Pitt notebook: Inexperience shows for Panthers' defense
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012, 4:04 p.m.
Paths to the football were off line, decisions ill-advised and production clearly lacking.
But in this case, the Pitt offense isn't the culprit.
A Panthers defense featuring eight first-time starters, six of whom didn't play last season, couldn't handle Youngstown State in the season-opening 31-17 loss Saturday at Heinz Field. The loss of linebackers Todd Thomas and Ejuan Price, who played last season but had offseason surgery, appears to have taken a toll.
Senior free safety Andrew Taglianetti used the phrases “shot in the mouth” and “learning lesson” to describe the humbling defeat to an FCS team that lost four games in the Missouri Valley Conference a year ago.
“This is where older guys like me have to step up and say, ‘This is a bad game. It can't happen again,'” he said.
Youngstown State used short routes and quick throws by quarterback Kurt Hess, who completed 13 of 23 for 154 yards. That was enough to neutralize Pitt's front four, led by tackle Aaron Donald, an All-Big East candidate. The result: Pitt never sacked Hess and failed to create a turnover.
“(Hess) was pretty comfortable,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said.
Taglianetti said Youngstown State's game plan worked well.
“(They ran) a lot of crossing routes underneath to kind of mess with the linebackers,” he said. “It's stuff that we know how to defend and stuff we've defended all camp, even last week when we were game-planning them.
“As one of the seniors on the defense, I'll take the blame for that. We just didn't communicate well enough across the board.”
On the way back
Running back Ray Graham is encouraged by how his knee responded to 14 carries, but he was discouraged by his fumble at the YSU 10-yard line.
“That's just something I can't let happen,” he said, “not if I want to be a lead back that I say I am.”
Graham said linebacker Dubem Nwadiogbu made a good play.
“He hit me dead on,” he said. “He gave me a little bruise (on the left arm).”
Graham had only three carries for 9 yards after halftime, as Pitt tried to play catch-up. He finished with 72 yards, including a long of 22.
“I'm getting back to the old Ray Graham,” he said.
Chryst was in no mood to consider excuses, refusing to accept the installation of new systems as a reason for the loss.
“This is who we are right now,” he said, “and we are going to go forward.”
He grudgingly conceded that injuries to starting receivers Mike Shanahan and Devin Street during camp — they returned a week ago — could have contributed to the lack of timing in the passing game.
“I have seen us execute those with those guys (in practice), but absolutely, if you had gotten 40 more reps, maybe (there would be improvement),” he said.
Chryst said he will have no further comment on the six players he suspended Saturday, but freshman running back Rushel Shell suggested on Twitter that he had been reinstated, tweeting:
• “S/o to all my loyal fans out there I'm back now and I promise not to let you down again.”
• “Sunday startin with a clean slate now the goal is to get better today!”
• “Everyones tough on a social network and I need to grow up!”
Chryst said the matters were handled internally.
“That is one area in this program that will not be sacrificed, and we are going to hold guys accountable for it,” he said. “We will not plan on talking anymore about it. We have a family, and we have some matters we have to take care of, and we did.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7997.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt defensive lineman Donald brings home Bronko Nagurski Award
- Donald wins ACC Defensive Player of Year
- With Pitt men ahead, gauntlet continues for Loyola Marymount
- Pitt to face MAC champ Bowling Green in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl