It might be surprising, given Cincinnati's dominance on the scoreboard, but Pitt actually racked up 415 yards of total offense Thursday night in its 34-10 loss against the Bearcats.
Granted, many of those yards came late in the game and long after the outcome was decided, but there were times when the Panthers moved the ball effectively against Cincinnati.
The problem, though, was that the offensive efficiency came to a grinding halt as soon as Pitt crossed Cincinnati's 20.
The Panthers converted two of four red-zone opportunities, and twice worked the ball inside the 10 but came away with no points.
"We just had to score," Pitt running back Ray Graham said.
"We've got to put up points. At the end of the day, the object is to put up points. When we get down in the red zone, we've got to do a much better job at scoring points."
The Panthers trailed, 14-0, after a disastrous first quarter, but, on their second drive of the second quarter, they reached Cincinnati's 6. Graham took a handoff to the right and crossed the goal line, but the score was negated by a holding penalty on left guard Chris Jacobson.
The call backed Pitt up to the 16, and, three plays later, quarterback Tino Sunseri threw an interception in the end zone.
"We can't kill ourselves with penalties and stuff," Sunseri said.
"We have to go back and see what we can do."
On the Panthers' next drive, they again moved the ball deep into Bearcats territory.
With the seconds ticking down and the ball on the 4, Sunseri and receiver Devin Street failed to connect on consecutive and identical fade passes.
With five seconds left, Sunseri held on to the ball for too long before throwing it away, and the half expired.
"Tino thought he could get something on that play, and, obviously, we didn't do it," coach Paul Chryst said.
"Any time you leave a chance for points, that's disappointing."
The Panthers went two for two on second-half red-zone chances with a 37-yard Kevin Harper field goal in the third quarter and a 9-yard Sunseri touchdown pass late in the fourth. Those scores were too little, too late. The offense already had squandered its chance to gain momentum.
Pitt's players agreed that, at least for the offense, the biggest focus heading into preparation for Virginia Tech Saturday will be finishing drives.
"We're driving," Graham said.
"We're getting downfield every time. We've just got to score. We're going to score.
"It's some small things to correct, and we're going to get it done."
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published September 10, 2012 4:00 AM