Pitt Football Ends Season With Historic Debacle In Armed Forces Bowl Against Houston


Jan 2, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Houston Cougars linebacker Elandon Roberts (44) hits Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Chad Voytik (16) during the first half of the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Chryst is happy that he left Pitt to become Wisconsin’s head coach.  Had he been coaching today, he may have been fired after what transpired Friday afternoon.  This game did not help interim head coach Joe Rudolph’s chances at landing a spot on Narduzzi’s staff.

Sometimes you hear the term “choke” when a team finds a way to blow a game to a lesser opponent.  Or if your team finds a way to blow a 34-13 lead with six minutes remaining in a game.

Pitt clearly choked Friday afternoon in its Armed Forces Bowl against the Houston Cougars, and you cannot blame the offense.

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Up 31-6, the Panthers managed to find a way to lose 35-34, as the defense disappeared and the special teams unit gave up two consecutive onside kicks.

This was one of the worst collapses I have ever seen in a college football game, and you have to blame the defense and special teams for 99.9% of it.  The offense couldn’t even get on the field due to the special teams debacle.

Houston put up 29 points and 293 yards of offense in the fourth quarter, capping the biggest FBS comeback of the season with a successful two-point conversion with 59 seconds remaining.  It was the third largest comeback in a bowl game.

I thought I’ve seen it all, but Pitt always finds a way to break our hearts.  Hopefully incoming head coach Pat Narduzzi doesn’t change his mind after attending that one.

Thank goodness he is on his way in, as Pitt fans need some excitement, and the young Pitt players need someone who can turn them into winners.  Coach Narduzzi has a lot of work to do with the defensive side of the ball.

This game was reminiscent of past games this year, where the offense played well but the defense was non-existent.

The game appeared to be a blowout, and it looked like Pitt would head into the offseason with some momentum.  It is crazy how things can change in 7 minutes.

For Pitt (6-7), Chad Voytik only completed 18 of 35 passes for 222 yards and a TD, and Conner was held to 90 yards and 2 TDs on 21 carries.  Tyler Boyd finished with 9 receptions for 112 yards.

For Houston (8-5), Greq Ward Jr. was 15 for 24 for 274 yards and 3 TDs, all in the fourth quarter.  Ward also ran for 94 yards, and Kenneth Farrow ran for 103 yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries.  Deontay Greenberry emerged in the fourth quarter, finishing with 85 receiving yards and 2 TDs.

After a scoreless first quarter, ACC player of the year James Conner opened up the scoring with a 1-yard TD run, despite hurting his leg early in the game.  Houston running back Kenneth Farrow responded with a 2-yard TD run, but the extra point was blocked.

Pitt senior running back Isaac Bennett scored from 12 yards out to give Pitt a 14-6 lead, and kicker Chris Blewitt drained a career-high 52-yard field goal to give the Panthers a 17-6 lead at halftime.  Sophomore tight end Scott Orndoff played a great game, making several key blocks, including one on Bennett’s run.

In the third quarter, Chad Voytik connected with tight end J.P. Holtz on a 16-yard TD pass to make it 24-6.  It was promising to see Voytik connect with Holtz and Orndoff, and hopefully they are a bigger part of next year’s offense.

Early in the fourth quarter, Conner scored from 5 yards out to make it 31-6.

The rout is on, right?

Farrow responded with an 8-yard TD run on a seemingly invisible Pitt defense to make it 31-13.  Pitt kicker Blewitt then hit a 29-yard field goal to make it 34-13 with about six minutes remaining.

Up 21 with six minutes remaining, how could Pitt find a way to blow this?

The defense forgot how to play football, and I can imagine that Pat Narduzzi was squirming in the stands.  The defensive pass rush disappeared, and the secondary stopped guarding the Houston receivers.

Deontay Greenberry hauled in an 8-yard TD pass from Greg Ward Jr. to make it 34-20.  I was disappointed the score was tightening up, as I wanted Pitt to end with a blowout.

Houston then recovered an onside kick, in which the special teams unit didn’t even touch the ball.  Demarcus Ayers then hauled in a 29-yard TD pass from Ward to make it 34-27 with about two minutes remaining.

For a second time, Houston recovered the onside kick, as they did the same exact kick as on the first one.  Pitt players stood around and didn’t even touch the ball again.

As Houston recovered, I told myself they’d score and go for 2 for the win.

And they did.

Greenberry hauled in a 25-yard TD pass from Ward with 59 seconds remaining, and Greenberry caught the 2-point conversion to give Houston its first lead of the game 35-34.


The Pitt offense then came onto the field, and playmaker Tyler Boyd dropped a pass with 7 seconds remaining, which would have given Pitt the chance at a 40 yard field goal.  Voytik threw an incomplete pass on fourth down and Pitt managed to cap off the biggest debacle of the 2014 bowl season.

Thankfully there is a new regime coming in, as the Pitt defense needs major work.  I hope Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik improves over the offseason, but Narduzzi needs to recruit and bring in some playmaking quarterbacks.

Pitt did have the two longest drives in Armed Forces Bowl history, capping off 92 and 91 yard drives, and the offense is not to blame.

As we have seen with Oregon and Ohio State, you need to have a playmaker at the helm in order to have a chance at a championship.  I’m not sure if Pitt has one yet, but Voytik has the potential to become a leader this offseason.

Pitt brings back most of the offense, but the defense needs much work.  Best of luck to you Coach Narduzzi.  I hope you can turn our program around.

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