PITTSBURGH — Pitt’s defense is decidedly ahead of its offense.
The defense dominated the Blue-Gold Game at Heinz Field on Saturday, with both teams scoring just three points before Dane Jackson’s 60-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed a 10-3 victory for the Blue Team with 57 seconds remaining.
The statistics were lopsided toward the defense, with the victorious Blue squad having just 22 total yards of offense and the Gold squad not doing much better with 172.
Pitt’s offense was hampered by skill position losses this spring. Running back Qadree Ollison and wide receivers Raphael Araujo-Lopes, Dontavius Butler-Jenkins, Shocky Jacques-Louis, Aaron Mathews, Tre Tipton all missed the game with injuries and tight end Chris Clark stepped away from the team for personal reasons.
That left a group that lacked depth in the first place, with just two running backs, one fullback, one tight end and two wide receivers with extensive experience. When that group was split into two teams, it didn’t leave either with a full deck.
Pitt’s defense took advantage. The Panthers sacked Kenny Pickett (gold) seven times and Ricky Town (blue) six times. A.J. Davis (2.9 yards per carry), Darrin Hall (0.4 YPC) and Todd Sibley (-1.0 YPC) were all held in check.
Of Pitt’s combined 18 offensive drives, 11 ended in a punt, two on downs, one by interception and two at the end of halves. The two sides went a combined 2 of 20 on third-down conversions.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson (gold) and associate head coach and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge (blue) broke down the dominance of the defense and if that should worry Pitt’s offense through the summer:
ED CONWAY AWARD
Pitt give the Ed Conway Award annually to the most improved players at the end of the spring. This season, the winners were offensive lineman Connor Dintino and linebacker Anthony McKee, Jr.
Dintino, a redshirt senior, seems to have solidified a role as a guard on Pitt’s offensive line after playing center, defensive tackle and fullback in his first four years at Pitt. McKee, a former top prospect, has taken a longer-than-usual time to arrive on the scene, but is in a position to get considerable playing time as part of a deep group at linebacker.
Here’s more from Dintino and McKee on their award wins:
HERO AND THE GOAT
Jackson was the hero for both the Blue team, and anyone that didn’t want to see the tied game go into overtime, while Pickett’s solid day will be overshadowed by the game-winning interception. Here’s what both had to say after the game.