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Thursday September 29 2022
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Pitt embarrassed by Miami

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The Pitt offense put up one of the worst performances of the decade as the Miami Hurricanes routed the Panthers 31-3 at Heinz Field Thursday night.

Nov. 29, 2003, marked the last time Miami made a trip to Heinz Field.


That night, the former Big East member-Hurricanes toppled the Panthers 28-14 en-route to a conference championship.


It’s seven years later and while their conference membership has changed, the stranglehold Miami (2-1) has on its former year-to-year rival hasn't, and a 31-3 romp over the Pitt Panthers (1-2) at Heinz Field Thursday night was perfect proof of that.


The embarrassing loss marked the worst margin of defeat at home since losing to Syracuse, 42-10, on Oct. 13, 2001.


“I really thought that our team worked hard, and got better over the four-day period and bye week. We sure as heck didn't show it tonight,” said Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt.


The Panthers managed just 11 first downs and gained 232 total yards, including just 104 through the air.


“We're not consistent doing anything,” said a clearly-devastated Wannstedt. “Throwing the ball, catching the ball, blocking or running. We are really inconsistent on offense, and we've probably been that way pretty much all year.”


Miami, coming off a 36-24 loss to Ohio State two weeks ago, stifled the Panthers early, popping in a one-yard touchdown run by Damien Berry, which capped off a beautifully executed 10-play, 80-yard opening drive, which took only 3:25 off the clock.


The Hurricanes, led by quarterback Jacory Harris, who threw for 248 yards on 21-of-32 passing and two touchdowns, took home their eighth straight win over Pitt, a streak that dates back to 1998.


OFFENSE
The Panthers posted their lowest numbers through the air and on the ground this season, including just 128 yards on 36 carries. Ray Graham led the way with 100 yards on 14 carries.


“Right now we are not in sync in some areas of our football team,” said Wannstedt. “When you have five sacks, when you have nine tackles for a loss, when you have three turnovers, you're not going to beat anybody. We are one good play on offense right now and two bad plays. That's what we are.”


Sophomore quarterback Tino Sunseri went just 8-of-15 for 61 yards. Sunseri was taken out of the game and replaced by Pat Bostick with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter due to what Wannstedt referred to as a “medical decision,” because of dizziness from the young quarterback. Bostick went 5-of-9 for 43 yards and threw two interceptions.


“I went out there and threw two interceptions,” said Bostick. “Now granted, it was a tough situation, but there are no excuses. The way we played collectively tonight—and Tino and myself—it just wasn't good enough. I’ve got a lot of work to do myself.”


The Panthers only scoring drive came early in the fourth quarter, when Dan Hutchins connected on a 27-yard field goal that capped a 9-play, 43-yard drive.


Aside from that, Pitt went just 1-of-3 in red-zone scoring-chances and 4-of-15 on third-down conversions.


“The solution to this is not easy, but it is simple: we need to get back to basics and keep working and working,” Wannstedt said. “Changes need to be made, and we'll make those changes. We need to look at the offensive line and see if we can juggle some guys around there. We just need to become a lot more efficient. Right now we are not efficient enough to drive the ball, sustain drives or score points.”


DEFENSE
Holding the Hurricanes to just 10 points through one half of football might have been the only successful note in the game.


Without defensive end Greg Romeus (knee) and Dom Decicco, who was taken out in the third series of the game due to his already injured hamstring, the Panthers defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions off of Harris, one coming off of a beautiful diving catch by Jared Holly midway through the second quarter.


“When we get turnovers, we have to execute and score,” said defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who finished the day with six tackles. “We don't expect the offense to put up a point. The defense, we have to keep our eyes on every play. We gave up 31 points tonight. I don't care how they got it, we gave it up.”


The Panthers defense surrendered a second half, opening drive score on the heels of a Harris 19-yard pass to Leonard Hankerson, which gave Miami a three-score lead, taking an early wind out of the defensive unit.


“The theme coming out at halftime was that we’ve got to make something happen, that opening drive,” said Wannstedt. “We went out, got a three-and-out, went backwards, and here we go... here we go.”


Miami finished with 20 first downs and went a perfect 5-of-5 in red-zone scoring-chances, including a 10-yard pass from Harris to Travis Benjamin, which gave the Hurricanes a commanding 24-3 lead with 10:53 left in the 4th quarter.


Back-Breaker
With Pitt trailing 17-3, Jabaal Sheard sacked Harris on a second down play for a loss of 10 yards, setting up a third-and-19 at the Pitt 19 yard line. The play eventually led to a punt, but a Cam Saddler fumble at the 43-yard line gave Miami the ball right back, and in better field position.


Coach-Speak
“We have to get better,” said Wannstedt on the state of his team. “We have to be more efficient. When you have 14 plays out of however many that you go backwards, you’ve got no chance. You can't overcome 2nd and 15 and 3rd and 15. The percent of making those plays—against anyone—is minimum.”


Next Up
The Panthers look to defeat their first division-1 opponent on the season when Florida International visits Heinz Field next Saturday.

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