Pitt Defense Playing at High Level Despite Inexperience


In case you are still angry about the fourth quarter of Pitt’s most recent loss to Syracuse, there’s a silver lining in the Panthers 2-3 start- the play of the Pitt defense.

December 3, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Panthers defensive end Aaron Donald (97) rushes the passer against the Syracuse Orange during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. PITT won 33-20. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

Coming into the season, the Panthers defense was a huge question mark. They returned only four starters from a season ago and had only one senior starter in safety Jarred Holley. But since then that number has grown to three as linebacker Manny Williams and defensive back Andrew Taglianetti have been added to the first-team unit and it has made a difference.

As expected, that defense was a big culprit in Pitt’s two season opening losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati, allowing a combined 845 yards (409 rushing) in the two losses.

In addition the Pitt defense surrendered 65 points in those two losses.

But in the three games since, two of them wins, the Panthers’ defense has allowed only 756 total yards (211 rushing) and has surrendered only 20 total points. By comparison Pitt has allowed 21 points in other areas during that span- a punt return touchdown and a pair of fumble returns for scores.

In addition, the Panthers’ defense has been making the big play, forcing eight turnovers over the past three weeks after failing to force a single turnover in their first two games.

Now, after five weeks, Pitt has a pretty solid defense, at least statistically.

Pitt’s defense is ranked 22nd and 24th nationally in total and passing defense, respectively. The rushing defense, which got off to such a horrible start, is up to 49th out of 120 schools.

In 2011, the Pitt defense also got off to a very slow start and by the end of the season proved to be a pretty solid unit.

Head coach Paul Chryst can only hope this recent string of success continues and this current Pitt defense becomes a strength of this team.

If they play the way they did against Syracuse, where they didn’t allow a point over the game’s final 55 minutes, they could keep the Panthers in the game and give them a good chance to upset Louisville.

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