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Pitt Football

Where Does Pitt’s Offense, Defense and Special Teams Rank in the ACC at the Midway Point?

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There are 14 teams in the ACC, and through the midway point of its season, Pitt is — if anything — slightly above average when it comes to its conference foes. At least, by the numbers.

Pitt boasts the ACC’s leading rusher, by nearly 200 yards, but that doesn’t mean that Pitt’s offense is exactly lighting it up this season either. And despite a heavy, heavy dose of injuries, Pitt’s defensive numbers are still toward the top of the conference. Where exactly does Pitt rank through six games?

Offense

Scoring: 35.0 points per game (5th)

Total Offense: 430.5 yards per game (8th)

Passing yards: 237.5 yards (7th)

Kedon Slovis — 91-of-148 passing attempts (61.5%) for 1,167 yards and five touchdowns

Rush Yards: 193.0 yards (4th)

Israel Abanikanda — 129 carries for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns

It’s been a difficult season for Pitt’s passing attack, with Kedon Slovis missing time due to injury and suffering from some overcoaching upon his return to the lineup. Still, Israel Abanikanda has been a breakout star in college football. 

Despite missing a half against Georgia Tech and Pitt’s bye week over the weekend, Abaikanda is still sixth in rushing yards (830) and tied for second in rushing touchdowns (12) in all of college football. He has the most yards in the country among any player with six games played.

With stretches of the season in which Pitt’s offense has been completely uninspiring, Pitt is still fifth in the ACC in points per game. Pitt has scored 20 points twice, 30 points twice and 40 points twice this season. And it’s come about mainly on the back of Abanikanda’s 13 total touchdowns — 48% of all Pitt touchdowns this season.

The identity going forward will be a run-first offense, as it should be with Abanikanda and Rodney Hammond Jr. in the backfield, but Pitt’s passing attack will need to be unlocked.

Slovis looked his best this season before going down against Tennessee with a head injury at the end of the first half, a half in which he stood in the pocket and delivered with poise and anticipation and distributed the football to his playmakers. With Jared Wayne, Gavin Bartholomew and Konata Mumpfield lined up out wide, Pitt has some playmakers.

And the progression of Slovis will need to go hand-in-hand with Pitt’s wide receiving crops as a whole. The wide receivers haven’t always helped Slovis when it comes to holding onto the football and running the right routes. It’s a relationship that should benefit both parties.

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Erick Hallett II (31) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Defense

Scoring: 26.2 points per game (11th)

Total defense: 337.2 yards (4th)

Pass yards: 221.8 yards (5th)

Erick Hallett — 23 tackles (15 solo), two tackles for loss, three interceptions, six pass breakups and two fumble recoveries

Rush yards: 125.3 yards (5th)

Calijah Kancey — 21 tackles (11 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks

Pitt’s defense may rank in the bottom half of the ACC in points allowed per game (26.2), but the defense hasn’t always been put in positions to succeed with costly turnovers and a lack of offensive consistency negatively impacting performances.

It’s also been a defense that has battled injuries to key contributors all season long. The entire defensive line has seemingly missed time this season, especially on the outside, and key leaders in SirVocea Dennis and Marquis Williams have missed time at points this season. But the unit is still among the best in the conference in limiting opponents’ yardage.

While Pitt’s secondary has been roughed up by bigger receivers against West Virginia and Tennessee this season, it’s been a largely successful season. The run defense, on the other hand, hasn’t been as successful against Power Five opponents — allowing 159.75 yards per game against WVU, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Virginia tech.

Pitt’s defense is built to stop the run, and with a banged-up defensive line and young, inexperienced linebacking corps, it hasn’t exactly clicked yet. Pat Narduzzi’s defenses require players to be lined up in exact alignments, and the bye week should have been the perfect opportunity to rest up and get back to the fundamentals.

Pitt, as a whole, needs to get healthier. Injuries have limited the impact and production of players like Habakkuk Baldonado and Deslin Alexandre, but Pitt is still tied for third in the ACC in sacks and Calijah Kancey is tied for third in the ACC in tackles for loss. Attention to detail will be key in being able to stop the run going forward.

Special Teams

Field goals: 7/10, 70% (9th)

Ben Sauls — 7-of-10 field goal attempts (70%), 27-of-27 extra point attempts

Punting: 36.0 average (14th), 33.7 net (13th)

Sam Vander Haar — 22 punts for 858 yards (39 average)

Unfortunately for Ben Sauls, his 2022 season is overshadowed by two key missed field goals (a 36- and 46-yarder) against Tennessee. He’s only missed one kick otherwise, and he holds a long of 48 yards.

It’s been an even tougher season for Vander Haar as he adapts to American football. His 39.1 yards per punt is the lowest in the ACC, and he’s had two punts blocked this season largely due to his own errors. It hasn’t been a banner year for Pitt’s special teams unit.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Pittband
Pittband
1 month ago

Just as Sharon despises Cignetti, I curse Scott Barnes for bringing back WV. WV’s season is a success if they bring down Pitt which has been the case through 6-games. Alexander, Hammond and others have been lost for most of the first half of the season. Think Tennessee would have won if Hammond were available? The depth of the DL has been sorely tested with the leaders and starters missing so far.
Heather DUMP WV as soon as possible.

Dixon
Dixon
1 month ago
Reply to  Pittband

WVU game was one of the worst I’ve sat through in years. Couple dozen a-hole hillbilly fans in my section were obnoxious throughout entire game. Can’t even imagine how nauseating they would have been if WV won the game. Wish we never played them again.

Dukes

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