Pitt came out with three straight passes against Cincinnati, including a deep ball to the left sideline that Bub Means caught out of bounds and another toward Means that fell incomplete five yards out of bounds.
Quick punt. Cincinnati took just 1:24 to drive 64 yards for a touchdown.
Pitt came out with two quick, short runs on its second drive, and Phil Jurkovec was slung down aggressively on third down.
Quick punt. Cincinnati took 2:20 to drive 74 yards for a field goal.
It was still quite early in the first quarter, and Cincinnati held a 10-0 lead and a 138 to -3 advantage in total yards. If Frank Cignetti Jr. could’ve asked for a do-over, he’d have done so. He wouldn’t have called three straight pass plays.
“It was something being seen on defense, and me and coach Cignetti talked about that, and he’s like, ‘I wish I could do it over again,’ but that’s part of it,” Pat Narduzzi said at his weekly press conference Monday.
“You got your plan about what you want to go in there, and we’ve got to have a better plan. Again, that’s why I say it’s coaches. It starts with me, and it trickles down. We could do a better job of putting our kids in better positions to make plays.”
So, it wasn’t just Phil Jurkovec, a poor performance from the offensive line, drops from the wide receivers or the run defense taking more time than expected to round into shape. It was a lot of factors. And Narduzzi points the finger at himself.
“There were a lot of issues as far as a lot of uncharacteristic issues that you get exposed with when you’re playing a good football team,” Narduzzi said. “But got a lot of faith in what we do, and again, it starts with me. When you talk about the blame and — you guys can all point the finger right here at me because I didn’t get them ready to go. I’ll take full responsibility, and we’ll move on and have a great week this week.”
But Narduzzi also said it wasn’t as if the team was “not ready” to go either. He asked the team Sunday night if they were locked in. They said yeah. He asked why the team started slow. They didn’t have an answer.
“I just want to make sure you look in the mirror and find out why, and whatever that locked-in was wasn’t locked-in enough,” Narduzzi said. “I think we got them there, and quite honestly you had a chance to win the football game, and I thought we did not play great at all.”
It came down to execution, and after a large portion of the evening, Cincinnati simply executed better than Pitt did. It doesn’t fall on any one area either. It’s never one thing.
“You guys all want to put your finger on this one thing that it is, and it’s everything,” Narduzzi said. “Again, it ain’t the quarterback. It ain’t just the O-line. It’s the receivers, it’s the tight ends. Why didn’t the receiver peek back? They’ve got to peek back when we’re throwing hot, and he didn’t look back. The quarterback wants to throw it to you and then he gets hit because you didn’t look back.”
It was a poor performance from a lot of people Saturday, coaching staff and players alike, but Pitt did have a chance — two chances, even — to send Cincinnati home with a loss. Two chances that didn’t come to fruition.
That’s on the offensive play-calling at the end of the game, and again, the execution from the offense.
“We played below-average football for most of the game and still had a chance to win the game at the end,” Narduzzi said. “That’s the crazy part about it. It happens. It happens in life. Sometimes that happens in every part of your life. We’ll regather, close the chapter and move on.”
Pitt has to move on quickly now as the Backyard Brawl approaches this weekend in Morgantown, W.Va.