Pitt drowns in series of mistakes, loses regular-season finale to Boston College
Pitt committed a variety of mistakes Saturday at Heinz Field during its 26-19 loss to Boston College. Almost everything imaginable.
An announced crowd of 40,889 was witness to an unfortunate and badly timed mix of three lost fumbles, dropped passes, four false starts, missed opportunities, an interception in the red zone and even a bad call by coaches, an admission made without prodding by coach Pat Narduzzi.
The performance could have been excused, perhaps, if this was the first scrimmage of summer camp. Coaches could have waved it off, knowing there would be plenty of time to fix the problems.
But this was the 12th game of the season, and Pitt (7-5, 4-4) was attempting to end the regular season with its eighth victory.
“There’s no excuse for it,” Narduzzi said. “We got to get better as coaches, and they’ve got to be better as players.”
With only a bowl game in its future, is there time for Pitt to get better and snare that elusive eighth victory?
Asked to account for the sloppy effort after weeks and months of practice, meetings and video review, Narduzzi said, “You tell me. I don’t know.”
“Senior Day, I feel bad for those seniors going out and playing like that. I mean, you got to be focused. You got to be locked in. You got to take care of those things.”
It started early when senior right tackle Nolan Ulizio was called for two false starts in the same opening series. It stretched into the second quarter with Pitt on the Boston College 1 when senior wide receiver Aaron Mathews did the same. Pushed back five yards, Pitt was forced to settle for Alex Kessman’s first of four field goals.
After 36 trips into the red zone this season, Pitt has just 16 touchdowns, next-to-last in the ACC.
Of course, scoring touchdowns from any point on the field has been a problem for Pitt. The Panthers scored one or none in four games and seven over the final five.
With Pitt sitting at a promising 5-2 after winning at Syracuse on Oct.18, the Panthers stumbled to a 2-3 finish.
Probably the most maddening of the problems for Narduzzi is how his team allowed Boston College running back A.J. Dillon to rush for 178 yards on 32 carries. After Pitt pulled within a touchdown with 5 minutes, 26 minutes to play on Kessman’s fourth field goal, Boston College handed the football to Dillon eight times and he ran out the clock. Narduzzi prides himself on building a defense that stops the run, makes an offense one-dimensional, but Pitt had no answer for Dillon, the third-leading ground gainer in the nation.
“I don’t know why they aren’t talking about that guy for the Heisman,” Narduzzi said.
Boston College (6-6, 4-4) held the ball for nearly 35 minutes, led for most of the game and took a lead it never surrendered in the third quarter on Dillon’s 61-yard touchdown run. It came less than a minute after Pitt had taken a 16-13 lead on Vincent Davis’ 39-yard touchdown from a wildcat formation.
“Really, it was more the call than it was our kids,” Narduzzi said. “I’m sure someone could make a tackle, but (I) didn’t like the defensive call there.”
Middle linebacker Saleem Brightwell said Boston College made the right call at the right time.
“We didn’t fit the gap perfectly,” he said, “and we had a stunt on, so they just hit us. It was like a perfect play. They just hit us at the wrong time.”
On offense, Narduzzi pointed to the lack of “a ton of senior leadership.”
Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett threw his ninth interception of the season — he has only 10 touchdown passes — when Pitt was threatening Boston College’s 20-16 lead in the third quarter.
Asked to explain the throw that was intended for freshman wide receiver Jared Wayne, Pickett said, “It was a read. Jared has to cross that safety’s face.”
Pickett completed 30 of 40 passes for 323 yards. Wayne caught six for 100 yards, becoming the first Pitt freshman to reach triple digits since Tyler Boyd did it five times in 2013.
“I’m going to keep working with him,” Pickett said. “He’s going to be a great player for us.”
The numbers were there in the passing game, except in the touchdown column, but Pickett said “continuity” was missing after Taysir Mack missed the game with an injury.
Said senior wide receiver Maurice Ffrench: “We all feel like we underachieved.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .