PITTSBURGH — Through five games, there has been plenty that’s gone wrong for Pitt’s defensive unit.
The Panthers are 102nd in the nation in yards per game allowed with a 430.6 yard-per-game average and 97th in country in points per game, with an average of 32.
There’s been plenty of discussion on where to lie that blame, from the team’s proclivity for penalties to Pat Narduzzi’s defensive scheme and unwillingness to match personnel and a whole host of other issues.
But one that’s quietly slipped under the radar is Pitt’s inability to bring down opposing quarterbacks. The Panthers have nine quarterbacks sacks and their 1.80 sacks-per-game average is 77th in the country.
But five of those nine came against Albany in the season opener. Since then, Pitt has four sacks over the last four games against FBS opposition. That’s tied for 107th in the country.
According to senior defensive end Dewayne Hendrix, it hasn’t been for lack of opportunities. The Panthers feel like they’re getting chances to bring down opposing quarterbacks, they just haven’t been able to do so, particularly against elusive UCF passer McKenzie Milton.
“We got back there a lot of times; we didn’t do a very good job of brining him down,” Hendrix said.
In many ways, last week’s opponent is very similar to this week’s, with the Orange playing another up-tempo, spread offense that likes to use the RPO with a big, athletic quarterback in senior Eric Dungey.
“That’s the same thing with Dungey,” Hendrix said. “You’re going to have to get a couple hands on him. Get his ankles, he’s going to hop and make passes. … They’re a lot similar as far as them just knowing where they’re at in the pocket. Their presence is really good.”
“He’s fast, he’s got good size and he’s got good instincts,” Pitt defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said. “He can run through arm tackles. He’s a challenge.”
The game plan against Dungey will likely be a similar to the one Pitt employed against Milton, but Partridge is hopeful they’ll have more success the second time around.
“It’s really do everything you can to get his legs wrapped up and rally to the ball,” he said. “It’s going to take gang tackling. It’s going to take tremendous effort to get him down. We know he’s going to break a tackle at some point in the game. We’ve got to have multiple guys there at the point at the attack assisting in getting him down.”
The pass rush could help the game in other areas, even if it doesn’t get home. Head coach Pat Narduzzi said on Monday that part of the problem with his pass defense is that there have been too many open throwing lanes for opposing quarterbacks.
The Panthers should feel better about their chances against Dungey than Milton. Last season, Seun Idowu had two sacks, Elias Reynolds and Patrick Jones split another and the team added three hurries against the Orange passer.