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Offensive penalties force Pitt into passing downs

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

We all know that penalties have hurt Pitt significantly on offense. But as Paul Chryst said in his recent press conference, not only does it back the team up, it drastically contributes to the way the team calls plays.

Pitt wants to be a run-heavy team. Not only is that evident in the team's recruiting of running backs and offensive linemen, but Chryst has flat out said that very thing.

Chryst talked a little about the pass/run balance and made a great point in saying that the penalties sometimes dictate what the team does on offense.

"You first want to start with things you can control, or you like to think you can control," said Chryst. "We had four pre-snap penalties. Now all of a sudden you’re in a situation where you’re not as apt to run, or can run. So now, [if] it was a second and long and now it’s second and extra-long, that’s part of it."

That's a really good point and one that probably gets overlooked a little in the run/pass ratio discussion after games. While there may only be a few offensive penalties each game, the fact is that a 1st and 15 or 1st and 20 can drastically alter a game. Getting even one first down (that can help with field position) is harder.

In addition, it affects more than just one play. A couple of series in the Virginia game showed that very instance.

Early on, Pitt had a promising drive, trailing 3-0 in the first quarter. At midfield, lineman Matt Rotheram picked up a false start penalty. On 1st and 15, Pitt still ran the ball on first down. But the three-yard gain made it 2nd and 12 instead of 2nd and 7 and Pitt was forced to air it out twice in a row. Two straight incompletions meant Pitt had to then punt it away.

Pitt later tied it up 3-3 with a field goal, but another penalty may have stopped them from getting a touchdown. With Pitt down to the 13-yard line, a 2nd and 6 turned into a 2nd and 11. Two more Pitt incompletions and the Panthers had to settle for three.

And that's not even bringing up the false start Pitt suffered on the 1-yard line backing them up five yards, forcing them to kick another field goal.

All in all, the penalties have really dictated a little what the offense has been able to do - not only in terms of scoring points, but also specifically to the playcalling.

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