When Pitt’s defense holds an opponent to 27 points, you’d expect them to get a win.
That was the case this afternoon but unfortunately for the Panthers they walked out of the Carrier Dome with a 27-24 loss to Syracuse.
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey did pass for 365 yards but I’m not putting this loss on the defense.
Yes, two personal foul penalties, including one by Chase Pine that kept a Syracuse drive alive and ended in a touchdown were costly, but I thought the defense played well enough to win.
Once again, the lack of a running back and some questionable play-calling did Pitt in.
Coming into this season, many including myself thought the strength of Pitt’s offense would be the depth in the backfield with Qadree Ollison, Darrin Hall, Chawntez Moss, AJ Davis. Sprinkling in Quadree Henderson and Jordan Whitehead and that should be solid, right? Wrong.
Whether it’s bad offensive line play, the backs underacheving or a lack of commitment to running the ball, the bottom line is Pitt’s running game is a big reason for their 2-4 record.
Things started out poorly when it was revealed that Moss didn’t make the trip to Syracuse. It’s the second time this season that Moss missed a game for a non-injury.
While I continue to believe that Ollison and Hall aren’t the most talented backs on the roster, today, I’m going to put a big blame on the offensive play-calling by Shawn Watson.
Consider these lack of rushing attempts for Pitt’s two ACC games this season.
Today versus Syracuse:
Ollison: 6 carries
Hall: 3 carries
Davis: 1 carry
Whitehead did get 7 carries but only 10 carries for your 3 main backs isn’t enough.
Here’s the attempts from Pitt versus Georgia Tech two weeks ago:
Ollison: 7 carries
Moss: 4 carries
So, in Pitt’s two ACC games their running backs got a combined 21 carries. Sorry, not good enough.
Here are some examples in the first half where an efficient and committed running game could’ve extended drives and possibly led to points instead of punts.
Pitt’s 2nd Drive of Game: Pitt can’t convert a 2nd & 2 and 3rd & 2. Both Times, Watson calls pass plays instead of attempting a run.
Pitt’s 3rd Drive of Game: Pitt can’t convert a 3rd and 1 as Hall is stuffed for no gain.
Pitt’s last Drive before the half: Pitt has 2nd and 4 in Syracuse territory and are forced to punt.
Where does Pitt go from here? For weeks I’ve endorsed Moss and Davis splitting carries with Ollison or Hall spelling them or using them on short yardage. However, with Moss missing another game there’s obviously an issue.
It might be time to see what the 4-Star Davis can do but we won’t really see if he’s getting less than 10 carries a game.
The Pitt running backs need to step up their performance but so does the offensive coordinator.