Pitt lost their first game of the 2022 season, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort or a ton of dumb mistakes.
When two good teams get together, someone has to lose and on Saturday, that was Pitt by the score of 34-27 in overtime.
While it was admirable to see the fight in Pitt despite dealing with numerous injuries, the reality is that despite that, this was a game that Pat Narduzzi’s team could have and probably should have won.
The two things that probably kept the Panthers from remaining undefeated are things that no one would have brought up before the season: offensive line and wide receivers.
Having the starting offensive line from their ACC Championship team decide to return was universally viewed as positive and the group of Carter Warren, Marcus Minor, Owen Drexel, Jake Kradel and Gabe Houy were considered one of, it not the most, talented position group on the team.
However, through two games, that’s hardly been the case as they’ve not come close to playing to their potential, creating little room in the run game and allowing Pitt’s quarterbacks to be under tons of pressure.
Against Tennessee, Kedon Slovis was harassed even when getting passes away and eventually knocked out of the game late in the second quarter with a reported concussion following a hit. That pattern continued in the second half with backup Nick Patti, who was also a victim of poor protection and like Slovis, suffered an injury — a high ankle sprain.
It’s too early to panic, but there needs to be some urgency to fix this important problem.
From the looks of his injury, center Owen Drexel’s going to miss some time, so that’ll be one change on the line. If there were to be another one, I’d consider inserting Branson Taylor at right tackle. The right side of the line appears to be having more issues than the left.
With the uncertainty with the health of Pitt’s quarterbacks, it’s even more crucial that Pitt’s line get better and get better in a hurry.
Prior to the season, I wrote that I believed Pitt’s group of wide receivers would end up being better than last year’s talented group.
Through two games, that has hardly been the case.
Aside from Jared Wayne, Pitt’s wideouts have been very unimpressive and actually cost them at least 10 points yesterday.
On the first drive of yesterday’s game, Konata Mumpfield dropped a pass on 3rd down in the red zone, in which he would’ve walked into the end zone. Later in the first half, Bub Means let a pass hit off his hands that was intercepted in the end zone by a Vols defender, which cost Pitt at least three points.
During camp, Mumpfield and Means had people talking and excited that either one of them could one of the next great Pitt wide receivers. Both are young, both are getting used to a new system and a new quarterback and more importantly, it’s still only two games but for this team to achieve all of its goals, both need to be more dynamic playmakers.
Through two games, Mumpfield has nine catches for 105 yards while Means has six catches for 70 yards. Those are average numbers, and Pitt needs them to be better than average.
With a glass half-full optimism, these are a group of players that have talent, they’re just not playing up to their potential.
If I was a betting man, I’d bet that Pitt’s offense (assuming that either Slovis or Patti are healthy enough to play) is going to get things going and start to find a groove and that will start this Saturday at Western Michigan.
If we’re talking about these same things next Sunday, then maybe it’s not too early to start having some concerns, but I believe we’ll be singing a different tune a week from today.