This had to be the year in the minds of many Pitt fans. They are a part of the weakest BCS conference. 5 All-Americans as well as a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate returning. A strong non-conference schedule to help with the strength of schedule, this had to be the year that they advance to a big game. “If not this year then when? Why is it so far fetched to say that this team has a shot at the National Championship,” said 93.7 The Fan’s John Seibel and John Starkey on their daily show. This was the year that Coach Dave Wannstedt would deliver on his word from 6 years ago that he would turn this team into a National Champion Contender. And as the usual Pitt fans, we believed it and we were let down again.
In a season that has been filled with disappointment early on with injuries, off the field issues and losses to Utah, Miami and Notre Dame, the season seemed in trouble for the Panthers. When the conference games came around however, Pitt seemed to turn things around and work out all of the kinks to be poised for a Big East Championship and a more than likely Fiesta Bowl birth. In the past two games however, it all changed with back to back losses at Connecticut and an embarrassing loss to the rival West Virginia Mountaineers in the backyard brawl, 35-10. This will mark 6 straight years that the Panthers have not been able to reach a BCS game in what is the weakest eligible conference. The question going into the Backyard Brawl on Saturday, in what should be called the Backyard Massacre, was would the losing Coach, either Wannstedt or West Virginia’s Bill Stewart, be involved in their last rivalry game with their current team? Questioning Wannstedt’s job security is becoming more realistic after the stunning loss. For a team to be 6-5 that was predicted to win the Big East with their preseason rank of 15 in the Country, fans have a reason to call for Wannstedt’s job.
How much of this can we blame on the Coach however? Sure, they are the ones who receive the blame and not the actual players on the field. He has been known as a great recruiter but not a big game coach, but really, how great of a recruiter is this guy? With all due respect to Alex Karabin, not many top programs have a walk on 5th year Senior anchoring a Offensive Line. If Wannstedt is a great recruit, why is Pitt in that position? Where is the great talent that great recruiters are supposed to deliver? How much of the loss to West Virginia can we blame on Wannstedt though? It is bad when your Sophomore Quaterback out rushes your ‘star’ back Dion Lewis. Pitt fumbled 6 times, losing 3 of them, as well as an interception thrown by Tino Sunseri. The best receiver in the game yesterday wasn’t Jon Baldwin or Mike Shanahan. No, it was Tavon Austin, who scored twice on the Pitt Defense. Jabaal Sheard didn’t show up in the biggest game of the season when the team needed him either. For the third straight year, Pitt had control of their own destiny to win the Big East only to let it get away. Hello Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Many people are saying that Pitt is poised to be better next season with the growth of Sunseri. Sunseri has had horrible games (Miami) and impressive games (Syracuse), but after seeing what happened to Greg Romeus this season who came back for his final season with Pitt, I see many of the players bolting for the NFL Draft. Romeus, the defensive player of the year last season in the Big East, returned only to have his season and draft stock drop with back surgery and a torn ACL in his return against the UConn Huskies. Sheard, Lewis and Baldwin all have been viewed as first to second round potential and after seeing what happened to Romeus, I expect to see them all declare themselves for the Draft. Maybe Brandon Lyndsey will maintain his play to next year to be the start on Defense. Perhaps Ray Graham and Devin Street will help continue the growth of Sunseri, but realistically, Sunseri is a home town kid who doesn’t have the tools to take this team to the next level.
In what I see as being a rebuilding year next season, now is the best time to end the Wannstedt era and start new. I would love to see Pitt turn into a spread offense, a system that a mobile Sunseri would thrive in. This is something that we will not see however, until Wannstedt is let go. Next time we hear that this could be the year, let’s not be so quick to believe the hype.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com