Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Utah Utes: Did Utah Win, or Did Pitt Lose the Opener?
Utah vs. Pitt Game Recap
The Utah Utes defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers Thursday night 27-24 in overtime, but did they win, or did Pitt give them the opening night victory? The Utah-Pitt football game lived up to the hype and then some on Thursday. It featured some ugly football at times, but overall, it was a great game to watch.
The game featured 25 penalties that totaled 184 yards, and five combined turnovers, but that is expected in the first game of the season for both teams. The Panthers came back from 11 down in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime, but Utah's defense made the big play when they had to. Utah true freshman, Brian Blechen intercepted a pass on the first play of overtime, setting up Joe Phillips for a 21-yard field goal that gave them the victory.
Pitt's highly touted pass defense looked confused from the outset of the game and the Utah receivers found seams down the field for big plays. Utah's offense played well against the physical, sack-happy Panthers' defense. Their spread formation created problems all night.
The Utes' quarterback Jordan Wynn passed for 283 yards with three touchdowns, including two to Jereme Brooks.
Pitt Panthers Blunders
The Panthers were miserable on special teams, could not run the ball the entire night, and played a quarterback who was starting his first collegiate game, but still had a chance to win at the end of the night.
Dan Hutchins, a kicker on the preseason Lou Groza Award watchlist missed a 42-yard field goal six minutes into the game after a fumble by Utah. The Panthers also muffed a kick return that bounced so far forward that the Utah kicker recovered the fumble, which later set up a touchdown.
Heisman-hopeful Dion Lewis rushed for a career low 75 yards on Thursday night. Lewis rushed for 1,799 last year as a freshman, but could not find any open holes against the stingy Utah defense.
The play calling for the Panthers was far too predictable. Sure, Tino Sunseri was starting his first game as a college quarterback on the road in front of a hostile crowd. As a fan watching the game, it was so obvious what play was going to be called.
The Panthers ran the ball on the first two downs on practically every possession, and then threw the ball on 3rd-and-short. They needed to open up the field and give Sunseri the chance to win the game with his arm. Utah put eight men in the box on virtually every play, and Pitt did not force them to back up and play the pass.
Also, I thought a team was suppose to play for the win, late in the game, with a chance to win on the road. Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt played for overtime when he had the opportunity to go for a touchdown with 1st-and-goal with 40 seconds left to play.
Why Utah Won the Game
Utah made enough plays when it mattered most and defeated a team in a BCS conference ranked 15th in the country. Utah had three turnovers, a blocked punt and blew an 11-point lead, but still defeated the Pitt Panthers on Thursday.
There are those blaming Pitt's play-calling and lack of pass defense in the loss to Utah, but the fact is: Utah made the plays when it had to.
The victory is not an upset, because Utah was favored playing at home where it won its 18th-straight game, but beating a team that was favored to win the Big East Championship should gain some national respect.
The Future for Both Teams
Utah has a tremendous football program and should have no problem continuing its success in the future as part of the Pac-10 Conference. The Utes do not play a ranked team until TCU at home on November 6th. They could possibly go undefeated and play in a Bowl Championship Series game.
On the other hand, Pitt's loss is devastating to a team that had so much hype to begin the season. However, the loss to Utah is still out of conference. The Panthers can easily win the Big East. Sunseri grew up in the second half very quickly, and they are still a solid football team. They were the underdog in Thursday's game to begin with, and they will make the adjustments to play for a Big East Championship at the end of the season.
In the end, to answer the question above: the Utah Utes won Thursday's game against the Pitt Panthers. They made the play they had to in overtime and made enough plays on offense to win.
It was a great game to watch, and probably an even better game to attend. Utah and Pitt will finish strong this season, and possibly both will play in a BCS bowl game.
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