Morris, Miami dominate Pitt on Senior Day
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, 7:12 p.m.
Somewhere in the thoughts that flow through Pitt coach Paul Chryst's head, he sees the problems that led to another disheartening setback — this time in the form of a 41-31 loss to Miami on Friday at Heinz Field.
But it's apparently too complicated to dissect in an eight-minute post-game postmortem.
“I don't have to share what I think about the growth of our guys,” said Chryst, who is 12-13 after his first 25 games as Pitt's coach.
He added this: “I do like some of it and appreciate what they are doing.”
Pitt, 3-5 in its first season in the ACC, finished the regular season 6-6 for the third consecutive season and awaits a possible bowl invitation that likely won't come until after the ACC championship game Dec. 7.
For the moment, Pitt must contend with the reality of a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated.
Pitt couldn't handle Miami's speed; was too kind to quarterback Stephen Morris, who wasn't sacked; and added a string of blown coverages, turnovers and penalties that made victory appear out of the question before the end of the first period.
More than those tangible results, Chryst said his players have to learn to trust themselves before they can compete with the better teams on their schedule. After blowout losses to Florida State and Miami — and four other losses in which Pitt was not overwhelmed by talent — the Panthers' growth remains stunted, at best.
“It's trust,” he said. “Trusting yourself and not second-guessing yourself. We have to get better in that area.
“There are enough things that you have to own and correct if you are going to be a good team.”
One is not being in awe of the opponent.
“You have to respect their speed,” he said after his secondary allowed big, soft cushions to Miami's pass catchers. “But you have to be careful about respecting it too much.
“Not making the moment bigger than it is is part of the growth process.”
Pitt had trouble containing the powerful arm of Morris, who has struggled through injuries this season but completed 17 of 28 attempts for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
All-American candidate Aaron Donald, a finalist for four national awards, had only a half-tackle for a loss, giving him an FBS-high 261⁄2 for the season. But he was disappointed Morris barely was threatened in or out of the pocket.
“We need to get a lot more pressure up front on the quarterback,” he said. “We needed to pick it up, and we didn't do it.”
Playing without senior receiver Devin Street (elbow, ankle), Pitt never generated a consistent passing game. Quarterback Tom Savage, who was sacked once, completed 24 of 43 attempts for 281 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns — a 23-yarder to freshman running back Rachid Ibrahim, who scored his first career touchdown, and a 12-yarder to Tyler Boyd. Savage also ran for a 7-yard score in the third quarter.
“We have the guys on the team to make it happen,” Savage said. “We just didn't do it.”
Junior running back Isaac Bennett carried 21 times for 141 yards, including the longest run of his career (45, for a touchdown). But Pitt couldn't counteract Lafayette Pitt's lost fumble on the opening kickoff and poor tackling throughout the game. Indeed, when Miami freshman receiver Stacy Coley ran 73 yards for a touchdown on a reverse in the first half, he stumbled and almost lost his balance twice, but no Pitt defender was close enough to knock him to the ground.
“It goes by our record,” linebacker Anthony Gonzalez said. “We are 6-6 right now. Obviously we made mistakes. Obviously frequently.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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