Pitt defense still seeking identity
The game doesn't sound complicated. The defense finds the man with the football and puts him on the ground.
Simple? Not quite.
The trouble with the college version of the game is that the players are young, easily distracted and — many times — in a system that doesn't fit their talents.
Sometimes, the coach gets fired or leaves. Then, a new coach with new ideas arrives and is faced with several players he didn't recruit.
The Pitt defense, which holds the key to defeating Navy on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Md., has undergone many face changes.
Matt House is the fourth man to hold the title of Pitt defensive coordinator since 2010.
House replaced Dave Huxtable, who left after last season to join the North Carolina State staff. House changed the design of the defense from less man-to-man to more zone schemes.
“The guys are working hard to get the concept,” House said.
Pitt has won four of six games, but it allowed three touchdowns each in victories against lightweights New Mexico and Old Dominion.
Navy, which is sixth in the nation in rushing yardage (304.2 ypg.), won't be an easy offense to solve.
“You have to account for the dive, you have to account for the quarterback, you have to account for the pitch, you have to be aware of the play action,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said.
Pitt's defenders must do all that while trying to avoid Navy's cut-block tactics that can be a problem if you're not alert.
“I don't think you can ever get used to the speed,” House said, “especially the speed in which those guys are going to get cut.”
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds makes the offense work with quick feet, intelligence and a strong arm.
“He runs their offense well,” House said. “He's definitely not like some option quarterbacks. They can't throw the ball across the field. He can.”
Pitt can expect a heavy dose of run plays. Navy went to the ground on 93 of 106 snaps in a double-overtime loss to Toledo last week.
But Reynolds also threw for 233 yards with only 10 completions while defeating Delaware, 51-7.
“It's all because they mess with your eyes with play action,” House said.
Navy catches Pitt in a weakened situation, with defensive end Ejuan Price out indefinitely with a back injury. That leaves the position to Bryan Murphy, Dave Durham and freshman Shakir Soto.
House hopes fatigue doesn't become a significant factor.
“If you don't rotate guys, you get worn out,” he said.
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.