For the first time since my college days, I am a Pitt football season ticket holder (Man, those were the days - the Dave Hart and Carl DePasqua eras when 1-9 seasons were not uncommon, nor was it uncommon to see the clock run continuously in the fourth quarter when Pitt was getting thumped 62-7 to the Notre Dame and Penn State teams of that era), and I was anxious to see Pitt's ACC Inaugural game against Florida State, and to spend time with friends Dan Bonk, Len Martin, and their season ticket group.
I make no claim to being an expert on Pitt's personnel, but those folks who are have told me that if Pitt manages a 7-5 or 6-6 season in 2013, they would consider it a success. I do know that Florida State is always a force with which to be reckoned, so I had no great hopes for a Pitt upset last night. Then, the Panthers took that opening kickoff and managed a very neat touchdown drive and led 7-0, and, well, the Seminoles are starting a freshman quarterback, so, hey, you never know, right?
Well, then that freshman QB, Jamies Winston took the field and the party was pretty much over. He was simply remarkable. At one point in the third quarter I said that I wish they would put his stats on the scoreboard, because, I said, "he has to have completed at least 75% of his passes." Guess I wasn't playing as close attention as I thought, because Winston ended up going 25 for 27 (93%) for over 350 yards and four TD's. Three of those TD's, by the way, were to kid named Nick O'Leary, who happens to be the grandson of some guy named Jack Nicklaus. Pretty cool. Winston will be a most interesting player to follow throughout the season and his career. He will certainly come up against far better defenses than what Pitt threw at him last night, but he sure looks like quite a talent.
It's easy, I suppose, to come down hard on Pitt, but both the good and bad news of last night was that eleven freshman received significant playing time in that game. Pretty obvious that the there was not a lot there when Paul Chryst took over the Panthers in 2012. If you are a Pitt fan, you can only hope that these kids turn out to be good players, and that Chryst and his staff can coach 'em up and get the best out of them. Also, and I claim no expertise here, I am not sure that the ACC, with the exception of Notre Dame, is going to throw any stronger opposition against them than what Florida State did last night. You just have to hope for game by game improvement as the season progresses and maybe for an unexpected upset somewhere along the line.
Two other things I'd like to comment upon concerning last night's game.
First, Pitt issued a special over-sized commemorative ticket for last night's ACC Opening Game. I know that lots of folks collect such things. The Heinz Field ticket takers then proceeded to fold the tickets and tear them in half. And to make the cheese more binding, there was no perforation in the ticket so what you got back was a jagged, ripped ticket, You could have gotten a cleaner tear if you bit your ticket in half with your teeth. The tickets did have a bar code on them, but word was that the scanning equipment wasn't working last night. So, so much for that nice souvenir ticket. And you thought only the Pirates were capable of such screw ups!
Secondly, you may have heard reports on the radio today that the Pitt student section pretty much abandoned Heinz Field after the singing of "Sweet Caroline" at the end of the third quarter. Wrong. I would say that more than half of the Pitt students - and they had reported 11,000 student tickets sold - abandoned Heinz Field at halftime. Those that were left then departed after "Sweet Caroline". I am not sure how such a mass exodus can be prevented, but it doesn''t look good when your students exit in droves like that. And I am not buying the reasoning of some hard line Pitt folks that this is all because that "damn Steve Pederson moved football off campus".
On the bright side, I had great time with the folks in the ticket group. Male bonding at its finest!
Bring on them New Mexico Lobos!