Come on, Pitt fans, don’t give up yet

By Jay Huerbin

Big East champions? BCS bowl game? These two scenarios seemed within reach following Pitt’s win… Big East champions? BCS bowl game? These two scenarios seemed within reach following Pitt’s win over Navy two weekends ago but now have nearly vanished for all but a few people after Pitt’s loss to Rutgers. Me? Well, I’m one of those few. It’s the nature of the game, but it’s frustrating to watch a team be praised after upsetting a ranked team on national television one day, only to be shunned after losing a shootout at home a few weeks later. Rutgers came to Pittsburgh hungry on Saturday. The players came in looking for statistics, and the team entered searching for a win in the Big East. It had just defeated Connecticut and lost two close games at West Virginia and Cincinnati a couple of weeks earlier. The Panthers were riding high on a five-game winning streak. LeSean McCoy looked unstoppable, Bill Stull was clicking, and the defense even started to play better. It was the perfect situation of one team overlooking the other. You can’t blame Pitt for that. It happens all of the time. That’s part of the beauty of college football. Just in the beginning of October, the Panthers were on the other side of the situation when they upset South Florida in Tampa, Fla. So a 54-34 loss to Rutgers? It really isn’t that crazy. Teams can attempt to blame ugly losses on anything from poor playing conditions to the always amusing referees. But when it comes down to it, the better team that day always wins. Unfortunately for Pitt fans, Rutgers was better this past Saturday. But how can you know Pitt can still capture the Big East and the accompanying BCS bowl game? With Stull’s status still undecided for the game against Notre Dame and the rest of the season, there’s no question why many have doubted just how far the team can go. But much of Pitt’s offensive success this season has come on the ground. The Panthers know this. Every team they’ve played knew this. Still, McCoy has continuously put up more than 100 total yards each game and has rushed for 14 touchdowns. He is looking like the Heisman Trophy candidate that every Pitt fan wants to see. He’s the total package and the true staple of the Panthers’ offense. As for the air game, Stull has not officially been ruled out of any contests this season. Even if backup quarterback Pat Bostick needs to come in, it’s not the end of the world. Bostick entered a game this past Saturday in which the Panthers were chasing their opponent from the end of the first quarter. Down by 10 points, Bostick threw an interception on an inefficient play call ‘mdash; seriously, why make your quarterback roll out to his weak side and throw across his body on a third-and-one? He then rebounded by leading a desperate offense in the team’s last two possessions, going 4 of 8 with 32 yards in just more than six minutes. Bostick was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school and is expected to lead the team after Stull graduates. He’s still young and he’s still learning, but Pitt fans should still have faith in him if he’s called upon in any of Pitt’s upcoming games. As for the defense, it was making big plays from the Iowa game to the Navy game. In its three away games prior to playing Rutgers, Pitt had not given up more than 24 points. Linebacker Scott McKillop continues to gain ground as a serious contender as Big East Defender of the Year. If the team approached the game against Rutgers to defend the pass more than the run, the secondary might not have gotten as burned as it did. I’m not trying to scrutinize every problem and rationalize solutions with this Panthers team. I’m just trying to put things into perspective. Pitt still has games against the two current leaders of the Big East (West Virginia and Connecticut). If the Panthers look at these matchups one game at a time, the Big East championship and a BCS bowl game don’t seem so unrealistic. So, before everybody gets crazy about the fall of Pitt football after a bad loss, they should step back and take a deep breath. Everything will be all right.