While it’s easy to blame coaching, defense or the quarterback, it’s most important to realize the real reason Pitt failed at Notre Dame: redzone offense.
It comes down to the plain and simple truth that Pitt failed early on in the game to score points inside the Notre Dame 20-yard line. Had the Panthers converted, the complexion of the game would have been totally altered for the better.
All Pitt’s defense did to start the game in South Bend was hold Notre Dame’s offense to a three-and-out — something not many defenses are able to do against a Brian Kelly spread attack.
The Panthers offense then marched eight plays to the Notre Dame 17, where they failed to punch the ball in the endzone. Dion Lewis rushed twice for just 3 yards and Tino Sunseri completed a pass to Devin Street that was short of the sticks.
Pitt was forced to kick a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
After Notre Dame took its second possession for a touchdown, Pitt got the ball back and once again marched right down the field. However, once the Panthers reached the redzone they couldn’t cross the goal line.
Ray Graham rushed for four yards to the Notre Dame 10-yard line, which was followed by two straight incompletions from Sunseri to Mike Shanahan — one was an overthrow. Thus, Pitt had to settle for another field goal attempt, which failed.
And then just before half as Pitt trailed 17-3, the Panthers had another field goal attempt from the Notre Dame 19. Rather than convert, Andrew Janocko botched the snap and Pitt came away with nothing.
So say what you will about Sunseri overthrowing the deep ball more than once against the Irish. And say what you will about Dayne Crist having his way in the first half against Pitt’s defense.
You can also point to coach Dave Wannstedt’s poor decision making down the stretch. I’m not going to argue that those were all factors in the loss.
But if you want the real reason Pitt lost you have to look at the way the game started, not the way it finished. And for the season, you have to look at the lack of execution in similar situations.
Too often the Steelers lost last season because the offense failed to score in the redzone, yet the defense was blamed because late leads evaporated. Sure, you have to play with what you’re dealt, but the first half counts, too.
Pitt’s loss to Notre Dame was a similar example.
So shout ‘fire Wannstedt!’ and ‘start Pat Bostick!’ I’m not going to tell you what to think.
I will, though, tell you what had the biggest influence on Pitt’s loss.
It was the redzone.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog