Pittsburgh Football: Report Card Grades for the Panthers in Loss to Irish
Well for the second consecutive week, your Pittsburgh Panthers left a game on the field that they likely should have won.
And for the second straight week, Pitt also proved that they aren't ready to line up and beat decent football teams.
I don't really want to see what happens when they play a real good team, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.
The final score Saturday at Heinz Field read Notre Dame 15, Pitt 12. Here though, we look a bit deeper than the final score and give you the final grades at each position for Saturday's Pitt loss to the Fighting Irish.
Tino Sunseri didn't play terrible early and his numbers weren't bad, but that doesn't mean he played well.
For the second straight week, Sunseri proved he couldn't put a team away and that's a big problem. The loss was by no means the fault of Sunseri, but his bad habits (holding the ball too long, poor decision making, indecision, etc.) are still there and showing their heads at key times in the game.
Sunseri was sacked five more times Saturday, twice on the final drive which was a killer and still struggled to make plays down the field.
The telling point between the two quarterbacks was that Tommy Rees took the game away in the fourth quarter. Sunseri doesn't have that in him.
For instance, the key moment of the game came after Pitt scored their only touchdown to take the lead.
The defense forced a three and out and Sunseri had to get a drive going, yet Pitt went three and out with Sunseri going 0-2 on the drive.
Good quarterbacks make plays with the game on the line. That's not the case at Pitt right now.
Ray Graham's production has fallen off a little bit the past two weeks, but he could be deadly exhausted considering how much as he's been fed the ball.
He ran for 89 yards on 21 carries and averaged 4.2 yards per carry, but that's thanks in most part to a 40-yard carry.
The holes aren't there and Graham can only do so much.
Having said that, where is Zach Brown?
It would be nice to see him used a little more often, especially on the goal line where he's a little more powerful.
It's not really the fault of the wide receivers that they aren't being put in a position to make plays. But can you really blame the coaching staff for not wanting to try and stretch the field?
If they have no confidence in Sunseri to make plays down the field, this is the way it's going to be.
Only Mike Shanahan and Devin Street averaged over 10 yards per catch and Street was basically a non-factor, only catching two balls on the day.
To put things in perfect terms on why the Pitt wide receivers are a complete non-factor, Pitt had a couple of drives that went for 29 yards in nine plays (a 2.7 yards per play average).
The Panthers are basically looking for Graham to hit a home run out of the backfield, or one of these guys to catch a quick hitter and take it the distance.
There is really no attempt to move the ball down the field.
I thought about giving the unit a G if that was possible, but I'm not that mean. The school did announce that Chris Jacobsen was lost for the season, making an already weak offensive line weaker.
They aren't moving the football consistently in either facet of the game. Much of that falls on the offensive line.
Pitt can't sustain drives and can't move the ball in the fourth quarter. You aren't going to win many football games that way.
The final two fourth quarter drives produced a total of 53 yards in 22 plays. This is unacceptable. That's an average of two yards per play that resulted in a 4th and 26 at the end of the game.
That has to change or it will be a long season.
The defense as a whole didn't play bad for three quarters, but much like the offense, they couldn't make a play with the game on the line.
The guys up front got a little bit of pressure and stopped the run at times but overall, it was another so-so performance.
Again, it was a good three quarters, but they couldn't make a play when they needed to. Brandon Lindsey made a couple plays, but overall it wasn't that good of a day.
They struggled in coverage as well, especially on Notre Dame's game-winning drive. Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert caught five passes on that drive, including the touchdown and two-point conversion, while mostly being covered by linebackers.
I sound repetitive, but it was a good three quarters.
They got a pick in the red zone from Jason Hendricks and Andrew Taglianetti had a decent game, forcing a fumble on a sack, but the fourth quarter made you forget all about anything positive.
Hendricks swung and missed early on trying to tackle Notre Dame running back Jonas Gray in the open field on a 72-yard touchdown run leading to one score, and they allowed Rees to compete nine straight passes on the game-winning drive.
On the bright side, they did contain Michael Floyd, partially because there were three or four guys covering him every play, leaving others wide open.
Right now, there aren't too many secondaries in the nation playing at a lower level.
Kevin Harper didn't miss a kick for a change and the punters (all three of them) performed pretty well, averaging 42 yards per kick, a number that was brought down by Sunseri's 33-yard pooch punt.
On the negative side, the return game didn't do much at all.
I was surprised he didn't come under more fire for not slowing the game down against Iowa, considering they were up three possessions in the fourth quarter, but he had some head scratchers in this one as well.
The goal line call on the sweep for Graham made no sense, considering at that time they were having success going straight ahead.
Just because you preach speed, speed, speed; it doesn't mean you have it.
Another head scratcher was the timing of the move to Trey Anderson. At the time, Sunseri was doing pretty well and they didn't need the three and out that Anderson produced. What does giving Anderson one series do anyway?
Also we see no adjustments from Graham or his staff at the moment. They have to find ways to fix the problems that are currently killing this team.