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Five Takeaways From Pitt’s Opening Night Loss

Five Takeaways From Pitt’s Opening Night Loss

It goes without saying that Saturday night’s 30-14 loss to Virginia was not the way Pitt wanted to start the 2019 season.

The areas of the team that most people had concerns about, ended up being the aspects that prevented Pitt from winning a very winnable game.

Before I get into my five takeaways from the opener, I’ll say that if Virginia is the best team in the ACC Coastal Division then that’s a very average to below average division.

That being said, the performance of Pitt’s offense was very disappointing from all aspects and although it’s just one game, it raises concerns for the rest of the season.


Kenny Pickett (8) — August 31, 2019 Photo By David Hague/PSN

Considering all the off-season talk and the addition of Mark Whipple, all eyes were on Kenny Pickett and the Pitt passing game.

Will Mark Whipple be able to turn this offense into something that the opposing defenses had to worry about? I think the jury is still out on that following a head-scratching evening.

The opinion by most fans seems to be that Pickett is just not the answer and that he’s not someone that Pitt can win with. I’m not going to defend his performance and say that it was above average, because it wasn’t. However, as is often the case, many factors contributed to the performance of the quarterback.

Pickett missed some makeable throws, in particular a couple deep over the middle connections to Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench and was shaky with some shorter touch passes to A.J. Davis and V’Lique Carter. If this passing game is ever going to be a threat, he needs to hit a few of those deep passes because those are the plays that instantly change field position and momentum.

Speaking of momentum, the play that I feel changed the entire outcome was on a potential big play in the third quarter.

Following a field goal that gave Virginia a 16-14 lead, Pickett threw a perfect deep ball to Mack that would’ve been a 30-plus-yard gain and moved Pitt inside the Cavaliers 40-yard line. However, Mack just completely dropped a wide open pass. Two plays later, Pickett was intercepted by Matt Gahm and Virginia quickly turned that into a touchdown. Instead of Pitt potentially taking the lead, Virginia went up 23-14.

That drop was also harmful because it stopped some momentum the offense was starting to develop. The offense started moving the ball in the second quarter and took the lead on their last drive going into halftime. This missed opportunity occurred on the first drive of the second half. If Mack catches that pass and Pitt takes the lead, how would that have changed the game?

Pickett was also victim of another 20-plus-yard big play drop in the second quarter on a 3rd-and-10 throw to tight end Nakia Griffin-Stewart.

So, while Pickett wasn’t perfect, he didn’t get much help.


Kenny Pickett (8) — August 31, 2019 Photo By David Hague/PSN

In my opinion, the area that should be most concerning after last night was the play of the offensive line and in particular, their pass protection. If that’s any indication of what we’re going to see all year, the offense and Pickett is in big trouble.

The final statistics had Pickett being sacked four times, but that wasn’t an accurate description of what occurred on the field.

The reality is that Pickett was under pressure for most of the evening and if not for his athleticism, that sack total would’ve been double what was on the stat sheet.

Whipple wants to have this offense throw the ball more and last night, they did so 41 times. However, if the pass protection from the line and running backs doesn’t get better, Pickett won’t last the entire season healthy.


Maurice Ffrench (2) — August 31, 2019 Photo By David Hague/PSN

It’s only one game, so it’s too early to complain about touches but it’s fairly obvious to anyone that’s watched the last two years that Maurice Ffrench needs to touch the ball as much as possible.

Last night, French had six catches for 54 yards, but that’s not enough. He’s someone that can score from anywhere on the field and that needs to be taken advantage of. V’Lique Carter has a similar skill set, but is not yet where Ffrench is.

While it’s a head scratcher as to what’s going on with supposed young playmakers Shocky Jacques-Louis, Dontavious Butler-Jenkins, Michael Smith, etc., Ffrench is a proven commodity and Pitt needs to force him the ball via the pass or run.


Paris Ford (12) — August 31, 2019 Photo By David Hague/PSN

While the final score ended up being 30-14, that was misleading as to how well the defense played.

Because of two turnovers and one turnover on downs, the Virginia offense turned three short fields into touchdowns. Yes, the defense could’ve held the Cavaliers to field goals, but the reality is that the offense hung them out to dry.

Overall, Pitt’s defense played well enough to win, which is a good sign for the season.

Specifically, the defensive line played extremely well as they were able to get a ton of pressure on quarterback Bryce Perkins. Before leaving with an injury, Keyshon Camp played well so we’ll see if the injury is anything long-term.

Keyshawn Camp (10) — August 31, 2019 Photo By David Hague/PSN

Aside from a couple pass interference calls and a missed assignment by Damarri Mathis, the secondary played physical and extremely well, especially Paris Ford.

The other two players that really stood out to me were Deslin Alexandre and Kylan Johnson. The graduate transfer linebacker played extremely fast and looked to be all over the field.


I’m not going to harp on this, but the crowd last night was beyond disappointing. Fans can complain about Pat Narduzzi and other aspects of the program but they’re still falling short in a very important aspect and that’s supporting the team.

All things were there for Pitt to have a good opening night crowd: 1) primetime game 2) good opponent 3) Pitt uniform changes 4) defending Coastal champions 5) Rib Fest taking place outside Heinz Field. Despite all of that, Pitt fans didn’t show up to support their team.

I’d love to know what Heather Lyke and the Pitt administration were thinking as they looked at all the empty seats. Maybe tarping the upper deck of Heinz Field isn’t such a bad thing.


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Great summary of the situation, Mike. I was also proud of the defensive play for Pitt. The defense was left hung out to dry as you said. The defense made a few mistakes but they did very well overall and it was a very winnable game for Pitt. The offense just flat out blew the game. It was a very frustrating and disappointing night.

Ed Rose
Ed Rose

The empty seats is easy. They wanted 50 a ticket. I stayed home. I usually go to 4 or 5 games. I was not dropping 200 for me and my kids.


50 bucks a ticket. No wonder the crowds are on the smaller side. That’s a joke.


Completely disagree. Didnt have much help? He threw so many bad balls and missed so many wide open receivers all night. He is lucky his receivers bailed him out a few times and his legs bailed him out others. Blaming the offensive line is ridiculous, no qb gets 4 seconds in the pocket Mike. I wonder how many times ffrwnch was open and.pickett just missed him or was running when he didnt he to. And im also thnking the drops were as opposed to the 5 or 6 overthrows that were game changers bcas they were overthrown. Come on… Read more »


I think it’s also very telling that the team didn’t vote their junior quarterback a captain, Matt. They picked three captains and Pickett was not among them.

Terrence Otoole

i agree with you matt ,even the drop by mack which he should’ve caught was not an accurate pass,picket is horrible but mike likes to make excuses for him he has zero pocket presence and no accuracy the qb recruiting has been abysmal under narduzzi

Mike In PGH
Mike In PGH

Regarding attendance – scalpers had very few tickets and GameTime was still charging $60+ for end zone seats at kick-off time. I think Pitt manipulated the market in the wrong direction. It kept my group of four from entering the stadium.

As far as O-Line is concerned, how troubling that for the 3rd year in a row we had to pull in a graduate transfer to start at tackle? Recruiting has been poor and the results show it.

Terrence Otoole

i agree with just one of your takeaways ,the defense was i thought really good ,when are you going to realize between 40- 50 thousand is what The attendance is ,so why every year you harp on it i was at the game last night and the atmosphere was great but you dont mention that ,so one of your takeaways of the outcome is that its the fans fault come on mike get real the recruiting has been extremely subpar especially at the qb position and if picket is the best we got then we wont win 4 games this… Read more »

Ed Rose
Ed Rose

Terrence, the atmosphere at all the games is tepid. Many people leave in the early third quarter after sweet Caroline. I am into the game and I have people look at me like I am screaming in church. You are right the attendance will always be between 30-50k depending on the opponent

Terrence Otoole

for the most part i agree ,but last night i thought was pretty good


No comment on the halftime adjustments by the UVA defense? Sending 5, 6 and sometimes 7, UVA was forcing quick decisions. And it was always over the left side of the line! Whipple apparently doesn’t have a “hot” route. The UVA defensive back field was spectacular. After the one screen pass in the first series, not another one? Isn’t that standard practice against a blitz? The UVA QB wasn’t as good as Pickett. He floated three passes which would have been interceptions exception no one was home! Let’s not crucify Whipple yet. Expect him to adjust, see ya Saturday.


Pickett is a 1-AA / D-2 QB. He is who he is – no pocket presence ( he stepped up into at least 2 sacks last night) and he has zero accuracy. When does the Davis Beville era begin!

The inability to recruit QB’s falls on Narduzzi. He may have a good recruiting class coming in next year but he has failed at QB.

The lack of production after halftime is carrying over from last year. That does not reflect well on Narduzzi and his staff! A bad start to this season.

Richard Johnson

I like coach Naz, but, we will always be a second or third tier program with him

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