Pitt coach Paul Chryst said he didn't think his team was complacent in the first half of his team's 34-27 loss against North Carolina Saturday. Players, too, denied that they came out flat or weren't properly motivated.
Still, there has to be some reason why the Panthers fell behind the Tar Heels, 24-3, at halftime before a second-half comeback fell short.
Chryst pointed to quarterback Tom Savage's first-quarter fumble at the North Carolina 25-yard line that cost the Panthers a scoring chance. Pitt was up, 3-0, at the time and the offense had built up some momentum against the Tar Heels defense.
"I don't know if complacency is necessarily it," Chryst said. "I thought it was the big turnover. It was first down in the red zone. I think that had as much to do with it."
After that, North Carolina reeled of 27 consecutive points before the Panthers started to mount their comeback.
Redshirt senior receiver Devin Street said he spoke to the team at halftime, but said it "wasn't anything crazy." Chryst also didn't feel the need to bust out a "win one for the Gipper" speech at halftime.
"I think they [the players] sparked each other," Chryst said. "It wasn't big speech time. Shoot, if a big speech would've helped, I would've gathered them beginning of second quarter or middle of second quarter and done it."
While the second-half comeback to tie the score, 27-27, was impressive, the inconsistency from half to half and even drive to drive remains a problem for Pitt.
One week after taking down a ranked Notre Dame team, they were left searching for answers after an uninspired first 30 minutes against North Carolina.
"I don't think we came out flat," Street said. "I think we got a little bit down on ourselves. That's part of the game, you have your ups and downs. I think we just have to stay a little bit level-headed and stay consistent."
Now, the momentum and buzz generated from that nationally televised win against the Irish are gone, and Pitt is still left searching for that sixth win that will lock up a bowl bid for the sixth consecutive year.
After jumping out to a 4-2 start, Pitt has lost three of its past four. The Panthers haven't won back-to-back games since September victories against Duke and Virginia.
Next week, they'll go on the road to face former Big East foe Syracuse. The Orange dealt Pitt a frustrating 14-13 defeat last year.
"Of course the goal is to get bowl-eligible, but there's no pressure," Street said. "We just have to go out and prepare this week. We know the goal."
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.