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Where Does Pitt Go From Here?

It’s painful to even think about what happened yesterday so I can’t imagine how hard it is for the team.

To put all that work in during the week, to lead or be tied for 59 minutes of the game and then lose on the final play of the game. It was a gut wrenching defeat and the plane ride from Chapel Hill probably felt like a 15 hour ride.

Somehow, Pat Narduzzi and his staff have to get their players to put that game behind them and focus on the remaining schedule.

While his players must forget about the heartbreaking loss, Narduzzi can’t. His job is to go back and try to figure out what happened.

How does his defense allow another quarterback to have a career day? How does a receiver, that everyone knows is the top weapon on offense, still go out and catch a conference record 16 passes for over 200 yards? How do you lose a game when you double them in time of possession? How do you lose a game when you’re able to rush for nearly 300 yards? And why is your quarterback not attempting a pass of over 20 yards? Does Narduzzi have any options in order to make lineup changes?

As you can see, there is plenty to discuss and evaluate this week.

While certain things can be discussed on offense and with good reason, the bottom line is that most teams should be able to win when scoring 38 and 36 points, which is what Pitt did vs. Oklahoma State and North Carolina.

The problem is that the defense has allowed 124 points the last three weeks. That’s bad enough, but the folllwing is even worse: In the last 3 weeks, opposing quarterbacks have completed 85 of 127 passes for 1,324 yards and 8 TD’s.

That certainly brings up the issue of lineup changes. Will Narduzzi increase the role of some of his younger players or consider burning the redshirt years of some of his freshman?

Narduzzi has to determine whether players like Therran Coleman, Henry Miller, Bricen Garner, Phil Campbell can be an improvement over the current members of the secondary.

One factor that could play into that decision is whether cornerback Damar Hamlin will be healthy enough to play this season. If so, when will that be and will it be too late to justify using a year of his eligibility.

Another issue that hasn’t been brought up much but something that would help the secondary is getting consistent quarterback pressure from someone other than Ejuan Price. Let’s be honest, no one has really stepped up to help fill the loss of defensive end Dewayne Hendrix, who was supposed to compliment Price.

It was encouraging to see redshirt freshman linebacker Saleem Brightwell get to the quarterback late in the game, I’d like to see him on the field more. However, unlike the secondary, Narduzzi doesn’t have many younger options to consider on the defensive line.

The good news for Pitt is that their schedule in the month of October (Marshall, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech) doesn’t have the pass offenses that they’ve faced the pass couple of weeks which should help.

The loss yesterday doesn’t mean the season is over, but if the Panthers don’t find a way to play defense, the ultimate goal of playing in the ACC Championship game will be.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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