Maybe the main reason Pitt let Florida International hang around for so long in Saturday’s game was penalty yardage.
Pitt made much of Saturday’s game harder than it needed to be with unnecessary penalties, forcing the offense in to long third-down situations and, conversely, putting FIU in favorable third-and-short situations. Coach Dave Wannstedt said undisciplined showings like Saturday’s – 10 penalties for 64 yards – can’t continue if Pitt hopes to turn this season around.
“We just shoot ourselves in the foot way too many ways,” Wannstedt said. “We were the least penalized team in the conference and one of the best in the country a year ago at this time and now – 10 penalties – it’s unacceptable. We’re gonna come in (Sunday) morning at 8 o’clock, everybody, and we’re gonna deal with it then. But we’re not gonna accept this. If we’re gonna beat good football teams we need to clean some of these things up.”
Wannstedt later said, “(strength and conditioning coach) Buddy Morris is gonna talk about (penalties) tomorrow.”
The defensive side of the ball was the most effected by the undisciplined play.
Brandon Lindsey was called offside twice on FIU’s second drive and cost the Panthers five yards – the second of which gave the Golden Panthers a first down. Two other times, Pitt turned a third-and-6 into a third-and-1 for the FIU offense – Jabaal Sheard did so at the Pitt 26 early in the second quarter, which led to a touchdown, and Justin Hargrove did late in the second quarter, which led to a field goal.
Both of those drives ended up being long, time-consuming marches that kept Pitt’s offense off the field. The first was 13 plays that lasted 5:27 and the second was 16 plays that lasted 6:01.
Pitt trailed in time of possession nearly 20:00 to 10:00 at halftime.
Offensively, Pitt’s second drive had a false start by Ray Graham on first-and-goal at the 9, which moved the ball to the 14 and Pitt eventually settled for a field goal. In the third quarter Mike Cruz jumped early as well, creating a second-and-15 situation at the FIU 29 that also ended in a field goal.
With all those examples of making situations harder for themselves, Wannstedt had the Panthers in early Sunday morning to go over what went wrong and what needs fixed.
“We came in Sunday morning and we watched the tape and we did some running and stuff,” Wannstedt said. “It wasn’t really what we did. I was just trying to get the message to these guys that all Saturday night, I know myself included, what I was thinking of is ‘I gotta set the alarm for 6 o’clock Sunday morning and get in here.’
“It wasn’t really what we did but why we were in here Sunday morning. The focus was on cleaning up some of the mistakes that we have been committing the last couple weeks.”
Against Florida International of the Sun Belt Conference, Pitt was able to get away with the mistakes. But the 9 penalties for 53 yards against Miami were evidence that the Panthers can’t continue to have mental mistakes in games and beat good teams.
Focus will be in demand at Notre Dame on Saturday.
“We still haven’t played close to what we’re capable of playing,” Wannstedt said. “I think from and ‘X & O’ standpoint we know what we have to do, but we need to clean up some of the others things.”