Wannstedt's Post-Game Comments

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt and the Panthers are back at practice today, watching video and working to pick up the pieces from a season derailed by a disheartening loss Saturday at North Carolina State.

Pittsburgh (3-1) doesn't have much time to get back on track, however, as it faces Louisville on the road Friday at 8 p.m. in an ESPN 2 national telecast.

"I told our players (that) they gave enough effort to give us a chance to win the game, but I thought we made too many mistakes to win the game,'' Wannstedt said. "So, the effort was there. We've got a good football team.

"Defensively, I'll tell you what was so disappointing. We brought in officials to practice this (past) Wednesday, and they followed those guys around. And for us to have penalties today, like we had last week, it's very, very disappointing.

"I thought that defensively, we didn't make any plays,'' Wannstedt added. "Their offense made all the plays. Every time we got them in third-and-long, either we got a pass-interference (penalty) or he scrambled and got out of there away from the rush and got a first down.''

Wannstedt and the staff were pleased with the way Pitt opened the game, with an electrifying kickoff return by redshirt freshman Cam Saddler and a good scoring drive to take an early lead. After scoring 31 points for a two-touchdown advantage well into the third quarter, it appeared that the Panthers were on their way to another victory.

But Pitt's vaunted defense was dented for three straight touchdowns and appeared to be tiring at the end, but Wannstedt disagreed.

"No, because those were mental mistakes, and there's no excuse for those,'' Wannstedt said. "No excuse for those. Pass-interference penalties are always debatable, but where there's smoke, there's fire. You don't get called for that penalty that many times without there being something there.

"I thought we rectified it Wednesday by making a big issue about it, but ... it was so disappointing because we really played undisciplined. We had some opportunities to make plays up front (with) sacks. And plays on the back end (with) interceptions. And it didn't happen.

"So, we'll just go back and stress the fundamentals,'' Wannstedt added. "We've got good kids, and they'll show up and be ready to work (today). And the only way to correct things like this is to continue to work on the basics, to work on the fundamentals and to find ways to improve.''

After committing five 15-yard penalties against Navy, Pitt came back with three more with the game on the line. At times, the Panthers appeared to be somewhat confused in the secondary or out of position. Wannstedt balked at that description as well.

"No,'' Wannstedt responded. "Jarred Holley had the guy coming across. Ricky Gary was one-on-one, and Aaron Berry had the guy in the end zone. It wasn't like guys were out of position on those plays. We were right there, but we just didn't make plays. I wish I had a better or easier solution for you.''

And on the fourth-and-14 play when North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson ran for the first down, what happened there?

"We lost containment,'' Wannstedt said. "We should have had him contained, but he got out of there. We had a mental mistake. (Wilson), I think he was sacked eight times coming into this game, and you would have never thought -- with as much speed as we've got up front -- it sure as heck didn't look like that.

"A lot of the times, we had guys covered, and he wasn't going to force an interception. So, you've got to give him credit. I've had some bad experiences with quarterbacks making plays on their own, like Pat White. And I thought this kid tonight performed about as good as any quarterback that we have faced.

"When things weren't there, he was able to take negative plays and turn them into positive plays,'' Wannstedt added.

Pitt quarterback Bill Stull also made some plays, and so did the running game with freshman tailback Dion Lewis. Those two, along with defensive tackle Mick Williams and kick returner Saddler, were the best Panthers on the field. However, with a first-and-goal at the 8 on a gift for a chance to tie the game, Pitt couldn't get the job done.

Two runs, a pass into the end zone that tight end Dorin Dickerson couldn't hold onto despite a tremendous effort and Stull inexplicably throwing the fourth-down pass into the seats ended Pitt's night. Where was 6-6 leaper Jonathan Baldwin on that series? Maybe a jump ball or fade was in order?

"We did talk about it, but we really felt like the pass to Dorin gave us a chance,'' Wannstedt said. "And we also thought we could run it. So, we did talk about it, but we didn't feel like that was the best play. I thought that two things happened on offense.

"I thought that our offensive line and our protection for Billy as a group was good, and that includes the backs and the tight ends, because they help. I thought our protection was good, and I thought Billy made good decisions. So, you have to give him credit. And I thought Dion ran well.''

So, might there be more down-field passes from Stull to open it up for Lewis and the running game in the second half?

"I don't know how much more he has to do,'' Wannstedt said. "We scored 31 points, and the minute you try to do more you start to do things that you don't want to do or need to do.''

One thing Wannstedt said will happen is that Saddler, who scored his first collegiate touchdown on a swing pass, will be more involved in the offense.

"Yes, Cam Saddler, we'll try to get him involved in the offense a little more,'' Wannstedt said. "He did a great job on returns. He's a player. (And) on that opening drive, he set the tempo for what I thought was the game.''

But in the end, the Panthers' defense let them down.

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