NCAA

Mistakes Stymie Panthers in Happy Valley

Pitt Coverage Presented by Arsenal Cider House.

First off, the Panthers pulled out their away Throwback Jersey’s today and looked Amazing. Congrats to Coach Narduzzi and his staff for making that decision.   Even Todd Blackledge agreed,  and it nearly killed him all day to give Pitt any credit.  He was a tough listen, with that said, this is my take.

Pitt was down 28-14 late in the 4th quarter, with more offensive yards than Penn State and time of possession was firmly in their favor. They also had the ball with just over 5 minutes left.  The offense had been in the red zone 4 times with ony 1 touchdown.  Max Browne threw 2 interceptions that turned into points and the receivers dropped key passes.  Tack on a late safety  and the Panthers would fall to Penn State by the final score of 33-14.

The Panthers defense gave up only a couple of big plays during a game for the most part they were not only in but playing solid.  They surrendered only 88 rushing yards to Saquon Barkley and a total of 148 rushing as a team while rushing for 155 of their own.  McSorley threw for 164 yards on 15-28 passing.  Pitt’s defense would get 1 sack today and an interception, but would get pressure from time to time that hurried McSorley.  They were effective.

But it was a very solid and crisp Penn State team that rarely made mistake and took advantage of nearly every mistake the Panthers made. That was the difference today.

Max Browne played an “Okay” game, throwing 2 interceptions and one of which was clearly his fault.  He led the Panthers up and down the field between the 20’s with no problem. Pitt Receiver Jester Weah could have vastly changed the outcome of this game with two key catches.  The first of which would have given the Panthers a first down deep in Penn State territory.  It was a long pass that was dropped into his arms over his shoulder but he dropped it going to the ground.  The second drop occurred later in the first half with yet another opportunity to get a first down. Tight End Transfer Chris Clark also dropped a key first down pass in the first half.

Pitt was down 14-3 in the first half but led in most offensive categories.  Pitt actually was down 14-0 in the first 6 minutes.

It would be the Pitt defense that kept the Panthers in the game till midway in the 4th quarter as they found themselves down 28-14 with the ball at their own 4 yard line after forcing Penn State to punt. It was then we saw yet another drop with a shovel pass followed by a screen in the endzone that yielded a safety.

I do not buy that today’s outcome is Max Browne’s fault.  He made mistakes and his receivers helped him not one ounce.  With that said, the offensive coordinator struggled with calls inside the redzone and deep in their own territory.  Between the 20’s, the calls were fluid and kept Penn State on edge.

On the Penn State side of the football, they showed just how talented they were as they took advantage nearly each and every Panther’s mistake.  Tight End Mike Gesicki is a man among boys at 6’6″ inches and runs like a deer. He would catch those first two Lion Touchdowns to give Penn State a 14-0 lead.  He would finish with 4 receptions for 39 yards.  Both catches were happened on blown coverages.

The PSU defense had the bend no break mentality throughout and was the better unit on the field.  They made big plays and did not drop opportunities when they were gift-wrapped.

The moral of the story today was the Better team won, although I do not think the talent gap is that far apart.  I also believe that Coach Narduzzi and his staff played major possum on defense in the game against the Penguins as opposed to what we saw today.

Moving Forward:  As Pitt puts this game into the rearview mirror, there is a question at quarterback as Ben Dinucci came in after a freak play that left Browne exposed with no helmet.  Max would leave the game because of the helmet rule, and the Pitt staff could clearly see Max’s forehead bleed.   All Ben did in Browne’s sted was come in, score a touchdown and convert a 2 point conversion.  He would later come in and engineer a late drive that yielded no points but an impressive drive none the less. He looked more poised than Browne which is surprising to me and he brings the element of his legs into play also.

If this defense shows up for the remainder of the season the way it did against this talented of a Penn State team, Pitt will have a tremendous opportunity to win 10 or 11 games. (Only if the offense grows together under one of these quarterbacks.)They were good today and that is something to hang their hats on.  They surrendered 302 yards and forced Penn State to Punt 6 times.   Pitt finished with 342 total yards.

Notes:

7th largest crowd ever at Penn State.

Quadree Henderson made some very suspect decisions on special teams trying to make plays.  As Pitt’s defense would force Punts, Henderson would consistently run backwards trying to make a big play, losing yards nearly each and every time.  On offense, He was held in check all day as the Lions bottled him up well.

Avonte Maddox played very well today at Corner, although was called on a 15 yard unsportsmanlike late in the second half as he ventured into the Penn State bench.

Qadree Ollison played extremely well rushing 15 times for 96 yards with 2 receptions for 30 yards.

Running back Chawntez Moss was a huge factor in the second half rushing for 46 yards on 11 carries.  He proved to be very difficult to bring down earning some very clutch first downs when the Panthers needed them.

Pitt Linebacker Idowu was burnt a couple of times, but in all he played fairly well making some big plays in the 4th quarter.

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