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4-1-Zoo: Bloggers Debate Pitt at USF

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PITTSBURGH — Pitt (5-4, 3-1 Big East) plays at  South Florida (6-3, 3-2) in Tampa at noon Saturday with a chance to rebound from a very disappointing loss at UConn last Thursday.

However, a loss might just send this season spiraling out of control. So as always, Pitt Blather, Pitt Script and The Fighting Wannstaches join me to discuss the current state of Pitt football and the game this weekend. Will the Panthers regain their form or drop another huge game?

Question #1: People are freaking out. What your emotional state after the UConn loss?

Pitt Blather: Resigned. Discouraged. Drained. Maybe I’m just tired and not getting enough sleep. I don’t know. I just don’t seem to have the energy to be angry at this point. To use the Wannstedtian catch-all, “it is what it is.” This team has won only once on the road this year — and two of the final three are on the road. That’s not exactly encouraging.

Maybe it is all the frustration and negativity of the season to this point, and I’m trying to separate from more of it. Right now I feel more emotionally detached from this football team since I started doing a Pitt blog. The disappointments of 2003, 2005 and 2006 didn’t have this kind of impact.

Pitt Script: I hate the whole idea of blaming the coach all the time, everytime, but Wannstedt’s inability to gameplan for Todman was simply inexcusable. UConn was on their third string QB and has no one to catch the ball if they did decide to throw it. I understand that special teams gaffes were responsible for 3 touchdowns (Wannstedt is the special teams coach by the way), but there’s no reason to allow Todman to gain 222 yards. A disappointing game that reinforces everything Wanny’s critics have said all along.

The Fighting Wannstaches: We want to be rational, but we’re fans at heart…so not good. It seems like every year we get our hopes up high just to have them crushed…and unfortunately this year looks to be no different. After racking off three BIG EAST wins in a row, it appeared that this team had finally turned a corner and the pieces were starting to fall in place. But yet again, Pitt lost a game it shouldn’t have and missed a great opportunity to set themselves apart from the rest of the conference. Now it seems like Pitt may throw away the BIG EAST championship for the second consecutive year if they don’t turn things around.

4-1-Zoo: I’m honestly surprised. I didn’t see Pitt losing to UConn. While I believed the Huskies were a better football team than their record indicated, I thought Pitt was still a better team than them. So surprised with a little bit of fear that this thing will spiral out of control.

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Question #2: What do you blame the most for the loss?

Pitt Blather: Geez. Where to start. A defensive line that let itself get beaten. An offense that sputtered and stalled. Special teams disasters.  An outstanding running back from UConn, that the coaches refused to stack the box to stop. After the game, Wannstedt said that the team was beaten all three phases of the game. Then said it was all execution. Then I did a couple shots.

I put this one on the coaches. When a team with superior talent is beaten in all phases, and had extra time to prepare. Well, I blame the coaches for that. They didn’t prepare the team well. They didn’t gameplan well. And they sure didn’t adjust well.

Pitt Script: Obviously the special teams turnovers were very tough to overcome, but I still go back to Pitt’s inability to stop Todman. Again, there were exactly zero other threats on that offense to worry about so the lack of any plan — or subsequent adjustment — is inexcusable.

The Fighting Wannstaches: There is plenty of blame to go around for this one. With that being said, we’ll have to have to put this one on the coaching staff. Pitt’s physical talent didn’t lose this game, it was their mental mistakes and failure to execute that did. No matter how you slice it, Pitt was not prepared for this game and what it represented…putting the conference title almost out of reach and being the saviors of a conference in need of a dominate team. The worst part is that this seems to be a reoccurring theme this season, and they didn’t learn anything from the first time. If there was an issue with some players dealing with the hype and expectations as we’ve heard at the beginning of the year, that should have been resolved because there is no excuse for that nine games in when those expectations returned. If they are a “young team” like they continue to claim, then the leadership and guidance on dealing with these issues and pressures has to come from the coaches, and that doesn’t appear to be happening.

4-1-Zo0: It’s hard to pick on person, player or unit. I think it’s a combination of the Panthers not being prepared well, which is a theme under Wannstedt with extra days of rest, and the players executing a very, very low level.

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Question #3: Statistically Pitt is still the conference front-runner. Do you believe they will win the Big East?

Pitt Blather: Who knows? It is the Big  East. Anyone can choke or have a career game at any point. Let me put it this way, Pitt could still win the Big East, but it might have more to do with how other teams fail than Pitt succeeding.

Pitt Script: If Pitt blows this, they will officially be a bad program. The Big East is terribly bad that any number of teams in other conferences could win this conference in a walk. That pains me to write as I believe that the Big East is generally a good conference and certainly a much better conference than it is given credit for. But it is just flat out terrible this year.

The Fighting Wannstaches: After seeing Thursday night’s game, there is definitely doubt. When the “correctable mistakes” continue to occur this late in the season, there is no reason to believe Pitt won’t lose one of their final three games because of mistakes either, especially when the schedule is back loaded. With the conference standings lining up to have a tie with multiple two loss teams, a loss to the wrong team would negate Pitt’s head-to-head victories and leave the BCS standings to decide the conference winner. With five losses in that scenario, it certainly won’t be Pitt.

4-1-Zoo: I do, but I don’t feel as confident as last week. While Pitt showed how bad they can be when not executing at UConn, we saw how well the Panthers can execute when they do execute in three wins to open conference play. I still believe that is the true Pitt team.

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Question #4: What worries you most about USF?

Pitt Blather: B.J. Daniels. A USF coaching staff that might actually prepare for a specific opponent, and gameplan against them.

Pitt Script: Can I pick everything? This game has all kinds of upset potential. BJ Daniels has been playing better lately and there is still plenty of athletes on both sides of the ball for USF. South Florida is also right in the mix for the BCS bid (with CBS Sports) projecting them as the Big East champs, so this is a very big game for them.

The Fighting Wannstaches: The fact that South Florida is riding momentum from a three-game win streak, finds themselves in the thick of the BIG EAST title hunt, and has been improving over recent weeks under first year head coach Skip Holtz. Confidence can do wonders for a team (just ask UConn last Thursday), and South Florida has that right now with the way they are playing ball and winning games…their big plays on special teams helps a lot too (again, just ask UConn).

4-1-Zoo: B.J. Daniels…unless they run the option. Don’t know if you watched the Louisville game, but the Bulls looked horrible in the first half running the option. When they ditched that idea they were much better. As was Daniels.

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Question #5: Prediction please!

Pitt Blather: What the hell, nothing else makes sense this year. Pitt continues to confound and pulls it out 27-21.

Pitt Script: I’m an optimist, so I’ll reluctently predict Pitt restores my sanity with a performance reminecnst of the Syracuse game. Big games from Tino and Sheard. 38-17.

The Fighting Wannstaches: The Panthers come back with a 24-21 win, setting up a BIG EAST championship next week against WVU (with a Syracuse win over UConn of course).

4-1-Zoo: 20-12, Pitt.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com

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