Pitt notched a 21-10 win over Syracuse at Heinz Field on Saturday, and the offense was lackluster by most accounts. But what was far from lackluster in Pitt’s ACC opener was the Panthers defense, which came up with seven sacks, 13 tackles for losses, an interception and a fumble recovery in the win, and it was led by defensive end Rashad Weaver.
In his first game since the 2018 Sun Bowl, Weaver led all Pitt defenders, with seven total tackles, two sacks and three tackles for losses. Weaver had been sidelined for the entire 2019 season after suffering a season-ending ACL tear in training camp. The year before, he led Pitt in both sacks and tackles for losses, with 6.5 and 14, and although the Pitt defense thrived without him, Weaver was missed.
“I thought he looked outstanding,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said of Weaver during his postgame press conference. “I thought Rashad coming back, it was great to get him and Keyshon back, and they practiced all week. It was good to get both of them back. And I’m sure we’ll watch the tape and say there’s a lot of things he could have got better at, but he’s so smart and made a lot of plays today.”
The 6’5”, 270-pound defensive end actually brought down Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito on three occasions, but on the first sack, he got help from David Green, and on the second, he teamed up with Cam Bright. So each was counted as half a sack. Those two sacks came in back-to-back plays in the first quarter, pushing the Orange back seven yards and forcing them to punt on 4th-and-17.
Weaver’s third and final sack of the game came on a 4th-and-3 in the third quarter that Syracuse attempted to convert. That attempt failed, as DeVito got brought down by Weaver at the Syracuse 49-yard line for a loss of seven yards and a turnover on downs.
As Narduzzi alluded to, Keyshon Camp also saw his first action in quite some time, as he last played in Pitt’s season opener against Virginia in 2019. He also got into the backfield and logged a quarterback hurry, but that was the extent of Camp’s production on Saturday.
Aside from Weaver, Pitt got significant production out of Calijah Kancey, who had 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for losses, and Cam Bright, who was credited with half a sack and 1.5 tackles for losses and tied Weaver for the team lead in tackles. Deslin Alexandre also came up with a sack and recovered a Jawhar Jordan fumble in back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter. And in his second standout game in a row, Paris Ford came up with a sensational diving interception.
Two games into the 2020 season. Weaver is tied with Dayon Hayes for the team lead in sacks, as each of them has two, and the team has recorded a total of 10 sacks, which is tied with Clemson and Coastal Carolina for the highest sack total in the country. Last season, Pitt ranked second in the nation total sacks, with 51, and first in sacks per game, with 3.92. Now, with Weaver back and Hayes showing promise, Pitt appears poised to retain its status as one of the most aggressive pass-rushing defenses in college football in 2020.