SENIOR ONLY MEETING
Before Wannstedt spoke at his postgame press conference, he added that he met with the seniors immediately after the game. It wasn't because of a lack of leadership, as he said. He met with them simply to remind them that this is their team.
"It's not lack of leadership, it was about what we need to do to move forward," Wannstedt said. "Those guys that are our senior leaders, they were here when we didn't win. They went through the (running) hills, and the six o'clock in the mornings. They paid the price, and they understand what it takes to win."
Even though the seniors miss the on-field leadership of Greg Romeus and Dom DeCicco--Romeus only playing the first game at Utah, and DeCicco being limited against both Utah and Miami--seniors like Jabaal Sheard feel he and the rest of the seniors can effectively lead this team.
"We got to step up," Sheard said. "We got to be more leaders. We need to get our team together--show them all the hard work that we did to get here, remind them every time that we still got the Big East ahead of us. It's not over.
"(Romeus and DeCicco) are both good leaders, they make big plays. That's who you call on at the end of the game. Dom was in there, and he had a big play when he had the opportunity. We need him back out there, immediately, but we have other people that have to step up."
Pitt, all of a sudden, has a quarterback controversy on its hands. Even though Pat Bostick threw two interceptions in his time in, he got the Panthers into the red zone three times--something Tino Sunseri did just once in ten tries.
However, this quarterback controversy might not be about numbers. Sunseri went down after getting hit in the head by Miami linebacker Ramon Buchanon. Buchanon was flagged for a late hit, but afterwards, Sunseri told the Pitt trainers that his vision was "not right." Depending on the severity of this, Sunseri might be out for next week's game against Florida International.
"I am in full support of what Coach Cignetti and Coach Wannstedt decide to do," Bostick said. "I'm ready to get out there against FIU, and get a win. There's no (better) way to get rid of the taste of a loss, than to win. That's all I'm worried about."
RUNNING BACK CONTROVERSY
Perhaps of even more question, is the running back position. A third game would prove whether or not Dion Lewis was in a slump. While the offensive line was not at its best, and though Lewis was held to 41 yards on 12 carries, Ray Graham found a way to rush for 100 yards on 14 carries. Of course 42 of those yards came on the final offensive series, with the game already put away. Graham also led the team in receiving, with three receptions for 41 yards. Aside from what he did on offense, Graham added 47 yards on two kickoff returns.
After the game, however, Wannstedt insisted both backs will continue to share carries.
"Both Dion and Ray, they're competing, and we'll continue the rotation," Wannstedt said.
The bottom line, is that Graham found a way to gain yards when all else was failing on offense. While the lack of an effective running game is somewhat the fault of the offensive line, check out what Graham has done in just two games: 23 carries, 216 yards (9.4 avg), two touchdowns. It seems the offense has a lack of firepower, but Graham has put up the numbers. Lewis, on the other hand, has rushed 47 times for 143 yards (3.0 avg.), with two touchdowns in three games.
It's no lack of effort on Lewis' part, but being a running back means producing. Right now, the numbers say that Graham is producing more than Lewis. Graham, however, downplays any battle for between the two backs for first-team rights.
"Whatever reps I have, I will just do to the best of my ability," Graham said. "We're just going to keep practicing, keep working hard every day. Come Saturday, we'll just do what we have to do."
CHANGES COMING FOR OFFENSIVE LINE?
After the game, Wannstedt was not clearly pleased with his offensive line, probably more than any other area of the team he talked about. During his postgame press conference, he made reference to the offensive line play on more than a few occasions.
"Right now, we are not in sync in some areas of our football team," Wannstedt said. "When you have five sacks (allowed), nine tackles for a loss (by Miami's defense), when you have three turnovers, you're not going to beat anybody."
Later, he suggested changes may be forthcoming on the offensive line. He made mention that everybody needs to improve, but came and and literally said that changes may need to be made.
"We need to get back to basics and keep working," Wannstedt said. "If changes need to be made, we'll make some changes. We've got to look at the offensive line, and see if we need to juggle some guys around there."
At the end of his press conference, Wannstedt either showed how little confidence he had in the offensive line, or made them out to be the scapegoat. With time running out in the game, instead of taking a shot at the end zone, he decided to keep running the ball inside the five. Either way, he's not convinced by the offensive line right now.
"Playcalling, it was running the ball," Wannstedt said of the decision to not take a shot at the end zone. "We didn't want to get sacked."
Jon Baldwin, Pitt's leading receiver heading into this game, finished with three catches for 26 yards. In addition to his three receptions, Baldwin was thrown at a total of eight times
Prior to his first reception, Baldwin was thrown at three times all night. His first pass came on a 3rd-and-9 at their own 27. Sunseri's pass was fired over Baldwin's head, and out of his reach. Later, they went to him on a 3rd-and-7 at their own 24--same result, incompletion thrown over Baldwin's head.
Baldwin was able to reach out and haul a 36-yard touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri in the back of the end zone, that was close enough for a review. Wannstedt threw the challenge flag. The ruling was that Baldwin didn't have control of the ball in bounds, negating the catch and the touchdown.
When asked why he didn't get the ball to Baldwin more, he tied in some of that blame towards the offensive line again.
"It's real important," Wannstedt said, referring to getting Baldwin involved in the game plan. "We had him open two or three times and we got sacked."
DEFENSIVE LINE PUSHES THROUGH
Earlier in the week, Dave Wannstedt talked about how Miami rotated anywhere from eight to 10 defensive linemen. He ended up using nine defensive linemen throughout the course of the game; five defensive tackles (Myles Caragein, Chas Alecxih, Tyrone Ezell, Aaron Donald, Tyler Tkach) and four defensive ends (Brandon Lindsey, Jabaal Sheard, Justin Hargrove, T.J. Clemmings). Clemmings saw his first action in the first quarter. He was not credited with any tackles.
Pitt's defensive line was one of the few highlights of the game. They held Miami's running game to 100 yards on 35 carries, an average of 2.9 yards a carry. Pitt, for all its misfortunes, actually fared better with 3.6 yards a carry. Jabaal Sheard came up with six tackles, second on the team behind Max Gruder. Sheard also came up with two sacks. Sheard's career-high is 5.5 sacks two years ago. He had five sacks last year, and already has three this year. He is filling in nicely, in the absence of Greg Romeus.
Brandon Lindsey made a nice play, breaking through the line and deflecting a Jacory Harris pass at the line. Had he reacted a split-second sooner, he could have had the interception. Myles Caragein and Chas Alecxih manned the middle. Though the defensive line played against a talented Miami offensive line, they were able to get to Harris and get some pressure, but also limited Miami's ground game.
"Defensively, we're doing some good things," Dave Wannstedt said after the game. "I thought defensively we hung in there about as long as we could have."
HOLLEY THE NEXT SUPERSTAR
Though the Pitt defense took a big hit when Dom DeCicco left the game, re-aggravating his hamstring after making a first-quarter interception, Jared Holley continues to rise to the occasion. Holley picked off a pass for a third consecutive game, and he also came up big forcing a Miami field goal in the first half.
With Miami situated at the Pitt 11, Harris went looking for his big target Leonard Hankerson in the end zone. Holley stepped in front of Hankerson with a chance at an interception, but simply broke the pass up. On the very next play, Harris underthrew tight end Chase Ford, but Holley tipped the ball out of the back of the end zone for good measure.
On Miami's next series, on the very first play, Harris intended a pass for Hankerson, who was 35 yards away at the Pitt 27. Holley slipped behind Hankerson, and made a diving grab for the interception, to give Pitt the ball back.
Though Harris went after the middle of the field early--looking for underneath routes, and looking to pick on the safeties, Holley and DeCicco made him pay. Unfortunately, Harris had better luck finding his receivers in one-on-one coverage with the corners.
"They did exactly what we watched on film," Holley said. "They did attacked at our corners a little bit. We did a good job containing the ball, and keeping the ball in front of us tonight."