Vukovcan: Pitt Football Took A Step, But…
Unlike the past four Sundays following a Pitt football game, this weekend has produced minimal criticism and complaints from fans and media.
But evaluating and being a fan of your favorite team is a week-to-week proposition and happiness can quickly become frustration.
No one has been more critical of Pat Narduzzi and the performance of his team than I have this season. And as whole it hasn’t been good enough. However, this isn’t a personal thing and I’m fully willing to throw out some praise instead of criticism when it’s deserved and that’s the case following the Panthers performance against Florida State.
Considering the outside negativity surrounding the program because of the 4-game losing streak, coupled with the news that Paris Ford was opting out of the remainder of the season and the fact that defense would be without starters Jason Pinnock and Marques Williams, no one would’ve been surprised if Pitt laid an egg and got blown out by the Seminoles. In fact, that was probably the expectation of most.
When Florida State took a 14-3 lead in the 1st quarter it sure looked like that was going to be the case.
But then something happened. Or, in this case didn’t happen. The Pitt players didn’t give up. They showed a ton of character and a willingness to fight back saving the game and possibly the season. The Panthers proceeded to dominate the Seminoles by outscoring them 38-3 for the remainder of the game.
The biggest thing that I took from their effort was they still wanted to play for Narduzzi and his coaches.
Trust me, considering all the things I referenced, it would’ve been very easy to lay down following that start but that didn’t happen. For that, I credit the character of the players as well as the senior leadership from guys like Rashad Weaver, Patrick Jones, Damar Hamlin, Jimmy Morrisey and Kenny Pickett.
Speaking of Pitt’s quarterback, has anyone’s profile improved more than Pickett? Thanks to his gutsy return to the field, Pitt’s offense looked entirely different. Thankful for his return, the fan base has rightfully heaped praise on him. Despite not being 100%, Pickett brought confidence to the Panthers offense along with productivity and results.
It was also encouraging to see adjustments made by the coaching staff, such as using Nick Patti in the red zone and moving Jones inside at times. The Panthers also got solid play from the much criticized offensive line and young talent like Brandon Hill, A.J. Woods, SirVocea Dennis and Jordan Addison continued to shine.
Regardless of how down the Florida State football program is, that was a necessary and important win for Pitt. Now the question is, can they build on it? A strong finish is still needed to keep this from becoming a disaster of a season.
Pitt currently sits with a record of 4-4 with games remaining against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Clemson.
Winning only one more game to finish 5-6 would be a really, really bad result for a season that began with such promise. Winning two of three to end 6-5 would still be disappointing but not horrible.
This is coaches speak, but it’s true. While the win Saturday was nice, it’s only one game and that’s now in the past with the focus solely on Georgia Tech and trying to stack wins.
Pitt dug themselves a deep hole which they won’t entirely get out of but getting a couple more wins would help take the bad taste out of people’s mouths and allow them to finish this challenging and unique season with positive thoughts for the future.
The question now is what we saw against Florida State going to be the norm for the remainder of 2020 or was it just a good performance against a really bad team?
I’ve critical of the O-line all year, they played better this week but are still porous. Pitt’s problems are not at running back. The defense is hit or miss. Too many people running free in the secondary when there is no pressure. Tight ends cannot block. Too many mental breakdowns.
Sure did not miss watching Williams getting taken to the cleaners by bigger recievers or watching Pinnock chase the guy he covered into the end zone.
Maybe the guys replacing Pinnock and Williams are actually better. One of Narduzzi’s many faults is that he sticks with “ his guys” way too long.