The Post-Gazette has a piece on the state of the team at this point.
Pat Narduzzi’s opening line in his Monday news conference might have said it best:
“Another Monday here, another tough loss to a really good football team.”
Since the 2016 schedule was released, a sizable asterisk marked this current gauntlet of opponents on the Panthers’ schedule — Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson — because of its ability to possibly make or break the season.
Now that consecutive losses to the Hokies and Hurricanes have extinguished the team’s ACC Coastal Division title hopes, Pitt has one biggie left Saturday, and it’s the toughest of them all.
Another good point made was that against Miami our offense only scored 21 points – and seven of those were on a defensive mistake to not cover a Pitt receiver at all – thus a 75 yard TD pass.
But for all intents and purposes when looking at last Saturday’s offensive work in terms of production and seeing only 14 points put up in offensive drives, helped along by Miami’s 15 yard ‘roughing the passer’ penalty in one series and their 15 yard ‘personal foul’ in the other, is damned scary when facing a great defensive team in Clemson (#8 in Scoring Defense with 15.1 ppg; #11 in Passing Defense with 180 ypg and #12 in Total Defense giving up only 323 ypg).
The Tribune-Review states something that we all pretty much know about all ready – Pitt rotated four CBs into the game and it didn’t do jackshit…
In a perfect world, Narduzzi doesn’t like to rotate cornerbacks. But he used four against Miami: starters Ryan Lewis and Dane Jackson and later Maddox and freshman Damar Hamlin. It might have been five, but Phillipie Motley is injured.
Maddox missed the previous two games with an arm injury. He returned Saturday to record one of Pitt’s two pass breakups among 47 Miami attempts. Lewis had the other.
Asked to describe his physical state, Maddox said, “To an extent, I can do everything.” He said Miami’s speed at wide receiver shouldn’t have affected the game by itself.
“They got good speed. We have good speed,” he said. “It’s just who can make the plays. We have to make a play when the ball is in the air.” The 51 points marked the most allowed by Narduzzi’s defense in his 22 games as Pitt’s coach.
Well folks, I wouldn’t bet a dollar that the 51 points against Narduzzi’s defenses bench mark doesn’t get shattered on Saturday – it could be a veritable bloodbath. Especially when we read this:
Injuries to several players, including defensive tackles Tyrique Jarrett and Shakir Soto and defensive end Rori Blair, and spotty play from others place Pitt in an uncertain situation while preparing to play undefeated Clemson.
Coach Pat Narduzzi’s depth chart lists co-starters at seven positions on defense, including all four in the secondary.
For a trip down memory way… Do you remember what Josh Conklin’s selling point was when he was hired on as Pitt’s Defensive Coordinator before last season? It was based on the fact that in 2014 FIU, his old team, was #8 in the nation in turnover margin with +11 – which was almost one extra series for the good guys and one less for the opponent per game .
However in the last two years as Pitt’s DC we have been #64 in ’15 with an even 16 taken and 16 given and now this season we are #54 with 11 taken and 10 given for a +1 overall. Blah…and not what we had hoped for from a Conklin defense at all.
As above we are currently #92 in ‘turnovers gained’ with only 11 grabbed all year:
“Pitt is ranked 92nd in the nation and 11th in the 14-team ACC in turnovers gained (11, seven fumbles and four interceptions). In the past five games, the only turnovers forced by the defense are interceptions returned for touchdowns by Avonte Maddox and Jordan Whitehead.”
Now there is nothing wrong with Pick-6s, and good for Maddox and Whitehead, but we need more that just two turnovers in five games and we need to better our opponents in turnovers not just keep pace with them.
Let’s end with this from the Pitt News:
The Pitt football team and head coach Pat Narduzzi have taken a lot of flak for the way the defense has performed this season, especially when defending opponents’ passing games. Despite the criticism, Narduzzi made a couple of late-game decisions Saturday against Miami that required a lot of faith in his defense. The problem is, he may have shown too much faith.
With under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Pitt trailed by 13 points. After a 1-yard gain by running back James Conner, the Panthers faced fourth-and-1 at their own 10-yard line.
Rather than give one more handoff to the team’s All-American tailback and trying to pick up one yard behind All-ACC offensive linemen Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson, Narduzzi decided to punt the ball back to Miami.
The Hurricanes then put together an eight-play, 41-yard field goal drive to extend their lead to 16. More importantly, they milked almost five minutes off the clock, and Pitt got the ball back down 44-28 with only 3:21 left in the game.
Narduzzi has a lot to learn about the decisions a game-day HC makes. Last year I’d chalk it up to being a novice. This year I chalk it up to his stubbornness. After all we have seen from our putrid defense this season – he still put the ball in Miami’s hand when we desperately need to put points on the board.
In other words he distrusted our great run game and trusted out porous defense. Here is the sequence that led up to his decision to punt.
It certainly was terrible field position to give the ball away if we failed on that 4th down conversion but a HC has to take risks sometimes and not just when we are at midfield in the middle of the 1st quarter (that fake punt/pass which didn’t work).
But we were down by only 13 points with 9:41 left to play in the game and had we won that play there was a shot that we could then control the clock and be down by only six points at the end of the ensuing TD drive. That’s how a HC should think.
Narduzzi should have had the guts to allow the kids to get that one I believe.
Funny thing about players – they want to play and not only on the easy plays and in safe circumstances. They would rather fail out on the field then have the staff take the shot away from them. In other words they are Alpha competitors… you don’t get on the field as a Power Five player unless that is how you approach the game.
I think what bothers us fans the most is that there was an appearance of giving up the ghost with that safer decision – almost like the staff, and then the team, felt they were going to lose anyway and sojust wanted to get off the field.
Not a good way at all to set the stage for the toughest game of Narduzzi’s career as HC so far when he goes into Death Valley on Saturday.
Note: This is a reminder that this The Pitt POV is now, and will be, a politics-free blog. We’ll all have strong opinions about what happens today I’m sure but I’m asking all of you to find other venues to vent or celebrate.
I haven’t ever censored or deleted anything on here and really don’t want to do that but I am serious about this rule.