Pat Narduzzi’s defense has finally arrived. Five years after departing from Michigan State, where the defensive coordinator under Mark Dantoino had assembled four consecutive top 15 defenses (#9 in 2011, #2 in 2012, #3 in 2013 and #14 in 2014), Narduzzi has his players and his system in place here in Pittsburgh.
After four years of subpar results, this year’s Panthers defense is number 7 in SP+’s efficiency rankings. They’re 24th in the country in points allowed per game (20.9), 9th in yards allowed per game (294), 5th in yards given up per play at 4.1, 7th in rush yards allowed per game (91.2) and 27th in pass yards allowed per game (194.3). Oh, and the Panthers are second in the nation in sacks per game, behind only Ohio State.
The scary part is, the Panthers might be even better if it wasn’t for an offense that ranked near the bottom in most statistical categories. Pitt’s ranked 117th in Bill Connelly’s SP+, their 20.9 points per game is 111th, and are ranked 86th in the country with 380 yards per game. Penalties have also played a big role in their lack of offensive output, they’re 116th in offensive penalties with 7.6 per game.
In total, the Panthers have allowed 181 points in nine games, third lowest per game in the ACC behind only Clemson and Miami. Perhaps even more impressively, of the 181 points allowed, only 89 have come as a result of full drives by the opponent, 85 points have come on drives that began with a turnover and seven were scored on special teams.
Pitt has only allowed three touchdowns all season on possessions after kickoffs. 34 points were scored after interceptions, 37 after fumbles and 10 after blocked kicks.
As good as the defense looks by the numbers, it’s even more so on a game-by-game and drive-by-drive basis.
Virginia Scoring Drive Summary
|11 plays||53 yards||FG||Punt|
|5||27||TD||Turnover on Downs|
The Panthers gave up 30 points, but only nine came on drives where Virginia received the ball after a punt or kickoff. What might have been if Pitt had been able to take care of the ball.
Ohio Scoring Drive Summary
|7 plays||69 yards||FG||KO|
Ohio was able to put together two long scoring drives but nothing else. A pretty strong result for the Panthers defense as the Bobcats have a top-40 offense.
Penn State Scoring Drive Summary
|5 plays||98 yards||TD||Punt|
Only allowing 17 points to the Nittany Lions (11th in offensive efficiency) is an impressive a feat as any the Panthers have accomplished this season.
UCF Scoring Drive Summary
|3 plays||27 yards||TD||Fum|
|0||100||TD||Punt Return TD|
The 20 points scored by UCF on non-turnover drives is the most the Panthers have allowed in any one game.
Delaware Scoring Drive Summary
|6 plays||41 yards||TD||INT|
Delaware nearly pulled off the upset by capitalizing on two short fields thanks to Pitt offensive turnovers.
Duke Scoring Drive Summary
|14 plays||65 yards||FG||Punt|
A perfect encapsulation of Pitt’s season so far. Duke put up 31 points, but three of their four touchdowns were off extremely short fields spurred by turnovers.
Syracuse Scoring Drive Summary
|8 plays||36 yards||FG||Fumble|
The big blemish here would be the 94 yard touchdown pass given up on the Orange’s third scoring drive.
Miami Scoring Drive Summary
|8 plays||30 yards||FG||INT|
A nearly perfect defensive game ruined by Miami’s backup quarterback leading a nine play, 62-yard drive late in the 4th quarter.
Georgia Tech Scoring Drive Summary
|1 play||51 yards||TD||Fum|
The Panthers single blemish was another big play after a fumble. Other than that, pure domination.