Pitt's defense has taken its fair share of lumps this season, that much is sure. And even though the unit has statistically been one of the better units in Division I this year, ranking in the Top 25 in scoring defense, that side of the ball has been responsible for some big meltdowns, too.
Much of the criticism the unit has faced has been deserved. But when they play as well as they did tonight, it's also time to give them a little credit.
The Panthers' defense didn't play a perfect game, but the performance they turned in was an above average one. Virginia Tech ended up with only 16 points as it was and you can make a strong case that all of those points weren't on the unit.
Virginia Tech's first field goal came when the Hokies started on Pitt's 32-yard line after a long punt return. The defense allowed them a meager seven yards before holding them to three points. Giving up seven yards should hardly equate to points, but the defense was put in a bad spot.
In the Hokies' next scoring drive, they were in a similar situation after a bad interception by Chad Voytik put Virginia Tech at Pitt's 39. They allowed a little more yardage this time as Virginia Tech got down to the Panthers' three (and was eventually backed up by penalties), but the defense still held them to a field goal.
Another win for the unit.
The defense did have a couple of rough patches, including a third field goal that came after a long completion by the Hokies. There was also a late touchdown against, albeit, coverage that was in place to more prevent big gains. But overall, they turned in a great game.
In addition to keeping the Hokies out of the end zone for the most part, Pitt held them to numerous three and outs. In fact, Virginia Tech didn't even get a first down until about midway of the second quarter. They also came up with a crucial 4th down stop at the beginning of the final quarter and, of course, closed things out on the Hokies' final drive, stopping another 4th down attempt. Ray Vinopal came in with a hit that appeared questionable in real time, but replays showed he struck the receiver's shoulder instead of his head.
Also, overall, the defensive line seemed to get much more pressure than they have most of this season. I don't have the stats yet on sacks and hurries, but they got to Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer quite a bit. Even on completions, Brewer was often under fire and paid for it with a nice hit just after he let go of the ball. If they can get that kind of pressure the rest of the way, it should result in more similar performances.
All in all, an incredible job by Matt House's unit on Thursday.