It's always hard to find a silver lining when a team loses a close game. It's even harder when that loss comes at the hands of your biggest rival. With that being said, let's talk about Andrew Taglianetti's effort during the 104th edition of the Backyard Brawl.
Taglianetti for starters, doesn't jump off the page when it comes to overwhelming you. Standing just 5'11" and weighing just 190 pounds, he doesn't strike fear in you. But his play on the field is much bigger than his size--enough to put that fear, or concern in an opponent's game plan. 'Tags' had arguably the best day of any Panther last Friday, recording five solo tackles (tied for the team high) and recovering two West Virginia fumbles off punt returns.
For most of the night, it looked like the Panthers were going to win what many see as the final Brawl for quite some time. But like so many games this year, the Panthers found a way to botch it. Much like the Iowa, Notre Dame and Cincinnati losses, Pitt let another game slip through their fingers in the 4th quarter, losing 21-20. After the game, Taglianetti spoke about the loss and how disappointing it was.
"There's a one-percent chance that you force three turnovers and will lose a game," Taglianetti said. "I can only speak of the play of the defense and special teams because those are the units I'm on, but it's frustrating.
"I wish we would have gotten more points off those two turnovers. But I believe in those guys on the other side."
His reference to the offense only scoring a pair of field goals off the two turnovers was a big factor in the game. Pitt's offense managed a pair of three and out's in each of those two situations, leading to Kevin Harper's kicking efforts. The loss clearly falls on the shoulders of the offense, but you didn't get that from Taglianetti after the game as he put a spin on the outcome.
"I thought in the first-half, we did a pretty good job of shutting them down," Taglianetti said. "I give Coach Holgorsen credit for making good second-half adjustments on us. They started to run the ball and that opened things up for the on offense. But we gave up 21 points and that's not acceptable."
Forcing turnovers is a key component to winning any game. For the Mountaineers to botch not one, but two punts is very shocking as Taglianetti admitted afterwards. "It's really rare that they fumbled it like that. I thought the guys on the punt team did a great job of getting down there. We know how dangerous these guys are when they get the ball. Our objective was to get down there and limit that. I thought we did a nice job of slowing them down."
And the Panthers' special teams, along with their defense did that for the majority of the game. It wasn't until the second half that West Virginia started to move the ball on defense and it was the last touchdown drive that covered 11 plays and 83 yards where you saw Pitt's defense make a few mistakes (a personal foul call on Aaron Donald) that allowed the Mounties to keep the drive alive. They also converted on a 4th down and 6 to extend the winning drive.
"Overall, we didn't do enough to win,' said Taglianetti. "We gave up 21 points and that was not good enough, despite how well we played."
You can listen to John Phillips' weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Saturday mornings. The show can also be heard online at 937thefan.com.