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Pitt defense solid against Penn State despite scoreboard

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Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Pitt fell to Penn State, 33-14. Typically, allowing 33 points in a game doesn't merit much congratulations. But while the Panthers' defense wasn't perfect this weekend, they were remarkably solid in a tough matchup.

The Pitt defense was relatively strong despite the scoreboard. Penn State did manage 33 points (31 given up by the defense as two were the result of a safety), but more than half of them came on short fields.

The Nittany Lions' first score required virtually no work at all. After a Max Browne interception, Penn State was set up on Pitt's 8-yard line and needed little effort to jump out to a 7-0 lead.

In the third quarter, Pitt was dealt terrible field position after Quadree Henderson caught a punt using a fair catch on the 5-yard line. That wound up being an awful mistake and after a punt of their own, Penn State secured the ball on the Pitt 46-yard line, where blown coverage gave up a 46-yard strike for a touchdown.

And after poor special teams coverage, Saquon Barkley managed a 32-yard return and a personal foul gave the Nittany Lions the ball on the Pitt 40-yard line. The defense held them there to a field goal.

In all, 17 Penn State points were the result of starting with the ball in Pitt territory. And even the Nittany Lions' other offensive points were on short fields, too. On their other two touchdowns, they started on their own 38-yard line and their own 44-yard lines. Pitt, conversely, had seven drives start inside their own 20-yard line and three, inside their 10-yard line.

Penn State was also forced to punt six times - three of which, they went three and out mustering nothing on offense.

The Panthers' defense certainly could have done a few more things. They had only one sack on the day and the lone turnover they forced was an interception that came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. And it would have been nice to hold Penn State more field goals and less touchdowns. However, given the Nittany Lions' firepower on offense and the field position they enjoyed, they did an above average job of keeping the scoring down.

The jury will still be out on a pass defense that was downright miserable last year. But on Saturday, the defense turned in a fine performance.

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