Okay…breathe…good…get it out.
Now forget about it. This was a car crash of a game. Maybe not so much like being in a car crash, but more appropriately, being in a car, stuck in traffic for a long time, leading up to a crash…and then you pass it and you drive off, traffic in the rear-view mirror.
First of all, Youngstown State is not a bad football team. They have a solid defensive line, a good quarterback, and the ability to play nothing-to-lose football. This does not excuse the fact that Pitt looked at times completely disoriented, especially picking up assignments in the secondary. Offensively, the play calling was especially bland, which is something Pat Narduzzi alluded to earlier this week. Coming into this game, I had no expectations of seeing Pitt put up 60 points, but I did expect the offense to look a little more efficient.
With Alex Bookser out due to a one game suspension, the offensive line was in somewhat of a mix and match dilemma. Brandon Hodges got the start at right guard and looked good, but Bookser rejoining the unit will be more than welcomed. It’s hard to truly evaluate the offense, because I have a really hard time believing this game plan was one we will ever see again.
At times it honestly looked like Max Browne was playing the game with the mindset of “don’t do too much”. I can promise you, Narduzzi and Shawn Watson did not want Browne to play with that going through his head, but sometimes, when you know you are running a bland offense you tend to make very bland decisions. And let me make this clear, Shawn Watson most likely left out 95% of the offense. The same was done last year against Villanova.
This game had all the makings to be a disaster. Seriously, playing Youngstown State, an FCS opponent (who would beat a lot of mid-major FBS teams), a new QB, three starters suspended, and a pretty big game next week, this was never going to be a game where everything flows and everyone leaves the stadium saying “wow, what a performance”. It is kind of funny, last year after the Villanova game all anyone did was complain about new offensive OC Matt Canada. He turned out alright.
The one area of concern I still have is at wide receiver. I have said this from the beginning of training camp, but someone not named Jester Weah needs to step up as a vertical threat. Without someone pushing the safety, the passing game will continue to be a struggle. Although there wasn’t a ton to get excited about offensively, when it mattered most, Browne threw a beautiful strike to Jester Weah in the end zone where Weah made a big time play on the ball in overtime.
Pitt has a lot to clean up going to Penn State. Next Saturday in Happy Valley will be a complete 180 from today. Penn State is the number 6 ranked team in the country and the atmosphere will be beyond hostile. Usually the biggest jump of the season takes place from the 1st to the 2nd game, and for Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt Panthers that will need to be true.
It’s impossible to say whether this game plan was meant to be as vanilla as it turned out to be. It’s impossible to say whether Browne was playing it safe by constantly checking down to his running backs in the flats. It’s also impossible to say whether using this game plan will turn out to be a positive moving forward, but a win is a win and the Panthers will head to play the team out east at 1-0.