Pitt wants 'cleaner' game from defense
If you just look at the final scores, you might be swayed into thinking the Pitt defense has been dominant in most recent games.
You would be wrong.
It's true that Pitt has allowed a total of only three touchdowns in four of the past five games, with the 45-35 loss to Louisville a significant exception.
But defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable sees a bigger picture. Such as:
• Quarterbacks shaking loose from a pass rush that has produced only 13 sacks.
• Missed tackles and botched assignments from a unit that entered the season with inexperience at key spots.
• The opponents' third-down conversion rate of 45 percent that is 96th of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
“We didn't play too bad last week,” Huxtable said of the 20-6 victory over Buffalo that was the second game this season in which Pitt did not allow a touchdown. “But we want to play a cleaner game. I don't feel like we've had a clean game the way we want it to be.”
Among the problems has been the inability to contain mobile quarterbacks, a problem that could resurface Saturday at Heinz Field against Temple. Owls quarterback Chris Coyer is second on the team and 10th in the Big East in rushing with 332 yards. Pitt had trouble containing Cincinnati's Munchie Legaux (117) and Buffalo's Alex Zordich (79).
“The big thing is we lost contain on the quarterback too much,” Huxtable said. “That ties in with being disciplined in your rush lanes. You can't rush blind.”
Huxtable is hoping to get more production from his ends, but T.J. Clemmings and Bryan Murphy are first-year starters.
“This is definitely new to me,” said Clemmings, a talented redshirt sophomore at 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds who didn't play football until his junior year of high school. “I'm still learning. It's definitely more mental than physical.”
Huxtable said backup end Devin Cook, a redshirt freshman who leads the team with two forced fumbles but hasn't played recently, could return to the rotation.
Meanwhile, the return of linebacker Todd Thomas to the lineup will help, but it may take some time for him to round into shape after he missed the entire spring and summer while recovering from knee surgery.
Thomas, who played the weak side for the first time, had 11 tackles against Buffalo but paid the price.
“Todd really played hard,” Huxtable said. “He made some mistakes. He missed a few tackles. Like Todd said to me, ‘Coach, my legs are killing me.' It's camp for him.”
Thomas said he gets inspiration from middle linebacker Dan Mason, who is recovering from a devastating knee injury.
“I'm at practice,” Thomas said, “and I'm like, ‘My legs (are hurting).'
“Dan says, ‘C'mon, we gotta work, we gotta work. We have business to take care of.' ”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7997.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Script is it: Classic Pitt helmet design to return
- Pitt puts focus to test in jumbled ACC Coastal race
- House has Pitt defense trending in right direction
- 3 Pitt football recruits plan to enroll early
- Discipline Pitt’s only option against Georgia Tech
- Pitt offense eyes healthy balance