On paper, everything sounded perfect.
Reschedule Pitt’s biggest opponent of the season, Florida State, to a nationally televised slot on Monday night on Labor Day. It would serve as a perfect way to launch the Panthers into the national spotlight and show everyone that they could hang with a top-ranked team in a major football conference like the ACC.
Unfortunately for the Blue and Gold, it was not to be. Their master plan blew up in their faces, and they were embarrassed as millions of viewers tuned in to watch the 41-13 beat down they received at the hands of Florida State Seminoles.
In the beginning, it looked as if maybe the Panthers would put up a fight. Heinz Field was pretty packed actually (until the second half, that is). After fielding the opening kickoff, they marched right down the field and capped off a 9 play, 80 yard drive with a touchdown to Manasseh Garner from quarterback Tom Savage. Next, it was time for the defense to stand up. That shouldn’t be hard, right? After all, the Panthers D was returning eight starters from a defense that ranked in the Top- 20 nationally last year.
Florida State QB Jameis Winston has long been touted as “the next big thing” in college football, and he chose last night to have his coming out party. It was evident from his first few snaps that Pitt’s secondary, supposedly one of their strongest areas, had no answer for Winston. He responded with a 24-yard flick to junior TE Nick O’Leary who was wide open for an easy score.
From there, the rout was on. Winston made tough plays seem effortless, cutting up the Pittsburgh defense for 356 yards and three TD passes. He went 25-27 and added a rushing touchdown late in the second quarter. He was a man amongst boys.
On the other hand, Florida State’s defense pounced on QB Tom Savage and was unrelenting all night, picking off the red shirt senior transfer student from Rutgers twice. Up until last night, Savage handn’t taken a snap in a college football game in over two seasons.
And to be fair, he didn’t look awful. Yes, he threw two picks, but one was not his fault, and it was clear that FSU had taken away his options on nearly every play. I actually felt bad for him.
If Pitt’s goal was to get shown up on a national stage in front of a 3/4 full stadium against a ranked opponent in classic Pitt fashion, then once again, they succeeded. However, if they were attempting to show the country that they were little more than an average football program and schedule filler for real competition, then they crashed and burned. Pardon my pun here, but they Blewitt.
Yes, they ran into a hot QB and an offense that was on fire, but the ACC is full of talented quarterbacks and potent offenses. If they want to play with the big boys, they’re going to have to step up to a level of competition that they’re not used to. This isn’t the Big East. This isn’t Connecticut and South Florida in the fourth week of conference play. To use a term, they’re not in Kansas anymore.
Hopefully this embarassment is enough to wake the Panthers up to their own harsh reality.