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The Turning Point: A Bad Snap

A bad snap led to an 18-yard loss and put Nathan Peterman out for the game. The Pitt offense never recovered.

I’d love for anyone that reads this to chime in below to let me know what you think was the turning point of Pitt’s seven point loss to Northwestern yesterday. There are so many plays. We can look at the first quarter with Pitt up by three and George Aston slipping on third down followed by James Conner missing on fourth down, from the one. We can look at Nathan Peterman’s interception at the goal line. Quadree Henderson’s fumble in the fourth quarter killed some momentum. All are strong arguments, but we’re going to go to the third quarter with just under 5 minutes remaining and Pitt trailing by four.

The Panthers had second down and 10 to go deep in Northwestern territory...the Wildcats’ 13-yard line to be exact. The Panthers were already without James Conner, Darrin Hall and a couple of plays before Dorian Johnson went down with an injury. Things were getting thin and Pitt needed everyone they could get to keep the offense moving. Unfortunately, a recurring problem, this season, reared its ugly head again...a bad snap.

Center Alex Officer snapped the ball wide of Peterman, who scrambled to pick up the ball and try to salvage the play. As he was being sacked, the senior QB was leveled on a vicious hit. The combination of Joe Gaziano and Xavier Washington seemed to show a bad helmet to helmet hit. Not only did Pitt drop 18 yards on the play, forcing a third and 28, but Peterman left the game for good after one more play. The Panther offense had a lot of trouble giving any downfield threat with Ben DiNucci at quarterback. The red-shirt freshman put forth a nice effort, but the Wildcats turned up the pressure with Peterman out.

A couple of plays later, Chris Blewitt missed a field goal. Pitt was actually able to take a lead, after this, and threatened to tie the game later on too, but Peterman’s absence, coupled with the other injuries, really took away a lot of the threat of Pitt’s offense. It was tough to see from an offense that hummed along at such a great pace all year long.

It was a disappointing loss, as I believe Pitt is now the only ACC team to lose their bowl game so far this season. Pitt finishes 8-5 for the second straight year and overall, did not play exceptionally well against a team that I think most of us thought they could handle.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Pitt holds on for 112-106 (lol) win over Marshall

"Pitt holds on for win against (fill in the blank)." Sense a theme here?

After the football game lost a lead in the second half, the Pitt men's basketball team tried to do the same on Wednesday night against Marshall. Fortunately, they were able to hold on for a 112-106 win.

I'm not sure about you, but I'm glad we're getting out of the non-conference schedule. Pitt had quite a few challenges out of conference this year, but they've often gotten bored with opponents after racing out to early leads.

Now, the score, as ridiculous as it sounds, wasn't completely out of the blue. As I mentioned in the gamethread/preview, these types of games are really Marshall's MO. They've scored at least 95 points in more than half of their games this year, so this is pretty typical for them.

Marshall shoots about 30 threes a game to basically try to outscore their opponent while playing very little defense. Coaches that play this style will give all sorts of varied answers about why it makes sense. But ultimately, the hope is that instead of playing 'regular' basketball and losing by 20 to good teams, they can find their rhythm in taking a ton of shots, hope their opponent is a little off offensively, and keep things close. Again, lots of different philosophies but hat's really the crux of it. Sometimes it works (like it did for them earlier this year in taking a ranked Cincinnati team to overtime) but often it doesn't since, well, it's harder to get as many clean looks on offense against better teams.

Tonight, Marshall took exactly 30 threes but made only ten. Not enough.

The Panthers led by as much as 29 in the second-half but Marshall was red hot in the second half helping them to close that gap considerably.

Marshall was in the zone in the second half, so this wasn't all about Pitt, mind you. The Thundering Herd shot over 60% in the final 20 minutes and that will be enough to beat almost anyone. But some of that was surely due to less defensive pressure as the Panthers took their foot off the gas since that happens quite a bit with this team. If this were a one-game deal, it would be much easier to attribute it to Marshall simply shooting better and making things close. But we've seen this far too much to suggest that it's less about Pitt.

At this point, we've seen this drill enough times to know that things aren't going to change when the Panthers have big leads. They'll generally be susceptible to big leads because teams will get hot or they just won't be capable of caring enough to keep the pressure up. Or both. Frustrating, but I've resigned myself to the fact that it is what it is.

The good news is that if you don't like these sorts of games is that you should be seeing fewer of them. Pitt may get out to some big leads in ACC games but not nearly as many. If they want to win, they'll be forced to play through until the end in the conference.

Pitt scored over 100 points so obviously there were a lot of big games offensively. Jamel Artis and Michael Young  combined for 60 points, scoring 30 each. Sheldon Jeter had probably his best game of the year with 21 points and ten rebounds, and Cameron Johnson chipped in with 16.

The most interesting development here from a personnel standpoint is that Pitt was without Chris Jones, who has a foot injury of some sort. True freshman Justice Kithcart started in his place and was remarkably very good. He had six points and eight rebounds in what was easily his best career game. Pitt is so thin that they can't really afford to be missing Jones for too long. But at the same time, a game like this for Kithcart should help him moving forward. It gives him a little more confidence and some momentum heading into ACC play. For the first time this year, I looked at what he did and can see him as a starter next year. Not that he'll become an immediate star but he was a solid contributor, which is big for creating some additional depth this season.

One minor footnote here is that Ryan Luther went completely scoreless, missing on all three of his attempts. I didn't see him out there a ton but he has easily been Pitt's best bench player. To see him scoreless after scoring a combined 31 in the team's last two games was a bit of a surprise.

Pitt finishes the non-conference schedule at 11-2 and has now won five straight games. With a pretty challenging slate, that's solid. The Duquesne loss was rough, but Pitt did just about everything else right and with games against SMU, Marquette, Maryland, Penn State, and some others that could be decent teams, I've got no real complaints.

Next up is a huge New Year's Eve matchup against No. 24 Notre Dame.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt falls to Northwestern in Pinstripe Bowl, 31-24

Coming into the Pinstripe Bowl, Pitt looked like a team poised to reach nine wins. Vegas seemed to agree, too, first installing the Panthers as 3.5-point favorites before upping that line to 4.5 or 5 in various outlets.

Seems Northwestern had other plans.

The Panthers sputtered their way to a slow offensive start and never recovered in an ugly 31-24 loss to end the season.

Watching the game purely as a football fan, it had to be entertaining. There was a lot of drama with some key injuries, some timely turnovers, and a few nice individual performances. You had a backup quarterback come in and make some plays before throwing a few interceptions. But as a Pitt fan, it was wildly frustrating.

It was easy to like Pitt in this game. The offense had been on a roll and the Panthers won their final three games to end the season. That, of course, included the massive victory against Clemson. But for whatever reason, Pitt could just not get going on Wednesday.

On offense, Pitt wasn't completely inept but had problems finishing things off. In the red zone on their first drive, Quadree Henderson took an eight-yard loss and the Panthers had to settle for a field goal. The Panthers failed to convert on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line after James Conner was stuffed on their next drive. Then, with 3rd and goal from the Northwestern 10-yard line, Nathan Peterman threw a bad interception ending yet another drive.

That was just in three drives, folks.

Pitt did rebound offensively and managed to take the lead a few times in the second half. Despite how they started off, they had a chance to win but continued to make mistakes. Chris Blewitt missed a 43-yard field goal and in their final three drives, Quadree Henderson fumbled the ball in Pitt territory while backup quarterback Ben DiNucci threw two interceptions.

Ah yes, the backups.

Part of the reasons for Pitt's offensive woes were they flat out missed some guys. Peterman was replaced by DiNucci seeing his first real action in his career after he went down with some sort of injury (presumably - he was on the receiving end of a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit). James Conner suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit and missed the entire second half. And All-American guard Dorian Johnson was knocked out of the game with an injury as well.

One thing I didn't care for was the ESPN commentary regarding the helmet-to-helmet hit on Peterman. One (either Golic Jr. or the third guy there sort of holding things together...I think the latter) stated that he was happy the player with the big helmet-to-helmet wasn't ejected and that he could continue to play. If you saw the hit it was a pretty brutal one. To not only keep that guy in the game but have that go unpenalized was confusing at best. If that wasn't a helmet-to-helmet hit then I'm unsure of what is.

It's one thing to want football played the way it was 30 years ago but the fact is that it is not. One thing announcers shouldn't be doing is celebrating like giddy school girls when dangerous plays are allowed and penalties are not called. That whole sequence just seemed out of place, to be honest.

Could Pitt have won the game with those guys all in there and healthy? Perhaps. But Pitt's slow start and not finishing a few drives really made that more difficult. If the Panthers wanted to ensure victory, finishing plays in the first half might have helped.

Defensively, there were lapses. But there have usually been lapses on defense. The thing most of us didn't expect was how poorly Pitt performed against the run. Northwestern back Justin Jackson ran for 224 yards and three touchdowns while averaging seven yards per carry. As former Pitt receiver Antonio Bryant said on Twitter, the Panthers made him look like a Hall of Famer.

Now, Jackson is a great running back. But with a top ten run defense, I don't think anyone saw that coming. The secondary wasn't stellar, but giving up only 214 yards, most of us would take that. A big problem was that the defense just couldn't get any key stops, really. I think they allowed Northwestern to convert all three of their fourth down attempts and also gave up several big third and longs.

Really disappointing end to the season, to be honest. Pat Narduzzi has done a great job of winning games they should and I felt like they should have won this one coming in. But the fact is that, as I said in the preview, anything can happen in these teams. You never know how teams will perform with such a long layoff.

Northwestern performed admirably and Pitt did not. It's frustrating seeing them come within a touchdown despite all of the injuries and despite the offensive miscues in the first half. But that's what makes a football game. Northwestern made plays today and the Panthers didn't - at least not enough of them. I fully credit Northwestern here for showing up and playing well enough to win, despite the missed guys on Pitt's end. Even when Pitt had those guys all in there, they trailed at the half.

I don't know what this does to Narduzzi's rep as a bowl game coach. He's now 0-2 with the Panthers but Pitt lost to a very good Navy team last year with Keenan Reynolds and this year, he lost his quarterback, top running back, and perhaps his best offensive lineman all in the same game. What we can all agree on, though, is that Pitt got to a very slow start out of the gate and just didn't look all that ready to play by having those red zone collapses.

Where's this put the season in context for Pitt? Man, I don't know. I still think that winning eight regular season games (including against Penn State and Clemson) with the tough schedule they had makes it a success. But a loss like this just really takes the air out of the sails heading into next season. Pitt would likely have been a Top 20 team with a win today. Instead, they're looking at likely being out of the Top 25 altogether.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Ohio State band member nails 55-yard field goal try

Ohio State University’s band calls itself “The Best Damn Band in the Land,” but it also has some brass when it comes to football ability.

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After the band practiced at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on campus Tuesday, second-year trumpet player Austin Brizee decided to try a field goal. He connected solidly on a 55-yard attempt in the indoor facility, WCMH reported.

 

The band tweeted a video of the field goal and asked coach Urban Meyer if he needed a kicker for Saturday’s national playoff semifinal game against No. 2 Clemson in Glendale, Arizona.

Eron Hodges, Ohio State’s assistant director of player personnel, replied to the tweet, saying that Brizee, who has never kicked competitively before but has played soccer, “definitely has a tryout invitation.”

North Texas running back gets sick feeling during bowl game

It’s understandable why North Texas quarterback Alec Morris botched a snap during the first half of Tuesday’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. After all, his running back was vomiting next to him.

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With less than a minute remaining in the first half against Army, Morris was lined up in a shotgun formation calling signals when running back Jeffrey Wilson, standing to the quarterback’s left, threw up. Morris was naturally distracted and looked away from the line of scrimmage, causing him to mishandle the snap and take a 13-yard loss back to the Army 39.

However, the Mean Green regrouped and scored two plays later, with Morris throwing a 27-yard pass to Rico Bussey Jr. That cut Army’s lead to 24-21 at the half.

Despite his troubles, Wilson rushed 20 times for 81 yards and a touchdown, and also caught six passes for 46 yards and a score. Morris, meanwhile, completed 26 of 38 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns as North Texas rallied from a 17-point deficit to force overtime.

It was not enough, as Army (8-5) prevailed 38-31 in OT against the Mean Green (5-8).

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Against the Odds: Pitt favored against Northwestern in Pinstripe Bowl

When the Pinstripe Bowl matchup was announced, Pitt was an early favorite against Northwestern. Since then, the line has grown a bit making the Panthers bigger favorites.

The line opened at three points in Pitt's favor initially. As I wrote at the time, I expected Pitt to be favored by more than that. Well, since then, the line has grown to 4 1/2 to 5 points.

Part of the reason the line has to stay down a bit is that bowl games are just so fluky and you never know what you'll get. Still, I could see Pitt has solid six or seven-point favorites here. Against the only same opponent the two teams, Pitt fared much better, clobbering Duke by 42 points as opposed to Northwestern's 13-point win. The Wildcats, as I covered in the preview, have been much better since that game. But that much better?

Pitt is also just on a roll right now. They beat Clemson on the road, pummeled Duke, and hung 76 on Syracuse. Allowing 61 in that game against the Orange, it's clear that the Panthers have work to defensively. But the Pitt offense has just been clicking so well lately that a game that isn't all that close shouldn't surprise anyone.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt vs. Northwestern Pinstripe Bowl Preview: Panthers look for ninth win against Wildcats

I hope everyone had a great holiday, whatever it is you may be celebrating. With guests in the house this year and hosting a Christmas dinner, that's sort of put me out of commission for the past several days.

Pitt's bowl, as it usually does, snuck up on me. The Panthers play tomorrow and while we looked at the matchup a little when it was first announced, I wanted to throw something together now that the game is upon us.

The big theme for me is that the Panthers have a great shot to win nine games, folks. And with this schedule, that's really saying something. The schedule looked daunting at the beginning of the year, but it actually was even tougher in hindsight. I don't know where Pitt's schedule ranks now with the season having been played, but it was a challenging one.

In the non-conference, Pitt played a Top 5 Penn State team as well as 9-3 Oklahoma State, who is now 12th/13th in the polls. In the ACC, things were plenty challenging, too. The Panthers had to face the conference champion and national championship contender, Clemson - another Top 5 team. On top of that, they battled three very good 8-4 teams in Miami, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech was sort of sneaky good this year and did more than I expected.

When you add it up, 1/3 of Pitt's schedule came against teams in the Top 15 and another 1/3 came against either currently ranked teams or teams getting votes. That's a very difficult half of a season and to be 8-4 under those circumstances speaks to how good this year's squad really was.

Getting back on track a little, Pitt has a chance to do even more and win a ninth game with the Pinstripe Bowl contest against 6-6 Northwestern.

That 6-6 record is a little deceiving. The Wildcats got off to a slow start and really had to rebound to even make a bowl game. After opening losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State, no one would have predicted the Wildcats would be in the postseason. But Northwestern was competitive the rest of the way and deserves the Panthers' full attention. They knocked off ACC team Duke by 11 points, beat an 8-4 Iowa team on the road, and hung 99 points on MIchigan State and Purdue in road wins, too, before dropping 42 on Illinois. Even one of the team's losses was very impressive - a four-point loss on the road to Ohio State.

We've talked a lot about Pitt's offense this year but Northwestern has done their fair share of scoring, too. They rank only 92nd in scoring but that is a bit deceptive as well due to the slow start. Northwestern scored a paltry 16.3 points in their first four games but has averaged more than 30 points per game since then. The Wildcats are a much improved team over where they were in the beginning of the year.

Northwestern also sports a Top 25 defense in terms of points allowed. They give up only 22.1 points per game and will be another solid defensive challenge for Pitt. They give up a lot of passing yards but are stout against the run, ranking 31st in the nation there. And giving up a first down only 36% of the time on third down situations, they rank 31st in that category and are generally doing a good job of getting off the field.

Finally, the Wildcats have played pretty mistake-free football. They average only about three and a half penalties per game and won't usually offer much help there. Their 3.58 penalties each time out is third in the entire nation.

Now, despite all of that, this is still a very winnable game for Pitt. Northwestern has given up a lot of passing yards this year and that's good news for Nathan Peterman and company. And while they have slowed teams down on the run, the Panthers' run game hasn't been contained very often this year. Add in the fact that it's James Conner's final game with the team and I like that matchup as well.

And while the Wildcats' third down defense has been very good, they've had trouble themselves on moving the ball on third down, converting only 39% of the time and ranking 82nd in the nation there. Their red zone offense has also been one of the worst in the nation. 26% of the time when in the red zone, they've failed to come away with points of any kind (conversely, Pitt is one of the best in the country in that category, failing to score on fewer than eight percent of its red zone opportunities).

Another telltale sign here that Pitt could be headed for a win is against the teams' lone same opponent. Both programs defeated Duke at home but the Wildcats did so by only 11 while Pitt routed the Blue Devils, 56-14. That Duke game was earlier in the year for Northwestern when they weren't playing as well, but what the Panthers did to the Blue Devils vs. what the Wildcats did are two different things.

I think Northwestern provides a good challenge for Pitt but I also come away from this thinking the Panthers have a great chance to win. Bowl games are fluky and you never know who will be caught not focused on the game and still in holiday mode. But the Panthers have a lot of motivation to finish strong here and they'll see off some pretty important players, such as Conner, Peterman, Dorian Johnson, Adam Bisnowaty, and Ejuan Price, among others.

Overall, I like Pitt's chances in this game.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

‘Mammaw’ will see beloved Texas A&M Aggies in person

Nina Burgess, known as “Mammaw” by her family, is finally going to see her beloved Texas A&M Aggies play a football game. And it’s a prime ticket, too — Wednesday night’s Advocare Texas Bowl, when the 8-4 Aggies play Kansas State (8-4) at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

>> Read more trending stories

Burgess lives in the small Texas town of Nederland, located southeast of Beaumont. While she has never seen the Aggies play in person and never attended the school, Burgess has always been a loyal fan, watching the team on television each week during the season.

On Christmas Day, her family gave her an awesome gift, WFAA reported. Her grandson, Ryan Brauninger, made a video recording of the event. It begins with Burgess opening a box to reveal Texas A&M slippers and a Texas Bowl shirt.

But there was one more item.

“Read it,” her family tells her.

“I can’t read it,” she responds.

“You’re going to the game,” she is told.

“I can go to the game?” she says, her voice rising in disbelief.

She then jostles the man next to her and shoves him in one of those “You’ve got to be kidding” moments. Burgess then becomes teary-eyed as she realizes her dream.

Brauninger told WFAA that the video, which has gone viral and has more than 4,000 likes on Twitter, also reached organizers of the bowl game. He said that Burgess might receive another surprise on Wednesday night.

That would be gravy, but Burgess seems awfully content with the tickets to the game.

A long look back at the Scott Barnes era

After a lot of speculation and some cryptic language, Scott Barnes' tenure as athletics director at Pitt finally came to an end last week. With all of that, I wanted to take a look back at the Barnes era at Pitt and, while it may be an unpopular opinion based on his basketball hire, there's not really much doubt that he did a good job at the university.

Now, full disclosure here. Most of our regular readers know that I'm a member of Pitt's Fan Experience Committee. The committee was headed by Barnes so take that under consideration. But, and trust me when I say this, I am not some great pal of the former athletics director. Other than some pleasantries from having been on the committee, I don't have any inside relationship with Barnes, etc. And while I think the job that Barnes did at Pitt was admirable, I'm going to do mostly present the facts here and let readers decide for themselves how Barnes did.

With that out of the way, here's a rundown of what Barnes accomplished while here.

Fan Engagement

If there's one thing I'll remember about the Barnes era, it was that he understood that the fan voice was important. Barnes introduced the idea of creating a Fan Experience Committee to help get an idea of what the fanbase was thinking and generate some ideas about what the school could do better.

That decision shouldn't be dismissed as some inconsequential thing. This isn't some collection of only high-ranking donors. There are everyday fans there along with students and some former athletes. Many schools will give a voice to the big boosters but Pitt literally opened this up to every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

There was also a survey last year to garner thoughts on the fan experience at games. Additionally a group of students also ran a similar survey of students. Those answers and suggestions were given careful consideration and, in the case of some things like alcohol sales, some of that input led to some changes. Barnes also set up a Town Hall event, providing an inside look about his direction for the athletics department.

Finally, Pitt made attracting new donors (and engaging old ones) a huge priority. The school put together a massive campaign under Barnes' direction, targeted at raising money. Barnes was a master fundraiser at his previous stops and, while the jury is still out on the future of fundraising at Pitt, he certainly did his job while here to place an emphasis on giving.

A Public Master Plan

Barnes realized that Pitt needed vision and while other universities complete master plans, he made transparency a focus by publicly revealing his five-year plan.

There is absolutely no reason for an athletics director to need to do that since it could make for an embarrassing situation. The athletics master plan has some specific goals and if Pitt doesn't reach those, it would be a bad look for him. Barnes thought it was more important for the public to know that he has a clear vision for the school than to simply be worried about a lack of success by his own standards.

Alcohol Sales

The primary job of an athletics director is to produce winning programs while playing within the rules. Lots of sub-goals fall under that header but that's the big one. One of those sub-goals is to raise money to sustain a school's programs and Barnes helped Pitt raise a little more of that with the sales of alcohol throughout Heinz Field this year. Alcohol was always available in the club/suite areas but not in other parts of the stadium.

It was one of the things fans repeatedly asked for and Barnes made it happen this past year. I was concerned if it would lead to a spike in incidents but as Deputy AD Julio Friere told me at our last Fan Experience Committee meeting, that has not happened. The sales of alcohol this year was not a massive financial success but it will provide a decent revenue stream for the school in the future.

Olympic Sports Focus

Olympic sports are seen by the casual football/basketball fan as a nuisance but Barnes made sure to make them a focus while at Pitt.

Pitt often placed those sports on the back burner and as a result, some programs were driven into the ground. The men's soccer program hadn't had a winning year since 2000. The women's soccer club has had only two winning years in the past 20 seasons. Several others were well below average. While understanding that football/men's basketball were the cash cows, Barnes was interested in competing across the board, stating the need to be more competitive in the Director's Cup.

He hired a national championship winning coach, Jay Vidovich as the men's soccer coach. Barnes also hired renowed swimming/diving coach John Hargis, an Olympic gold medalist and former head coach at Penn State. He extended the contracts of softball coach Holly Aprile and women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. The softball team in particular, is really moving up the ranks, making the NCAA Tournament in 2015.

Kevin Stallings Hire

The biggest point of contention from fans seems to have been the hire of Kevin Stallings as men's basketball coach, so no review of his resume would be thorough without considering that.

Here's the thing about the Stallings hire. I wasn't a big fan of it and, like other Pitt fans, had some reservations. But at the same time, context is needed. Dixon felt his welcome had been worn out here and left of his own accord. And while Pitt ended up with Stallings, all indications are that they made a run at Sean Miller. Because Pitt couldn't lure back a former player and convince him to leave a perennial Top 25 program isn't exactly Barnes' fault.

Now, there was the whole search firm business that perhaps steered Stallings to Barnes' doorstep (here's more on that, by the way, if you're in the dark). That rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and while the press conference was a bit of a disaster, as Paul Zeise recently wrote, was in the grand scheme of things not that big of a deal. Far bigger is how Stallings performs and while search firms can make recommendations, they don't have the final say.

Finally, not even halfway through his first year, it's way too early to decide if the Stallings hire is a good/bad one, anyway. Right now, that deserves an 'incomplete' on Barnes' report card rather than a failing grade.

Rivalry Focus

One of Barnes' biggest areas of focus has been on securing annual football games against Penn State. When the Panthers couldn't get the Nittany Lions beyond these four years, he turned to West Virginia, quickly setting up a series with them. And realizing the non-conference basketball schedule could use some 'pop, too, he scheduled the Mountaineers in hoops.

Some people don't like the idea of playing West Virginia again but Barnes was also smart enough to realize that their addition guaranteed the football program a sellout at Heinz Field and a chance for more years like this one, when the school sold a record 55,000+ tickets. Barnes wisely packaged the Penn State game with first only full season packages and then partial ones to maximize the school's profits. They can do the same thing in not only future games with Penn State but also West Virginia as well.

Bowl Ticket Sales Success

Having made nine in a row now, Pitt's football program is no stranger to making bowl games. The Panthers, though, haven't generally traveled to those season-ending games and that has led to not always receiving great bowl games. Some of the travel problems have been due to apathy and some have been because of downright terrible slotting issues like being placed in Birmingham, Alabama for three years in a row from 2010-2012 for the Compass Bowl.

Barnes knew what it would take to get Pitt better bowls for the future. The team not only has to win more but have its fans show up in droves to the bowl games. Pitt was aggressive in trying to sell tickets and did that in spectacular fashion last year at the Military Bowl by not only selling out its full initial allotment of tickets but by requesting two additional allotments. They are also doing another great job this year, selling out their initial allotment of tickets for the Pinstripe Bowl.

Barnes has fully taken an embarrassing situation and turned it into a positive. Pitt wouldn't even disclose their ticket sales many years in the past because of low totals being revealed. The school is now able to take that information, share it publicly, and use it as a reason to show other bowl games that fans will show up to better bowls in the future.

Pitt Script

Barnes consolidation of the use of the script was another great example of his willingness to listen to what the fans wanted. The script was re-introduced hastily under Steve Pederson as a football-only thing. When Barnes rolled it out for all sports, it was a much bigger deal as a full event complete with a fashion show.

Fans often state that bringing the script back was no big deal and a no-brainer. Well, Pederson got rid of it, Jeff Long didn't bring it back, and in his second tenure, Pederson ignored it until the very end. Some have even wondered if it was a point of contention since Pederson was gone shortly after that. Of Pitt's last four athletics directors, Barnes was the only one that understood its importance to fans.

In summary, I'm not saying that Barnes was perfect. And if the Stallings hire doesn't work out, then it should undoubtedly count as a major strike on his resume. But Barnes did a lot of good for Pitt while here and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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