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Defense Comes Up Big As Pitt Is Bowl Eligible

In another tale of two halves, Pitt didn't let the game against Syracuse slip away. On a potential game-winning drive for the Orange, Brandon Lindsey came up big, causing Ryan Nassib to fumble the ball right into the arms on Antwuan Reed, who took it in for a touchdown. That was one of six costly turnovers that Pitt forced in a game that shouldn't have been as close as the score showed. Had the Panthers been able to cash in on some of those turnovers, it could have been a much more lopsided game. Pitt only had 20 points total off those six turnovers, which really isn't all that much.

For two teams whose strength lies on the ground, there was not a whole lot of yardage through the rushing game - especially for Pitt, who had a total of 74 rushing yards against the Orange. The Panthers did run several plays out of the Wildcat with Anthony Gonzalez in the backfield in place of Ronald Jones, who sat out the game with an injury. It had some success against a fairly decent Syracuse defense, but obviously Gonzalez is not the ideal person to be running the Wildcat as he's simply not as fast as Jones.

There are some things Pitt has to work on. Obviously with the number of injuries this season, the rushing game suffered a bit, but Zach Brown should be back for the bowl game so that's one problem solved. Third down conversion hurt Pitt and you had to wonder how much confidence Todd Graham had in freshman running back Isaac Bennett as several times on 3rd and short, Graham opted to throw the ball. It's entirely possible that he is worried that another running back could get injured, but Pitt was only 4-14 on 3rd down and in a game that came down to the end, it's those things that can hurt you. Red zone scoring was also an issue as for the second straight week, Pitt was settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. Luckily for Pitt, it didn't cost them the game, but on four red zone trips, Pitt settled for three field goals.

For all the flack Tino takes for his QB play, he played fairly well, including connecting on a well thrown deep ball to Devin Street. He went 25 of 34 for 259 yards. There were a few mental errors, including a bizarre play where, after being flushed out of the pocket, instead of throwing the ball away, he simply ran out of bounds. But outside of that he played a good game and hopefully that carries over into the bowl game.

But as the title says, the defense really came out to play today. Todd Graham's defense while at Tulsa was aggressive and led the nation in the number of forced turnovers last season. We started seeing some of that on Saturday for the Panthers as they forced six Syracuse turnovers (two picks, four fumbles). The +5 turnover margin has Pitt even on the season in the turnover margin. Pitt hadn't forced six turnovers in a game since 2002 against Ohio. The player of the game on defense was definitely Brandon Lindsey, who has responsible for three of those turnovers and played a phenomenal game in his final home contest. Lindsey forced two fumbles, including the key one that sealed the win for Pitt, had an interception, recorded a sack, and had six tackles.