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Pitt vs. New Mexico: Panthers must get better on first down

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

We all know that Pitt wasn't real good on third down against Florida State on Labor Day. What I found interesting, though, was that first down killed the Panthers, too.

I'll be honest - I've not had a great desire to rehash Pitt's issues from the Florida State debacle. But Chryst's declaration in his weekly press conference that the Panthers needed to do better on first down piqued my interest.

I looked up what Pitt did on those first downs and, yeah, it wasn't real pretty.

I broke down the Panthers' plays into three categories: Minimal or No Gain (three yards or less), Modest Gain (4-6 yards), and Big Gain (7 yards or more). Pitt had 26 plays on first down, not including a delay of game penalty, according to ESPN's handy play by play feature.

Here's how things shook out. Six plays went for big gains, four for modest gains, and a whopping 16 were minimal or no gain plays. Included in that group of minimal/no gain plays were six runs where Pitt lost yards or picked up only a single yard.

Passing on first down was a problem, too. Quarterback Tom Savage was only 5-10 with two sacks and interception.

The reality is that Pitt just put themselves in holes too many times. The team was often faced with a lot of 2nd and long plays and against Florida State, that just made things too difficult. Doing well on first down against New Mexico will make things much easier.

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