Well, it’s back to the drawing board for Pat Narduzzi and his coaching staff following yesterday’s 45-38 loss to Oklahoma State. I use the word disappointing because, although winning on the road against a quality program is always difficult, a win was definitely within reach.
It was a minor miracle that Pitt was even in the game after giving up 540 yard passing. Narduzzi and defensive coordinator Josh Conklin did slow down the Cowboys offense in the 2nd half (only giving up 14 points) but it was fitting the game was decided by a big passing play.
Despite the loss, there were positives to draw from the game. Going down two scores on the road to a school like Oklahoma State, Pitt showed fight and character by taking a punch and getting themselves in a position to win. Late in the 4th quarter following Quadree Henderson’s 10 yard run, Pitt was two first downs away from kicking a potential game-winning field goal. So, victory was definitely within reach but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
Before we close out talking about this game, here are five takes that I had following this loss.
1) Secondary struggles. It was obvious from the first play of the game that QB Mason Rudolph planned on challenging Pitt’s secondary and it became painfully obvious that Pitt’s secondary, particularly the cornerbacks, couldn’t matchup with the Cowboys’ big, talented wideouts.
While Pitt might have a tremendously talented secondary in the future with Damar Hamlin, Paris Ford, Jordan Whitehead, Henry Miller, Therran Coleman and Lamont Wade (if he commits), the current group is a work in progress.
This defense won’t have to face the likes of Rudolph and James Washington on a weekly basis, but until they show the ability to slow down an opponents passing game, look for them to be challenged.
2) Quarterback has to improve. I’ll admit that I’m a fan of Nate Peterman and thought he’d put up solid numbers this season, but through 3 games he’s just been average. Until yesterday, the game plan hasn’t called for Pitt to rely on the pass, but yesterday they needed it, and once again, Peterman was just OK, going 14-29 for 237 yards. If Pitt is going to reach their ultimate destination, their senior quarterback has to improve.
3) Henderson Shining. Sophomore wideout Quadree was once again Pitt’s best player on offense. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is doing a good job of using Henderson’s elite speed in both the passing and running game. For the game, Henderson finished with 2 catches for 31 yards while rushing 7 times for 95 yards and 1 TD. You have to wonder if Canada needs to use Henderson even more, possibly running him deep.
4) Where Was Qadree Ollison. Where has the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year been? I’m not sure if Ollison is injured but I do know that he didn’t receive a single carry vs. Oklahoma State.
Pitt Total Rushing Yards Yesterday:
James Conner: 24 carries for 111 yards
Quadree Henderson: 7 carries for 95 yards
Jordan Whitehead: 2 carries for 22 yards
Darrin Hall: 5 carries for 17 yards
Chawntez Moss: 2 carries for 8 yards
Rafael Araujo-Lopes: 3 carries for 7 yards
George Aston: 1 carry for -1 yard
Tre Tipton: 1 carry for -2 yards
Eight different Panthers got carries but Ollison wasn’t one of them. Have Hall and Moss passed him on the Depth Chart? Honestly, I think it’s a week to week deal, but I do know that the Pitt coaches are really high on Moss. Let’s see how this plays out over the next couple of weeks.
5) Missed Opportunity. While this might be minor, the Pitt football team missed a chance to enter the AP Top 25 rankings. With what happened throughout college football yesterday, the college football writers would’ve named Pitt as one of the countries 25 best teams.
AP Top 25 Losses: #2 Florida St loses to #10 Louisville, #13 Iowa loses to North Dakota St, #22 Oregon loses to Nebraska, #19 Ole loses to #1 Alabama, #18 Notre Dame loses to #12 Michigan State, #14 Oklahoma loses to #2 Ohio State and #11 Texas loses to California.
The bottom line is Pitt finds themselves with a record of 2-1 and a big conference road game next Saturday at North Carolina. While a win at Stillwater would’ve been nice, this Saturday’s game is far more important to the overall goal in 2016 of winning the ACC Coastal Conference.