It is time to take a last look back at how each Big East team fared in 2011 with season-ending report cards.
Up today: Pitt.
Offense: Anybody who watched Pitt play on offense this season knew it was a struggle. That is probably putting it nicely, too. This team never bought into the spread style former coach Todd Graham wanted to run, and once running back Ray Graham went down with a torn ACL against UConn, it was a massive ordeal to generate anything on offense. Quarterback Tino Sunseri ended up with more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10). The offensive line was the worst in the Big East, wracked with injuries and lacking in depth. Rather than point the blame at himself, Graham blamed his players for not adjusting well enough to his hurry-up offense. But you could argue that Graham did not put his players in the best position to succeed, and that is a big reason why Sunseri took a step back in 2011.
Defense: As usual, this was the strength of the team -- particularly late in the season. In the early going, there were major problems in the secondary and with the linebackers, but players adjusted nicely to the new defensive scheme and the push up front grew stronger. Aaron Donald ended up finishing the season 11 sacks to rank second in the Big East. Brandon Lindsey tied for fourth with 8.5. In fact, Pitt had one of the stronger defensive lines in the Big East and ranked No. 3 in the nation in sacks (43). Pitt was not as good as a season ago in terms of total defense, but this group kept the Panthers alive, which helped them make a bowl game despite some dreadful performances on offense.
Overall: This was not the season anybody expected out of Pitt. The preseason No. 2 choice in the league sputtered all year long, then had the coach who reconfigured both offensive and defensive schemes bolt without so much as a goodbye. Pitt did make it to a fourth straight bowl game, but the Panthers finished with their first losing record since 2007. There really is no way to classify this as a winning season, or even an average season. There was too much talent on this team for it to finish 6-7. The blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of Graham, who stubbornly set his players up to fail.