Entering the 2014 season, the one thing on paper that you could have pointed to that could cost the Pitt Panthers in a major way was their defense, in particular their secondary, which was dinged up by injuries, defections and suspensions.
Yet on paper halfway through the season it looked as if the Panthers defense was playing particularly well as they were ranked as one of the better all-around units in the nation.
But sometimes numbers lie and this was certainly one of those cases.
One dominant performance to open the season against Delaware skewed those numbers a great deal, but Pitt head coach Paul Chryst has seen firsthand the problems that he has on the defensive side of the football and he is running out of time to fix them.
After a slow start to the season, it is hard to blame the Panthers offense. All they have done is average 37 points and 547.7 yards during the past three games. That’s good enough to go 3-0 during that span.
The problem though is their defense has allowed an average of 49 points and 517.3 yards per game during that stretch.
Naturally Pitt has gone 0-3 during that span and the Panthers bowl hopes are hanging by a thread.
In the process Pitt fans have been calling for the head of defensive coordinator Matt House as even former players have criticized House throughout the season.
The big play has haunted the Panthers all season long and the last three weeks have been no exception.
“There are so many lessons to be learned,” Chryst said during his weekly press conference. “You can just take [as an example] what you have to do to finish a play. Put yourself in position, and now how do you finish a play defensively? There are things we can do. We had a couple of drives where we’ve got an opportunity to stop the drive, be it a sack or defending a pass. You do that, you get off the field.”
Chryst also said that he doesn’t plan on spending more time than usual on the defensive side of the ball in Pitt’s preparation for Syracuse, saying that it is a puzzling to see the defensive problems in the past three weeks.
Puzzling is putting it mildly.
“There have been some moments where I think we’ve been playing really well, and certainly some moments when we haven’t,” Chryst said.
That’s an understatement.
The Panthers need to win their final two games, Saturday at home vs. Syracuse and next week at Miami, to be eligible for a minor bowl, a place they have been accustomed to being lately.
Missing out on a bowl game would be big for this program as even a low-level bowl game allows the young Panthers additional practices and another week of game experience to prepare for next season.
If they don’t get their problems fixed quickly on the defensive side of the ball, their season will come to an abrupt end next week.
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