by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
This wasn’t it.
No, seriously. If ever a case was to be made by Pittsburgh that politics and conference affiliations need to be discarded in order to truly renew that once-brilliant, in-state college football rivalry with Penn State, Saturday night’s effort … just … wasn’t … it.
Oh, for a while there, the Panthers had me going. Maybe a few thousand others, too.
Possibly even had uber-cocky James Franklin wondering if maybe he should scale back his troll-like comments about his commonwealth neighbors. Possibly, but not likely.
Probably because he had a good idea what was coming.
Not for nothing, but that first half was downright cruel for those who support the blue and gold, and, frankly, anyone who thinks these two programs ought to square off every autumn. You pretty much had images of Pitts legends Tony Dorsett and Bill Fralic and Johnny Majors dancing around in your heads, not to mention those of PSU icons Joe Paterno and Matt Millen and Curt Warner, when the hometown boys outplayed their guests at Heinz Field in the first half.
Held in check by their own mistakes, the Panthers, trailing by 8 at the break, seemed prime to really state their case.
Then the third quarter started, and it was almost cartoonish the reality check they faced.
The Keystone Kops were never so incompetent.
To say Pitt self-destructed would not do Penn State justice. The Lions, clearly, are a quality team, especially with a QB as talented and battle-tested as Trace McSorley backed up by blue-chippers across the board. In short, they deserve their national ranking and, more than likely, they’re probably better than the 11th-best team in the land.
But Pitt … holy moly, do the student-athletes on Pat Narduzzi’s squad get class credit for self-mutilation.
Even when the Panthers were putting up a good fight, hell, even “winning” the fight, they still showed a remarkable penchant for shooting themselves in the foot. From bad penalties to bad hands on snaps to bad decisions in so many circumstances, this game was a fait accompli.
In English — It was over before it started.
No wonder the Lions won going away 51-6, enjoying a cushy 37-0, second-half cruise along the banks of the Ohio River — or Allegheny or Monongahela or whatever the heck that body of water is named. Pitt is so undisciplined, so scattershot with how it handles things that it really stands no chance against Penn State on a regular basis, never mind on a single, rainy weekend evening.
Consider this: Pitt ran for 230 yards in the first half alone and it had the ball for 9 and a half minutes more than Penn State for the game … and it never led.
It also got hit with 14 penalties, and displayed a passing attack more conservative than the one Doug Pederson put out there for the defending Super Bowl champions’ opener.
Yo, Pitt, you can’t play scared — or dumb — if you want it to be a rivalry … and when you’re imposing your will on that rival, make that show in the positive on the scoreboard, not in the negative on the stat sheet.
Pay attention, Pat. Plenty of blame to go around, but all of it goes back to the coach.
ON SECOND THOUGHT
You know what, maybe the Pac-12 ain’t so bad after all.
Not because of typical standard-bearers Stanford, Oregon, Southern Cal or Washington, but, rather, Arizona State and Colorado. Those stuck on conventional wisdom take note.
The mocking that followed ASU hiring old-school, “out of coaching for a long, loooong time” Herm Edwards in the offseason to run the Sun Devils’ show was pretty much universal. Yet, as we wrap up Week 2 of the season, they stand at 2-0 and possess one of the most impressive wins thus far in 2018, a 16-13 comeback effort against then-No. 15 Michigan State on Saturday night.
Anyone who has taken the time to notice would see the Devils are disciplined, tough and gutsy — all traits that their head coach has portrayed to the public for decades. They got a quality QB in Manny Wilkins, a great WR in N’Keal Harry and arguably the most improved defense in the country.
Colorado, meantime, just knocked off Nebraska and current anointed Jesus of coaches, Scott Frost. In Lincoln, Neb. In the beloved holy one’s first game back leading the troops at home. Oh, yeah, the Buffaloes also have as dynamite a player in the country on their roster in WR/RB/QB Laviska Shenault, who was kinda held in check by the Huskers, who surrendered just two scores and 177 receiving yards to the 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore.
Welcome to the party, Jonathan Taylor.
Had to figure it wouldn’t be long before Wisconsin’s sophomore RB bulldozed his way into the “best player”discussions. After all, the Badgers are rolling out their typical road-grater offensive line this fall, and this kid certainly knows how to utilize it — as evidenced by his 33-carry, 253-yard, 3-TD effort in Saturday’s 45-14 blowout win in Madison, Wisc., that pushed him to No. 1 in the nation among rushers.
Taylor is the latest in the program’s New Jersey pipeline of RBs, following the likes of Super Bowl champ Corey Clement and Heisman winner Ron Dayne.
Still see West Virginia QB Will Grier as the guy to beat for the award this season, but Taylor’s candidacy is legit. Perhaps even more so than other underclassmen such as Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins.
By the way, anyone else notice Hawaii QB Cole McDonald has thrown for national-best 13 TDs and 0 picks in three games?
Love my schools, but think the clock might be ticking on Temple head coach Geoff Collins. Great energy, great attitude, but it looks like while the second-year man lost some weight he also lost any momentum gained from a bowl victory last season.
The Owls have hosted FCS-level Villanova and Mid-American Conference fair-to-middling Buffalo thus far and currently stand 0-2 heading into a road game at national darling Maryland (2-0) this coming weekend. It’s not so much the losses that are alarming, it’s how they’re happening — up front, where Temple is getting mauled by, let’s be honest, inferior talent.
Yeah, Matt Rhule only won 8 games combined in his first two seasons — a number Collins will match unless the program completely crumbles within the next few snaps. But the Owls, clearly, were on the upswing with Rhule, going from 2 to 6 to 10 wins in his first three seasons, and then matching the 10 in Year 4, with an American Athletic Conference title to go along with that.
Collins is going the other way, it appears with at least seven teams remaining on the schedule that are, right now, better than Temple: Boston College, Navy, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Houston, South Florida and the Terrapins this Saturday. The harshest truth: Collins inherited a program coming off back-to-back double-digit-win campaigns and has posted a 7-8 record with it.
Yo, Fran “One And” Dunphy may have to hustle in order to beat Collins out the door on North Broad.
As for Illinois? The Illini are 2-0, and struggled mightily to get there, topping Kent State of the MAC and Western Illinois, another FCS school. With a Big Ten slate awaiting, a trail of tears that left Illinois 0-9 and sobbing in the corner, Lovie Smith ain’t exacly on the most stable ground in Champaign, Ill., either.