the way, I watched the holding call on guard Chris Jacobson that wiped out a touchdown run by Graham in the first half. Maybe the fuzzy picture on the press box TV in Nippert Stadium threw me off, but I didn’t see Jacobson hold. I’ll have to look at it again.

Final question
Do prospective recruits make their ultimate decisions based on how the season goes for the school chasing them? If Pitt can’t improve enough to finish .500, will it lose recruits? Or, will they see a chance to play immediately?



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