"That's a play you've all seen us use,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "We are four out of five on that (this season). We work on that 10 times a week. It's one of the best things we do. I haven't seen a team (like Virginia) in a long time set up their return people 15 yards off the ball.
"If there was ever was an opportunity to make that play it was tonight. We discussed it and worked on it all week. Our players were excited about doing it. We missed the kick and touch it before it goes 10 yards. That's what happened. I thought it would be a way for us to steal a possession.''
But the only thing stolen was any chance for Pittsburgh (2-3) to get off to a good start.
"I think it was just a game that the coaches thought about, (because) with film study we noticed a couple of things that they did that we might be able to capitalize on,'' Pitt redshirt junior middle linebacker Scott McKillop said. "It's just a risk factor, and we took it. You lose some; you win some.
"We prepared for a worst-case scenario to be thrust into a position like that. When we're thrust into bad situations like that that, we have to react well. We just have to stop the ball, and there's no reason that we can't forced them to go three-and-out and force a punt.
"(The onside kick) is just a risk that we were willing to take, and it didn't pan out for us,'' McKillop added. "Our defense has got to step up, and I take personal blame for that. I didn't get our defense prepared. Like last week, we were really shell-shocked. I think we need to step up and react a lot better.''
Just like the previous week against Connecticut, the Panthers had to react to being down multiple scores immediately. And for the second straight week, Pitt committed more than its share of penalties and turnovers. But Wannstedt tried to spin it the most positive way.
"I don't believe we're as bad a football team as we've showed the past two weeks,'' Wannstedt said. "But, and it's as big but, we are what we are right now. We haven't given ourselves a chance to show what kind of team we are or what kind of team we can be.
"I've been on one-win teams in college and in the NFL and been on undefeated teams in college and Super Bowl teams. We do everything in practice that championship teams do. Our kids are working as hard as any team that I've been on. When we get into games, especially early on, we haven't been able to keep it together. I wish I could give a reason why.''
Wannstedt also believed it was Pitt's worst defensive performance, as far as missed tackles were concerned, and the Panthers defense has struggled to force turnovers as well.
"I thought once we got through that initial storm in the beginning that we settled down,'' Wannstedt said. "I thought after halftime we were going to come out and our defense was ready to play, but we just got worn down.
"It's the same old deal. They had 40-some plays to our 20-some in the first half. I'm not sure exactly how many plays our defense played tonight, but I guarantee it was a ton.''
Fifth-year senior center Chris Vangas offered a ray of hope.
"I don't think we're going to quit because we worked too hard (to get to this point),'' Vangas said. "The last two games, I know it's not saying much, but we didn't really give up toward the end, and I don't think we're going to give up on the season. It's still a long season, and there are a lot of games to go.'' We've just got to come out and practice hard and keep on working.''
McKillop kept things positive as well.
"Right now, there's no finger-pointing on our team,'' McKillop said. "We're sticking together. Coach always wants three things: trust, accountability and desire. We're sticking to that. We've got to react and play better as a team, and that's on special teams, defense and offense.''
The Pitt coaching staff could be added to that group as well.
Panther More Top Stories
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW: Virginia TechPantherMore.com gives you five things to know about Pitt's week eight opponent, the Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2, 3-1 ACC), who are in their first year under head coach Justin Fuente…
Panther MoreWednesday at 3:06 PM
Preseason ACC poll: Where does Pitt fall in?Pitt has been selected to finish 12th in the preseason ACC basketball poll.
Panther MoreWednesday at 1:35 PM
Four-star guard Marcus Carr commits to PittKevin Stallings and his staff picked up a 2017 commitment from Marcus Carr.
Scout HoopsWednesday at 7:43 AM
THE FRIENDLY FOE: Scouting Virginia TechPantherMore.com gives you insight from Jason Stamm, publisher of The VT Zone, Scout.com's Virginia Tech site, in anticipation of Pitt's Thursday night showdown with Virginia Tech.
Panther MoreTuesday at 10:05 PM