Saturday, September 27, 2008

Let's play some football

I wish I was in the Carrier Dome. I still really think we're going to win. I'm ready to kick it off. We'll share our thoughts throughout the day. Stick around.

Go Orange!

12:01PM - John Congemi but no Dave Sims. What a shame. Mike Gleason on the play by play.

12:04PM - Syracuse defense came out daring the Pitt offense to throw. And they did fairly successfully, and moved the ball down the field. But the defense did stiffen and held the Panthers to a 40-yard field goal from Conor Lee. The Orange has to be happy to hold them to three, but Pitt has to be happy getting points on the board. Let's see what the offense can do.
Mike Holmes 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Nice cut for a touchdown.

12:19PM - I knew this was our Louisville game. The kickoff return further indicates that.

12:22PM - Good field position upcoming for the Orange - after a good stop by the defense. Some pressure on the quarterback led to two incompletions on the first two plays and Oderick Turner was held short after catching a screen on third down. Now we'll get our first look at the offense today. With good field position, a big opening drive would be huge for the Orange.

12:31PM - Cue the band. Touchdown pass (and a great throw) from Cam Dantley to Donte Davis. The TD came after Boonah Brinkley had run well on the drive and the Orange had moved the chains. It was a 27-yard strike. Da'Mon Merkerson played wide receiver on the drive and had a drop. 8 plays 55 yards for the TD. Nice drive.

12:36PM - Another three and out for the Panthers. Great job by the defense after a good first down run by Stephens-Howling. But the defense was bailed out by a third down false start. Fair catch (imagine that) by Ryan Howard. And now we have to listen to Randy Edsall. A good win for he and the Huskies last night. Great job by mid-stater Zach Frazer to help rally the UCONN squad after Lorenzen got hurt.

12:41PM - That's interference. A good throw - and a near catch on third and one. But we should have gone for it on fourth down. And now we might. No they accepted the penalty. Good running by Brinkley on that drive, and then a near home run ball on third and one to Owen, who was clearly interfered with. A decent 30-yard punt by Long backs the Panthers up. The defense needs to keep things going and get the O the ball back in good field position.

12:46PM - The first quarter ends with Pitt on the move a bit. But the best quarter of the season for the Orange and they lead it 14-3 at the moment. Disappointing that the Orange didn't get anything out of the last drive. A clear pass interference on that third down play was not called. Even Congemi, the Pitt apologist, said it was interference or grumbled something like that. By the way, Mike Gleason makes you long for Dave Sims. Guess he's with the Mariners pennant drive this weekend.

12:51PM - I hate that soft zone on third down. We seem to get beat over the middle way too often. And don't get enough pressure to make any difference on those third and medium/long situations. That time they came with an all-out blitz on third down. We don't have a sack yet, but we've bothered Stull. Lee boots it through from 43-yards again to draw Pittsburgh within 8. We stiffened up a little bit, but it appears we're going to blitz less when they can burn us for a big play, and home to make a play later. AJ Brown has had a few big hits out of the secondary.

1:02PM - Is it any coincidence that the first three and out for this offense went with Hogue in as the running back? We really miss Delone Carter to provide an adequate backup for Boonah. But Long got off a good punt and Pitt starts way back at the 21-yard line. Defense needs to continue to play solidly. I've like the play of Mike Mele today and Nico Scott in the secondary has looked a bit better.

1:10PM - First time where I noticed some real missed tackles costing us on this drive. The afforementioned Nico Scott missed an open field tackle on a third down screen pass. That and a facemask penalty on Nick Santiago helped prolong Pitt's first touchdown drive. Give the Pitt coaching staff some credit for adjusting to those Orange blitzes and making a difference. A Stull to Dorian Dickerson touchdown pass on third and goal draws Pitt within 14-13. Syracuse has a chance here to do something before halftime and gets the ball first to start the second half to restore some momentum. Because it sure feels a lot like a Pitt football game right now.

1:19PM - Boonah's got to be close to 100 yards with that run. Big run for the Orange. 44-yard gain. Get him back in the game. I know he needed the break. But get him back in there. Hogue just pattycakes to the line all the time. Man would he be a good linebacker. After the big run from Brinkley, we never saw him again. And we got complacent and happy to take the field goal. Of course most of us would have taken a 17-13 lead at halftime. (Especially if you have the Orange +8 in the first half). Shadle was perfect on the 25-yard kick. The offense has been efficient in the first half. They need points on the first drive of the second half.

1:46PM - Keep kicking it to Holmes. Brinkley just runs very hard, and he is now over 100 today. Van Chew makes a great catch for a touchdown. The replay is upcoming. I'm not sure how they can take it away. He might not have caught it. But there is nothing to indicate otherwise. And it stands. So a great start to the second half. Nice pass, and Chew made a super catch. Over Aaron Berry. The lead is back to 11 and the defense needs to step it up. Its a 36-yard TD.

2:14PM - The defense bent some more and gave up the field goal. But again got a stop and kept Pitt out of the end zone. Then the offense moved the ball a little bit. Some first downs and stuff. Dantley had a couple of nice pass connections. But Pitt came up with a big sack on a third down at about the 35 and forced a punt. Syracuse downed the punt at the ten.

2:19PM - Pitt has extended this drive with a fourth down conversion deep in its own territory. And then McCoy finally breaks one and takes the ball into Orange territory. But he needs to finish the run. So as we head to the fourth quarter, the Orange still leads 24-16, but Pitt is trying to get closer.

2:25PM - Stephens Howling breaks a couple of tackles for a touchdown and the broken tackle on the screen to Baldwin allowed them to keep the drive alive. Both touchdown drives extended because of missed tackles. Stull gets the two point conversion pass to Baldwin as they isolated him on Merkerson. Merk had no idea where the ball was and it cost us. We are tied at 24.

2:34PM - Syracuse has lifted the redshirt on Antwon Bailey. He got two carries on that drive and then Dantley got dumped on third down for the sack. The defense needs to come up big, as Berry makes a nice return (remember it was his returns that won the game last year) and Pitt will start near midfield.

2:38PM - The Syracuse defense has just spent too much time on the field today. They are now missing tackles and Nico Scott just got called for pass interference. Merkerson came up with a big play to drop Stephens-Howling for a big loss. They need to hold Pitt to 3 points here.

2:41PM - Derrell Smith nearly had a pick as Santiago pressured Stull on second down. It was a tough catch. They stopped them on a third down screen. I would assume Pitt will take the field goal and the first lead since 3-0 early. Lee knocks it through from 25 and its 27-24. Let's see if the offense can come up with something. I would assume we'd see Brinkley.

2:49PM - That is going to leave a mark. Dantley fumbles on the sack and Pitt recovers in great field position. Is it asking too much to hold them to a field goal attempt?

2:54PM - That should just about do it. We did not contain on third and goal and Stephens-Howling bounced it to the corner for the touchdown. 3:22 to play, and Pitt leads 34-24. That is seven scoring drives for the Panthers. This one from short range after the fumble recovery.

3:00PM - A fourth down pass from Cam Dantley floats helplessly to the turf and its all over but the blow through the doors. And maybe since nobody showed up, they don't even have to do that.

A solid effort from the Orange. But they didn't do enough defensively to win the game. The unit was out there all day long, and made some key stops early, but eventually Pitt found the way to get the ball into the end zone.

I thought there were two plays that made a huge difference. The 3rd and 1 play to Mike Owen that should have been pass interference, and also the decision not to go for it on fourth down there. And then the sack on the third down play late in the third with the Orange driving and taking them out of field goal range and forcing a punt. With an 8-point lead at the time, getting points there would have kept confidence when Pitt came back with the touchdown.

Plus there were a few missed tackles that if they weren't missed Pitt wouldn't have scored the early touchdowns and who knows what would have happened. But credit the Panthers, they made plays and they are headed to South Florida at the top of the Big East standings.

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