Cook: Pitt embarrassing in many ways


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I can't report this with 100 percent certainty, but I believe no Pitt football player was arrested overnight.

Hey, I'm trying to be positive here.

After watching Pitt take a 31-3 beating from Miami Thursday night at Heinz Field, that's the best I can do.

They brought back legendary coach John Majors, the great Tony Dorsett and nearly 450 other former Pitt players to see this?

What was supposed to be a joyous celebration of 121 years of Pitt football quickly turned into a nightmare. If Majors, Dorsett and the others left after Miami took the opening kickoff and went 80 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead, can you blame them? At that point, it was fairly clear how this game was going to go. There was very little doubt after Pitt's offense went three-and-out on its first four possessions and produced 76 yards in the first half. There was no doubt after Miami scored a touchdown on its first possession of the third quarter to make it, 17-0.

Here's guessing Majors, Dorsett and the rest weren't real proud of their former school's performance.

"Thanks for coming guys. Sorry we wasted your time."

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt should be embarrassed. This is his sixth season in charge. Shouldn't the Pitt program be a little further along than this sort of spanking at home on national television?

"I'm disappointed that we didn't match up better," Wannstedt said.

That was the worst part, that the Panthers were so outclassed. A lot of us -- I include myself -- have been spreading the propaganda for a few years that Wannstedt has done a fabulous job of recruiting great players even if he hasn't always done a great job coaching 'em up. Well, we saw what great players look like Thursday night. They weren't wearing Pitt uniforms. The Miami players were bigger, faster, stronger, better, smarter, better citizens, better students, better sons, better boyfriends or husbands, nicer to old ladies and animals ...

I think that about covers it.

The biggest mismatch was Pitt's troubled offensive line against Miami's ferocious defense. It was worse than anyone could have imagined. Pitt running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham had very little room to run until very late in the game. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked three times and wide receiver Greg Cross was thrown for an 18-yard loss on a play when he was supposed to pass. As a topper, backup Pat Bostick, who replaced Sunseri in the fourth quarter after Sunseri complained of blurred vision, was sacked on his first play.

"We had nothing in sync at all," Wannstedt said. "When you have five sacks, nine tackles for losses and three turnovers, you're not going to beat anybody."

Pitt simply couldn't match Miami's team speed.

You know what's really frightening? That might be the least of Wannstedt's problems. He is looking at much, if not all, of the rest of the season without two of his top defensive players, injured end Greg Romeus, who had back surgery last week, and linebacker Dan Mason, whose right knee was dislocated against Miami. He also has to fight the growing perception -- fair or unfair -- that he's running an outlaw program after reserve defensive back Jeff Knox became the fourth Pitt player arrested in a two-month period Wednesday night.

Good luck with that.

That last part is what has to frost Wannstedt the most. Losing to a quality team such as Miami is one thing. Having a team that embarrasses the university is something much worse.

Wannstedt's problems started in July when star defensive end Jabaal Sheard was involved in an assault case. The coach said he was "pretty damn mad" after reserve offensive lineman Keith Coleman was arrested after a fight early Saturday just a few days after backup running back Jason Douglas was charged with drunk driving and hit-and-run. Imagine how Wannstedt felt when he got word that Knox was charged with assault after allegedly striking a female acquaintance.

"Pretty damn mad" doesn't come close to accurately describing Wannstedt's mood this morning.

"Very disappointed," he said, biting off the words. "Some things we won't tolerate. That's one of them."

Yes, there's still much football left to be played. And yes, Pitt still can have a successful season if it wins the ridiculously weak Big East Conference and goes to a BCS game.

I know, it seems pretty unlikely. But Pitt fans can dream, right?

Wannstedt can't afford to look that far ahead. For now, he will be happy if his players get healthy, get a little better and, yes, stay out of jail.


Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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