Getting the football program to the “next level” and becoming a consistent 9-10 win football program is something fans have wanted from Pitt for years.
So far, it hasn’t happened.
Achieving nine or 10 wins isn’t necessarily an accomplishment at programs like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State but it would mean something and be a symbol of growth at Pitt. That statement is backed up when you go back and look at the recent win totals at Pitt.
Consider that over the last 35 years, Pitt has only had three seasons in which they’ve won at least nine games (2002, 2008 and 2009). How rare is a 10 win season? Going back to 1906, Pitt has only achieved five 10+ win seasons. That’s five seasons of 10 wins over the last 113 years.
Aside from stability in the program, if you’re looking for one area that’s preventing Pitt from having that really good season it’s falling short in close games.
That’s especially true when examining Pat Narduzzi’s five-plus year tenure. As the saying goes, ‘close but no cigar’. Narduzzi’s career record at Pitt is 39-31 and of those 31 losses, 18 have come by a touchdown or less. As Pitt fans and everyone associated with the program are aware of, the two losses this season were by scores of 30-29 and 31-30.
This. just. happened.
— NC State Football (@PackFootball) October 3, 2020
No one should feel better, much less think progress is being made because of the closeness of the games. The bottom line is a loss is a loss and moral victories are of no value in year number six of a coaching regime. If anything, it’s a sense of frustration because of how close Pitt is getting to feeling a real sense of accomplishment.
Let’s look back at some of these seasons during the Narduzzi era and look at what could’ve been if Pitt would’ve been able snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
2019: Finished with a record of 8-5. Included in that are three losses of seven points or less that were are very winnable.
*Lost to #9 Penn State, 17-10
*Lost to Miami, Fla., 16-12
*Lost to Boston College on Senior Day, 26-19
The common theme in those game was the offense letting the team down and failing to score at least 20 points. If Pitt wins one or two of those games and they achieve that 9-10 win season.
2018: Finished with a record of 7-7 and once again, they can’t make plays late in the game and drop three winnable games decided by five points or less.
*Lost to North Carolina, 38-35. Very bad loss considering that Tar Heel team finished the season 2-9.
*Lost to #5 Notre Dame, 19-14
*Lost to Stanford in the Sun Bowl, 14-13
Like was the case in 2019, two of those three close losses saw the offense unable to score 20 points. Those three games were all very winnable which would’ve given Pitt a 10-4 record instead of 7-7.
2017: Finished with a record of 5-7.
*Lost to Syracuse, 27-24
*Lost to North Carolina, 34-31
*Lost to Virginia Tech, 20-14
The Virginia Tech game featured the infamous four fails from the 1-yard line. A touchdown would have sent the Panthers to a bowl game.
2016: The year the Panthers stunned No. 2 Clemson and beat eventual Rose Bowl-bound Penn State. Finished with a record of 8-5. This was a season in which 10 or even 11 wins was very possible. Except once again Pitt was unable to win the close ones.
*Lost to Oklahoma State, 45-38
*Lost to North Carolina, 37-36
*Lost to Virginia Tech, 39-36
*Lost to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl, 31-24
2015: Finished with a record of 8-5 in Narduzzi’s first season at Pitt.
*Lose to Iowa, 27-24
*Lose to North Carolina, 26-19
*Lose to Miami, 29-24