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Pitt notebook: Panthers to face more triple-option

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Paul W. Gillespie | The Annapolis Capital
Navy's Obi Uzoma sacks Pitt quarterback Tom Savage for a 7-yard loss on the Panthers' last drive, allowing Navy to get the ball back with 2:17 left Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Annapolis, Md.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

Pitt has a winning record (4-3) after seven games for the first time since 2010, but the schedule takes a difficult turn this week.The Panthers travel to Atlanta on Saturday to face ACC Coastal Division opponent Georgia Tech (5-3, 4-2).

After that, it's Notre Dame (6-2), North Carolina (2-5, 1-3), Syracuse (3-4, 1-2) at the Carrier Dome and No. 7 Miami (7-0, 3-0).

The good news is Georgia Tech plays the same triple-option offense that Pitt prepared for and confronted Saturday at Navy. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is a former Navy offensive coordinator (1995-1996) and coach (2002-2007).

The bad news is Pitt couldn't stop Navy's offense in the fourth quarter of a 24-21 loss.

“Hopefully by next week, we should be able to get it,” defensive end Bryan Murphy said.

Murphy said he was surprised Navy gave Pitt so many problems after what he termed a good week of practice.

“Everybody was so confident. Everybody trusted each other that they were going to have each other's back,” Murphy said.

Thomas' return

Linebacker Todd Thomas was Pitt's leading tackler against Navy, with nine stops, a week after he was benched against Old Dominion in favor of an extra defensive back.

Thomas said he was impressed with Navy's energy level.

“They work hard. They won't stop,” he said. “Full of energy. I guess they wanted it little bit more than we did.”

Turning point

Pitt lost failed to capitalize on big opportunities when it was clinging to a 13-7 lead Saturday:

About seven minutes into the third quarter, Murphy sacked Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

The punt gave Pitt possession on the Navy 49, but what followed were:

• A 1-yard completion to tight end Manasseh Garner.

• A gain of 3 yards by running back Rachid Ibrahim.

• A false start by left tackle Adam Bisnowaty.

• A loss of 4 yards on a pass to Ibrahim.

• A punt.

“We had great field position, and we did nothing with it,” coach Paul Chryst said.

After that sequence, Navy scored on three consecutive, game-ending possessions (17 points in 14:28 after scoring seven in the first 45:32).

Murphy on the rise

Murphy has been one of the most improved players on defense since the beginning of the season. He has at least one tackle for a loss in four of the past six games. His only shutouts were when he was injured and didn't play against Duke and Virginia.

Chryst, who seldom singles out specific players for praise, said: “I thought Bryan Murphy played real well (Saturday).”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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