So, all Bill Stull had to do was complete a few passes here and there, including an occasional big play, but not try to do too much. Against Cincinnati last week, Stull and Pittsburgh couldn't do enough. And Stull has taken the criticism.
All the Panthers (7-3, 3-2), including Stull, need to upgrade their games for Pitt to beat West Virginia (7-3, 4-1) in the 101st Backyard Brawl Friday at noon at Heinz Field.
"There's a fine line between taking a sack and getting rid of the ball,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "A couple times, (Cincinnati) brought a blitz, and we didn't have anyone to block. When we stand back and start moving and nobody's open, you have to get rid of it.
"We also had some drops last week, four or five. That hadn't happened before. They brought a lot of good pressure, and we knew that. We didn't really make anything happen when we were under pressure from a blocking standpoint, a quarterback standpoint or a receiver standpoint.''
Stull was 18-for-28 for 229 yards and one touchdown, a 41-yarder to Dorin Dickerson late in the game to get within one score from Cincinnati. But it was too little, too late. He also was intercepted once and sacked seven times. Stull took a lot of flack for his performance, but he understands that it's all part of being the quarterback and team leader.
"You never want to try to take a sack, and when we were getting late in the third and into the fourth quarter, I was trying to make some big plays to give us a chance to win,'' Stull said. "(But) I might have held onto the ball a little longer just to try to make an extra play.
"But, in hindsight, I guess should have thrown it away or dumped it off instead of holding onto it to try to make a big play. Then again, some plays on second down, I probably should have tried to get half of it back by dumping it off. Then, I would have had third or fourth down to move the sticks.
"So, it is a fine line, and you've got to know everything,'' Stull added. "What's at stake, the down and distance, the clock. So much goes into the decision-making, and I really didn't make very many good decisions on that aspect. I guess I should have done it a little different in the last game.''
According to Wannstedt and Pitt senior center C.J. Davis, the boisterous Cincy crowd caused some of the Panthers line woes. The Pitt O-line had problems hearing the snap count, and that led to several false starts.
"I put all that on the offensive line,'' Davis said. "Getting up to the line, that's on me. We had some problems with the play clock, and that's my fault. Some guys had trouble hearing the snap count, due to the noise, so we need to work that out. That hurt us a little bit, but that's the reason the penalties came.
"We didn't control the ball very much against Cincinnati. Our time of possession was not good. What did we have it in the third quarter, 3 1/2 minutes? ... To win the rest of these games, we've got to control the ball and stay on the field.
"And if we keep putting our defense on the field for 6-8 minutes, you know Pat White's going to make a big play eventually,'' Davis added. "So, we've got to control the rock so that good things will happen for us.''
Pitt actually got off to a hot start and drove down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive. The Panthers actually got the ball back immediately, as the special teams knocked the ball loose and recovered it on the ensuing kickoff. But instead of making the Bearcats pay, Stull took two sacks and Pitt didn't even get a field-goal attempt.
"The noise was a factor,'' Wannstedt said. "That led to false starts. The sacks, I would say, at least half of them -- the quarterback has to get rid of the ball. Whether anyone's open or not, we have to find a way to get rid of the ball.
"And we can't take sacks, particularly in a situation like the one after we got that fumble and had the ball on the 35-yard line after the kickoff. We take two sacks out of three plays. That's unacceptable.''
Stull also noted the communication problems between he and the line, but added that they eventually were worked out. But it came a little too late.
"It wasn't before we took a couple penalties and sacks that set us back,'' Stull said. "(And) we killed ourselves on first and second down, and that put us in long and not very manageable third downs.
"I think we were 2-for-10 on third down. We converted one during the first series and the touchdown pass to Dorin was on third down. So, that rate's not going to win us many games around here.''
So, that means it better change when Pitt takes the field against WVU Friday.
Stull Shoulders Blame For Cincy Loss
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