One of the golden rules of broadcasting is to always assume your mic is hot even if you’re in a commercial or the game is over. Forgetting that simple rule has gotten many broadcasters in trouble and even ended a career or two. ESPN’s Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge forgot the golden rule on Saturday night after Tennessee’s 34-27 overtime victory over Pitt, though this was the rare instance where they didn’t end up saying anything all that incriminating.
The Vols secured the big victory after Pitt’s efforts to even the score in overtime fell short when backup Nick Patti was unable to complete the storybook ending. He had come into the game after starter Kedon Slovis left with an injury.
Pitt can't convert on 4th down and Tennessee escapes with the 34-27 OT victory. pic.twitter.com/TMLZdYylE2
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) September 10, 2022
Afterward, Blackledge and McDonough were seen talking about the game on ESPN’s stream as they presumably prepared for the final outro of the evening. While they appear to be in commercial or awaiting a signal from the studio, the footage was still being carried on ESPN’s streaming app, which was recorded by Twitter user @scfbxp. The two casually discuss the events of the game, with Blackledge referring to Pitt’s offense as “pedestrian.”
Todd Blackledge and Sean McDonough unaware they are still on air on ESPN stream after Pitt/Tenn game pic.twitter.com/i90YHdkFRo
— FOOTBALL EXPERT (@scfbxp) September 11, 2022
“It was all set up for the storybook ending, [Pitt offensive coordinator] Frank Cignetti dials it up with the backup quarterback,” said McDonough. “You’ve gotta give Patti credit, he battled.”
“He did,” responded Blackledge. “But they’re rather pedestrian though. They’re rather pedestrian. I mean, they average five yards a play for the game.”
McDonough is then seen checking his phone to figure out some game stats but appears unable to get what he is looking for.
“ESPN app, screw it,” he says as he puts the phone down and prepares to go live.
Some have taken Blackledge to task for his commentary about Pitt but he’s also not that wrong. While the Panthers’ offense was humming early on, including a memorable hurdling touchdown run by their tight end, the wheels came off in the second half. The offense went from averaging 7.6 yards per play in the first half to 2.9 yards per play in the second half and overtime while Patti went 9 of 20 for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Plus, it’s not like he called them names or cursed out players. He just seemed to feel as though they didn’t live up to the hype. Fair enough. Of course, the fact that Blackledge is a Penn State guy probably isn’t doing him any favors in this instance.
All things considered, everyone gets out of this one relatively unscathed, except for ESPN’s app.