NCAA

Column: This is a rivalry game, Pitt just was not ready for it

Pittsburgh, PA — It just makes sense to cut to the chase, no? Well here you go.

There are so many different ways to spin this but here is the right one. Pitt is not an opponent which should be underestimated. Is it too soon to forget that the most recent national champions, Clemson, lost to this Pitt team?

Sure, Pitt is a completely different team and today certainly proved that, but this is a Panthers team which has a respected reputation and for good reason.

Equating Pitt to Akron is very inaccurate for a lot of reasons and for Penn State they definitely had to be up for this game in some capacity since it lost last year’s game.

Penn State is the big brother right now and has the national ranking in addition to the respect that comes along with it. Pitt acts like the stepchild which gets the crumbs and really both of these to some degree are warranted.

There are two sides to every story, but here is the truth.

This is a game which needs to be played every single year. The fans enjoy it and both programs whether admitted or not, enjoy the attention and energy which come from this game.

Pitt winning last year was crucial for the program and as Penn State defeated quality teams, the significance of that win only grew.

Penn State coach James Franklin making the remarks he did is an insult to the game and a terrible attempt at being the big brother while making a power move.

If Franklin does not consider this game any different from the others, then he is fooling himself and sending the wrong message to college football fans.

Penn State will definitely face more challenging opponents this year, there is zero argument about that.

Franklin’s remark is as classless and disrespectful as it gets. Do not doubt for one second that this will be used as fuel by Pitt and really other teams as well.

Next year this game will be played at Heinz Field and if Pitt can replicate last season’s success it will be an even bigger victory.

As for why this is up top, it clearly has upset Pitt fans and national media has picked up on this as well so it is very important. Any other media or reader who feels this way does not have a proper pulse on what makes this a rivalry.

Now for the game itself.

We have ourselves a quarterback controversy, or at least the beginning signs of one.

What Max Browne did during the first half was largely unacceptable, especially in a game of this magnitude because he set up his defense to fail.

In a game where Pitt outgained Penn State 342-312 it was the short field the Nittany Lions had twice in the first quarter which effectively ended the game.

There was no excuse on multiple ends for Browne’s first interception really. For one, Browne floated the ball well over the head of Quadree Henderson. These two just do not seem to be in much sync at all and Henderson’s Manny Ramirez impression of not even jumping or showing any form of effort to catch that football looked awful.

I could care less if Henderson did not think the ball was being thrown his way. Henderson is one of if not the face of this Pitt team and darn well knows the route he needs to run. The ball was close enough his way to where any effort would have been appreciated, especially by his quarterback.

That the pass sailed calmly into Penn State defender Grant Haley’s hands which was followed by a 42-yard return to Pitt’s 8-yard line is even worse.

Fellow wide receiver Jester Weah dropped another deep pass and a couple of key receptions could have kept Pitt drives moving.

The defense looked quite shaky last game and the start to the game giving it a short field to defend certainly did not help things.

A misdirection touchdown pass one play after the first interception told Pitt fans that this would be an uphill battle.

As far as the second interception, it already was clear that Pitt was at the very least having communication errors between Browne and the receivers and then the quarterback threw an interception with no Pitt player anywhere close to the football.

Regardless of who was at fault for that play, it is unacceptable and makes everyone on the field plus offensive coordinator Shawn Watson look absolutely foolish.

When Browne left the game in the fourth quarter late in a Pitt drive, Ben DiNucci came right in and ran the ball into the end zone.

DiNucci did well, however the game had already been decided, so there is a wonder how much of his performance was based on that or if his leadership for most of the fourth quarter was enough.

After the game, Browne was still named the starter by Narduzzi, but it was indeed the correct decision to keep DiNucci out there to see how he could handle himself.

Next week’s game against Oklahoma State could be very telling. If Browne experiences more struggles then perhaps the hook will be quicker.

The defense certainly was much more in form which is no surprise, but rather the expectation under Narduzzi.

It also will help Pitt that Chawntez Moss was back on the field and had 46 yards which complimented Qadree Ollison.

Saturday, Penn State was both on paper and on field the better team and Pitt did not execute well on several occasions where momentum could have swung its way.

Finally a closing thought. This Pitt loss proves that the media certainly has no determination on wins and losses. Pat Narduzzi is doing a disservice to his players by blocking them from speaking to the media and by extension the fans.

I could absolutely care less if this is what happened in Michigan State but whether it is the NFL, an important job interview or really in life, people are not blocked from speaking. It is an unsafe practice which makes you look weak and also shows little confidence in your team.

A player or coach extra a day for 10-15 minutes certainly is not the reason why Max Browne threw two first quarter interceptions and is certainly not why you lose a football game.

Pat Narduzzi has done a lot of great things at Pitt, but this is not one of them. This does not come out of bitterness, I have admittedly not covered a practice and if I did could have come up with plenty of content throughout the week but it comes out of common sense.

Maybe next year the media practices will be different (not). Sorry, had to go there.

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