PITTSBURGH — Pitt suffered its first defeat at Heinz Field on Saturday, losing 30-29 to NC State, but despite a 3-0 start coming into that contest, the Panthers had already been fighting a losing battle with player availability.
Pitt had no COVID-19 positive players held out for the second straight game, but the list of players out with injuries was significant coming into the game and grew on Saturday.
Defensive tackle Keyshon Camp, linebacker Cam Bright and wide receiver Jordan Addison left the game and did not return. Gabe Houy played less than a full game at right tackle a week after suffering an arm injury and running back Daniel Carter did not appear to be 100% in attempting to return from a lower body injury.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi barely acknowledges injuries, let alone gives updates on them, so this list certainly might not be complete, but here’s what Pittsburgh Sports Now believes is the list of scholarship players to miss at least some of Pitt’s first four games.
Players in bold did not finish the NC State game healthy.
• TE Lucas Krull, missed three games, left knee
• TE Kyi Wright, missed two games, undisclosed
• TE/FB Jake Zilinskas, missed 1.5 games, lower body
• WR Jordan Addison, missed 0.5 games, upper body
• WR Will Gipson, missed one game, undisclosed
• WR Taysir Mack, missed two games, lower body
• WR Tre Tipton, missed two games, undisclosed
• WR Jared Wayne, missed two games, undisclosed
• RB Daniel Carter, missed 1.5 games and played at less than 100% Saturday, lower body
• RB A.J. Davis, missed 1.5 games, lower body
• RT Gabe Houy, missed 0.5 games and played at less than 100% Saturday, right arm
• OL Michael Statham, missed four games, undisclosed
• DE Habakkuk Baldonado, missed 3.5 games, lower body
• DE Emmanuel Belgrave, missed two games, COVID-19 protocol
• DE Rashad Weaver, missed one game, COVID-19 protocol
• DT Keyshon Camp, missed one game, COVID-19 protocol and 0.5 games, undisclosed
• DT Bryce Nelms, missed four games, undisclosed non-football injury
• MLB Wendell Davis, missed two games, right knee
• OLB Cam Bright, missed 0.5 games, undisclosed
• OLB Solomon DeShields, missed 3.5 games, undisclosed
• OLB Leslie Smith, missed four games, lower body
• DB Erick Hallett, missed 1.5 games, undisclosed
• CB Damarri Mathis, missed four games, undisclosed non-football injury, out for season
• CB Jahvante Royal, missed one game, COVID-19 protocol
• CB Hunter Sellers, missed two games, COVID-19 protocol
That’s quite a list. Thus far, Pitt has lost 33.5 man-games due to injury. That means Pitt has been missing, on average, 10% of its scholarship players through four games, and that doesn’t include All-American defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman, who opted out for the season.
Some of those absences came to haunt Pitt on Saturday. Without Twyman or Camp, Pitt’s younger defensive tackles got more playing time, with redshirt freshman Calijah Kancey contributing 3 penalties for 25 yards in Pitt’s flag parade. At linebacker, SirVocea Dennis was flagged twice for 20 yards with Bright out.
Without Mathis, Hallett and Marquis Williams had trouble with the size of NC State’s wide receivers.
Pitt badly missed a healthy Carter or A.J. Davis for those short-yardage situations in the run game, and Krull would have made a far more attractive passing option in the red zone than anyone Kenny Pickett had available. A less-than-100% Houy certainly didn’t help with the line’s overall lack of push all afternoon.
That’s not to make excuses for what was a crippling loss, but Pitt’s performance in many areas can be directly tied to player availability, their backups being unable to perform at the same level or in the same manner, and Pitt having a hard time adjusting.