DURHAM, N.C. – While Pitt’s football team beat the Duke Blue Devils handily on Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium, 54-29, the Panthers’ depth chart could be a bit thinner.
Pitt appeared to have suffered multiple injuries in the game, most of which occurred in the first half.
Starting defensive tackle Keyshon Camp went down on the third play of Duke’s first drive. He later appeared on the sideline wearing a boot on his right foot and using crutches. He did not return to the game.
In the second quarter, starting right tackle Gabe Houy was slow to get up on a play in which Kenny Pickett found Jordan Addison for a 47-yard touchdown strike. After a trip to the medical tent, Houy had his right ankle taped up and did not return to the game.
Additionally, cornerback AJ Woods also left the game with what seemed to be an injury to his shoulder.
After the contest, when asked if he had any updates on the injuries that Woods, Camp and Houy suffered, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi simply said: “No.”
The injuries are alarming for Pitt for a few reasons. Pitt was already dealing with a handful of players who were banged up, like wide receivers Taysir Mack, Jaylon Barden and Melquise Stovall, neither of whom played on Saturday.
Moreover, Pitt is facing a short week before it plays again. The Panthers will host North Carolina this Thursday night at Heinz Field.
“We’re going to be right on to North Carolina,” Pickett said. “It’s such a short week. We got some guys banged up. We’ll try to get as healthy as possible. It’s really kind of a mental preparation this week, more than physical.”
Added Narduzzi: “You always get concerned. You have bumps and bruises. The NCAA continues to like these Thursday night games. It’s not good for the health of our kids, period. We’d like a couple extra days to get healthy. So, it’s obviously concerning, but we’ve got the best doctors and trainers in the country, and our kids do a good job of taking care of their bodies.”
Pitt’s defense seemed to do fine without Camp and Woods for the majority of the game, as it totaled six sacks, forced a pair of turnovers, and held Duke’s Mataeo Durant – the nation’s seventh leading rusher – to under 85 yards.
However, the injury to Houy seemed to magnify some of Pitt’s offensive line issues. The Panthers made a change a left guard at the beginning the game, starting Blake Zubovic over Marcus Minor, a redshirt senior who had been the starter in the Panthers’ previous eight games. Even after Houy’s injury, Minor never entered the game, despite being dressed to play on the sidelines.
Pitt allowed three sacks in the game, the second-most it has given up this season. And the Panthers gave up a safety for the first time since 2018. Houy was in the play for the safety, but Matt Goncalves was at left guard. When Houy went out, Goncalves shifted to right tackle.
Pickett downplayed any problems along the offensive front.
“Matt and Blake went in there and did an unbelievable job. Guys that I think could definitely be starters, we just have some great depth on the offensive line this seasons,” Pickett said. “And it really helps when you get into November and you see guys getting banged up.”
North Carolina is 5-4 on the season and 3-2 in the Coastal Division. While Pitt was beating Duke on Saturday, the Tar Heels were down in Chapel Hill handing No. 9 Wake Forest its first loss of the season.
The Tar Heels came into this season ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll and with a lot of Heisman hype around quarterback Sam Howell. Despite the losses they’ve suffered, they’re still a talented team and have the potential to take advantage of a Pitt squad that might not have its roster at full strength.
With a Coastal Division title in sights, Pitt will need to ensure it doesn’t stumble against the Tar Heels, no matter who is on the field.
“Me personally, I’m just going to get in the cold tub, take care of my body and start in on the film,” linebacker Phil Campbell III said.
Added fellow linebacker John Petrishen, “I always wondered why growing up I heard NFL guys always complain about Thursday night games. Now, I see why… That’ll be a challenge. But I think we’re mature team. We’ll take care of our bodies. I don’t think anybody will be going out tonight. I think we made that a point in the in the locker room. Everybody’s going to get to sleep early and hydrate.”