Pitt’s offense did enough to get the job done on Saturday, scoring three touchdowns as the Panthers coasted to a 21-10 victory over Syracuse at Heinz Field.
But Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi is far from satisfied with the output. Three drives that ended in field goal attempts (none of which went in) a turnover inside the red zone meant opportunities left out on the field for the Pitt offense.
“That game could have very well been 30-zip or 42-zip,” Narduzzi said Monday. “You just leave some plays out there, which like I said, it’s great to win a football game and still have a lot of things to clean up. … We look forward to correcting some of the things we made mistakes at, clean it up. I’m very optimistic with the type of football team we have.”
But Narduzzi knows that going forward, he’s going to need more from his offense. Pitt’s Week 3 opponent Louisville has averaged 34.5 points per game through two contests this season after averaging over 33 points per game last season.
Even if Pitt’s stout defense can hold the Cardinals well below their average, the chances are high that Pitt will have to score more than 21 points if it wants a win on Saturday. Narduzzi thinks that’s possible, but it will require a higher level of execution than what the Panthers showed on the field last weekend.
“When you watch the tape, one guy didn’t do [something], whether it was a chip in a defensive end or tackle inside on pass protection so Kenny [Pickett] has time to throw it where it’s supposed to be,” Narduzzi explained. “Kenny missed a couple throws as well. He wasn’t perfect. I mean, it’s just making plays when you’re supposed to make them.”
Narduzzi acknowledged that nine points could be rightfully charged to Pitt’s field goal unit, as kicker Alex Kessman missed his second and third field goal attempts of the season while holder Kirk Christodoulou dropped the snap on another attempt, but he doesn’t want his offense to be settling for field goals in those situations, either.
“We can all point at the kicker,” he said. “How about we score touchdowns when we’re inside the 25-yard line? I want touchdowns, not field goals. I don’t want to send the kicker out there. I want to send our offense out there and celebrate in the end zone. They don’t say our goal this week is to kick a bunch of field goals.”
Pitt showed the capability in 2019 to score more points with Pickett at the helm and Mark Whipple calling the plays. They posted 35 in a win over UCF, 33 over Duke and 34 against North Carolina and Eastern Michigan.
But they were also inconsistent a year ago. They were shut out by Virginia Tech, scored 10 against Penn State, 12 against Miami, 14 against Virginia and 19 against Boston College in Pitt’s five losses.
It the Panthers aspire to be a better team in 2020, they’ll need more consistent offensive production and that starts Saturday against Louisville.