Heading into the 2014 season, the secondary looked to be the Pitt Panthers biggest weakness.
And despite starting the season 3-0, there were still many questions about whether or not the Panthers’ defensive backs could play good enough football to beat quality teams.
We got that answer during Saturday’s tough loss to Iowa and going forward, Pitt’s secondary could be what prevents Paul Chryst’s team from having a big season.
Everything went right against Delaware, but even during the Panthers next two victories, they allowed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Boston College and also gave up big plays against FIU, most notably a 57-yard touchdown pass.
Things got worse against Iowa as Pitt allowed big pass plays of 44 and 62 yards in the defeat and had a couple of bad penalties thrown in there as well. It could have been worse as early in the game the Pitt secondary was torched by an Iowa receiver, but caught a break when the ball bounced off his hands and was picked off by Lafayette Pitts.
Going forward teams are going to try to stretch out the Pitt secondary every opportunity they can get and the Panthers are going to have to start doing something about it or they are going to be in trouble.
“Obviously, we have to do a better job of playing the deep ball,” said Chryst. “I know one play, for sure, we took our eyes off the receiver. I don’t think we’ve been tested like that before. We’ve got to clean that up because there is more to come.”
Pitts, Reggie Mitchell and true freshman Avonte Maddox have all been torched at one time or another so far this season as the cornerback position is an utter mess for defensive coordinator Matt House right now.
That was expected though as Pitt is very thin at the position, especially when you consider that Jahmahl Pardner left the program, Titus Howard was suspended and Trenton Coles transferred before the season.
That’s a tough blow to take considering all three guys were expected to contend for starting jobs prior to the season.
Then there is the loss of Aaron Donald to consider.
If Pitt can’t get pressure on their quarterback from their front seven, something they didn’t do on Saturday, this secondary is going to struggle.
They don’t have that guy to wreak havoc on opposing offenses any longer, so they are going to have to find creative ways of getting pressure on quarterbacks throughout the game.
“Iowa was pretty good,” said Chryst. “I thought their line was the best one we’ve played to this point. I think that was part of it. They didn’t do anything different. I don’t think we were winning a lot of the one-on-one battles.”
There were quite a few reasons why the Panthers didn’t improve to 4-0 on Saturday and while the secondary shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame, it has to be given a good bit of it.
One thing is for sure though going forward and that is the Pitt cornerbacks are going to have to get a lot better very quickly.
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