As he sat in the Heinz Field post-game press conference room after Pitt’s 59-21 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, Dennis Briggs hit a point where he didn’t know what else to say.
“I mean, this type of thing sucks,” the redshirt junior safety said to a small group of reporters. “You know what I mean? It just really sucks.”
Pitt hasn’t won every game in the last three years, but “this type of thing” - as Briggs put it - is still unique. The Panthers were positively blown out by the No. 8 Cowboys on Saturday, embarrassed in front of a crowd (announced at 38,952) that probably left the stadium wondering why they had come in the first place.
Oklahoma State went up and down the field on Pitt, scoring touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions. And all of those scores came in the first half, when the Cowboys’ only possession that didn’t lead to the end zone was when they took a knee to run the clock out on the second quarter.
Given the way the game went, it’s a wonder Oklahoma State didn’t accidentally score a touchdown on that play, too.
“That’s about the worst day you can have at the office,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said.
Granted, Oklahoma State didn’t score an offensive touchdown in the second half, but that was largely due to the benevolence of Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy, who mostly called off the dogs when he pulled quarterback Mason Rudolph after he threw for 497 yards and five touchdowns.
By then, of course, it didn’t matter. Pitt had been taken to the woodshed in the first half and subjected to the kind of drubbing that doesn’t lend itself to second-half redemption. Narduzzi even called the second half a “scrimmage” as Pitt emptied its bench on defense.
So what caused such a poor performance? Oklahoma State deserves credit, to be sure. Rudolph and his supporting cast - he had four receivers top the 100-yard mark - are among the best in college football, and the Cowboys’ defense was remarkably adept at keeping Pitt’s offense in check. And while the offense had more than its share of issues, it’s tough to look past what happened every time Oklahoma State had the ball:
Missed tackles, missed assignments, blown execution: the perfect recipe against a talented team like Oklahoma State.
"Obviously it’s tough," Briggs said. "You’re searching for answers and it seems like there are none. But the biggest thing is, being that things aren’t going well, guys just have to rely on each other, look at the other guy and just remember that that’s your brother. You have to try to continue to figure out the answers, continue to figure out what’s going on; it’s just a process. It’s a process of moving on to the next play and trying to learn from the last one and just trying to get better on the go.
"Honestly, it feels terrible. But you just try to get better from each play."
While the mantra in the post-game was all about moving on to Georgia Tech, the drawing board seems like an insufficient remedy in the wake of giving up 676 yards of offense.
“Obviously it starts with me not getting our guys as ready to play as they need to be,” Narduzzi said. “Again, that’s a good football team. That is a top-five football team, for sure, and I’ve got no question about it.”
Oklahoma State might move into the top five in the polls this week, and if the Cowboys stay in the bottom half of the top ten, then they’ll probably find themselves ahead of No. 5 at some point this season.
That’s little consolation for the fans and shouldn’t offer much solace for the players, though; a beat-down is a beat-down, and on Saturday, that’s what Pitt got.