Pitt Offense Feels It Let Defense Down

Drops, red zone miscues bind up Pitt offense in sloppy loss

Josh Rowntree
October 26, 2019 - 4:34 pm
Miami Hurricanes cornerback DJ Ivey (8 left) reacts after his second interception against Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8 right) during the second quarter at Heinz Field.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pitt defense allowed only 208 yards of total offense to Miami Saturday at Heinz Field. Good enough to win. Good enough to beat a lot of teams. The offense, however, was another story. 

The Panthers were unable to capitalize on three trips to the red zone, settling for field goals from Miami’s 8-yard line, and twice from the 12-yard line, falling 16-12 to the Hurricanes. 

“We had our chances, we just didn’t execute when we needed to,” quarterback Kenny Pickett said. “At the end of the day, it’s execution. We had opportunities, we just didn’t execute. We left the defense out there to dry. It’s on the offense.”

“Terrible,” is how center Jimmy Morrissey assessed the way the Panthers completed drives. “We didn’t finish. We didn’t play well enough. Three turnovers and four field goals. I’m shocked we were even in that game. Our defense did a great job.”

Multiple factors compounded on Pitt’s offense. Playing in a steady second half drizzle, the Panthers had multiple pass catchers drop balls, including two on Pitt’s last-minute drive. 

"I don't know how many we had today, but even in the last drive we had opportunities,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “The balls are in our guys hands and Maurice (Ffrench) has a chance, he might be gone. V'Lique (Carter) might be gone as well. We had opportunities, we just didn't finish it."

Narduzzi also made the decision, down 10-9 with under eight minutes remaining and facing a 4th and goal at the 1-yard line, to take a delay of game penalty and kick a go-ahead field goal.

“If we go up 12-10 and win 12-10, you’re not asking that question,” Pickett said, when asked about the decision. “It’s a bunch of ‘would’ve, could’ve should’ve’ right now. At the end of the day, we just didn’t play well enough to win.”

“I didn’t even want coach to be in that situation,” Morrissey added. “They put their trust in the offensive line to run the ball and we couldn’t get it in. So that’s on us.”

Narduzzi's decision was a fine one, especially given the ineffectiveness of Miami’s offense to that point in the game.

"Do I wish we would have gone for it on 4th and 1, yeah,” Narduzzi said. “But when your defense is playing as well as they are playing, you thought, shoot, let’s win with four field goals.

"The smart play was to kick the field goal, some people will say go for it.  If you don't get it then, now you are losing the game. You are down."

Pitt also committed seven penalties that complicated matters. And, when Pitt needed a stop the most, they were unable to get one, as Miami scored the game’s winning touchdown with 58 seconds to play on a 32-yard pass.

“As a defense, we set a standard to not allow any points at all,” cornerback Damarri Mathis said. “No matter the situation, we’ve got to stop people. That’s what we do, as a defense.”

His offensive teammates, however, disagree with Mathis — or anyone else — taking any blame. 

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Morrissey said. “We all feel like we’re letting them down and that we can’t finish. It’s very upsetting to us and all of our coaches, too.”

“It’s on the offensive players,” Pickett added. “I wouldn’t say any coach is responsible for this, or anyone on the staff. Me and (Morrissey) will take control of it this week and make sure we’re prepared for Georgia Tech.”