At the halfway marker, Pitt needs to take a breather | TribLIVE.com
Pitt

At the halfway marker, Pitt needs to take a breather

Jerry DiPaola
1770960_web1_1770960-f4666b02551e4bfdb385e1c168151236
AP
Pitt’s Paris Ford (left) is restrained by teammates as he shouts at officials after being ejected for targeting Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, against Duke in Durham, N.C.

Never in the history of off weeks (they are not byes, by the way) has a team needed rest more than Pitt does at the moment.

With three successful fourth-quarter comebacks in a row and injuries to key personnel at running back, linebacker and cornerback, Pitt (4-2, 1-1) needs to take a deep breath and relax.

After leading by 23 points late in the third quarter Saturday night at Duke before rallying for a 33-30 win, Pitt doesn’t play again until Oct. 18 at Syracuse. Pat Narduzzi said running backs A.J. Davis and Vincent Davis, who have missed the past two games, will return. He did not mention the projected status of injured linebackers Chase Pine and Elias Reynolds or cornerback Jason Pinnock.

But he said, “We’ll be as healthy as we’ve been all year.”

Meanwhile, here are five points to ponder over the next 12 days:

1. Paris Ford’s penance

Ford was ejected for targeting late in the fourth quarter, which means he can’t play until the second half of the next game per NCAA rules.

On a third-down play at the Duke 14, Ford appeared to lead with his shoulder, not the crown of his helmet, when he stopped wide receiver Scott Bracey a yard short of the first down. Ford passionately protested the ejection before he was escorted from the field. Duke scored a few minutes later to take its only lead.

After the game, Narduzzi did not want to talk about it. Asked if he received an explanation from the officials, he offered a terse “No.”

Which brings us to the second point.

2. Too many mistakes

It’s not often a team commits 15 penalties for a loss of 145 yards, throws two interceptions, loses two fumbles, blows a 23-point lead and still wins on the road.

The penalties bothered Narduzzi as much as the turnovers, and he said he expects better discipline from his team.

Still, Pitt’s video crew will splice together some select calls by the officials and send a tape to the ACC, which is what normally happens after a game.

“We’ll turn our plays in and go through the ACC protocol,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to help.”

That doesn’t mean he excuses his players.

“Sometimes, there are going to be aggressive penalties, but way too many,” he said.

In the past three games, Pitt has been flagged 36 times for a loss of 355 yards. That was after committing only two penalties at Penn State.

“Coach Narduzzi preaches (discipline) all the time,” cornerback Dane Jackson said.

It’s timeto start listening to the sermon.

3. A little help, please

Pitt continues to move the football effectively in tense moments, but it still puts the defense in bad spots.

The Panthers have allowed 16 touchdowns, including one on a punt return. Nine of the other 15 and five of the past six came at the end of drives that started in Pitt territory.

There is a lot of talk the defense might be Narduzzi’s best at Pitt. That talk isn’t outrageous. Pitt has recorded 27 sacks after dropping the quarterback only 32 times in 14 games last season.

The defense finally started creating turnovers, too, with two interceptions by Ford (one returned for a touchdown), another by Jackson and three fumble recoveries.

Ford is the first Pitt player to get two picks in a game since safety Ray Vinopal against Notre Dame in 2013. The total of six turnovers is the most since the 2011 Syracuse game.

Pitt only had two turnovers in the previous seven games, dating to last season.

4. Aerial show

Pitt continues to fill the air with footballs. Pickett attempted 48 passes against Duke, the most since totaling 51 at Penn State.

It’s almost like Pitt has no choice. The ground game averaged only 2 yards per carry.

If Narduzzi is right and his injured running backs are healthy enough to play at Syracuse, that will be a crucial step toward Pitt staying in the ACC Coastal race.

5. New-look offensive line

Did you notice a couple of new faces — guard Jake Kradel and tackle Carson Van Lynn – on the offensive line?

After it received a significant chewing out from Narduzzi during the game, the line will attract plenty of scrutiny from coaches during the off week.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pitt
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.