For more than half of the season, Pitt's defensive problems have been masked. The Panthers ranked in the Top 25 in points allowed and despite only a 4-3 record through seven games, the defense had gained a mostly positive reputation.
Don't get me wrong - the secondary had lapses and there wasn't nearly enough pressure from the defensive linemen. But in terms of giving up points (and, really, that's the most important thing, isn't it?), the Panthers had allowed only 18.6 per game and in the grand scheme of things, that was well above average.
A few weeks ago, Chris wrote about the challenges to come, though. Suffice to say, his post was spot on.
Pitt has faced better offenses and has struggled wildly. Last weekend for Homecoming, Georgia Tech (ranked No. 19 in offense this weekend) came and hung 56 points on Pitt. Half of those came on ugly Pitt fumbles, but the reality is that the Panthers couldn't even slow down the Yellow Jackets. Even after all of those early miscues, Pitt had issues, giving up 21 points in the fourth quarter. Georgia Tech averaged a little more than 300 yards rushing on their vaunted triple option, but Pitt gave up 465 yards to them - just far too many.
This Saturday, the defense was back at it and couldn't stop the run or the pass. Jamison Crowder had 165 receiving yards and two touchdowns. And while Duke's 172 yards weren't a mammoth effort, they averaged a whopping 6.4 yards per carry.
Consider this: Pitt had a great day running the ball with a career-high 263 yards and the team had 358 yards. Duke actually had a better day in terms of yards per carry as their 6.4 easily topped the Panthers' 5.5.
Pitt has now allowed more than 50 points for the second consecutive game and while 13 of Duke's came in overtime, the defense was incredibly weak in the overtime sessions, allowing two relatively easy Blue Devils touchdowns.
The Panthers' defensive problems were covered up quite a bit due to playing some bad offenses early on. Now that the quality has stepped up a bit, however, Pitt hasn't been able to stop many teams.
One really disconcerting thing, too, is that Georgia Tech and Duke are hardly elite teams. Both are very good in their own right but had their days of the season against Pitt. Duke scored 52 against Elon, but that was an FCS team. No FBS team gave up as many points to Duke as the Panthers did.
Ditto for Tech. Not only did Georgia Tech not score 50 points on anyone else, they only topped 40 two other times this year.
The Panthers have real problems on defense and while the calls for a replacement for Matt House were there last season, things are about to get significantly worse for him in the coming days.
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