Share This Page

Pitt relying on defensive-line depth

As Pitt staged a comeback against Connecticut earlier this month, Panthers nose tackle Myles Caragein paced anxiously along the sideline.

Caragein, a 6-2, 275-pound sophomore, couldn't wait to get his hands dirty. He wanted to mix it up with one of the best offensive lines in the Big East.

The Keystone Oaks graduate made the most of his minutes in relief of Gus Mustakas and Mick Williams. He helped the Panthers win the trench battle in the second half, enabling Pitt to erase a 15-point deficit en route to a 24-21 victory at Heinz Field.

"I love stuff like that, a tough, hard-hitting game," Caragein said. "I sometimes get anxious, maybe a little too excited. But I get focused during moments like that.

"I had one of my better games against UConn because I was able to get some pressures against a powerful team that has a lot of balance passing and running the ball."

Caragein, who has six tackles for losses and four sacks this season, didn't compile mind-blowing numbers - a sack, 2 quarterback hurries and 2 solo tackles. But his presence strengthens an already impressive defensive front that leads the conference with 33 sacks and limits running backs to 2.9 yards per carry.

More importantly, Caragein's gritty style reflects the tough-minded persona of a defense that overwhelmed a usually productive South Florida offense during last Saturday's 41-14 win that vaulted Pitt to No. 16 in the Associated Press poll.

The Panthers (7-1, 4-0) established control of the game, partly because Caragein constantly harassed Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels. The Panthers are likely to chase after two quarterbacks, Greg Paulus and Ryan Nassib, when they play Syracuse (3-4, 0-2) at noon on Nov. 7 at Heinz Field.

After the Orangemen, Pitt begins a grueling season-ending stretch against No. 5 Cincinnati, No. 20 West Virginia and No. 25 Notre Dame.

Pitt defensive line coach Greg Gattuso is convinced his unit's depth could be the difference down the stretch as the Panthers will try to disrupt the rhythm of some of the nation's top quarterbacks - including Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Cincinnati's Tony Pike.

And Caragein could play a significant role in Pitt's success.

"I'm ready to step in and make some plays," Caragein said. "We have things we still have to work on, and there are things that I need to react to quicker. If I can help the team in any way possible, we can win."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.