Pitt defense looking for turnovers, dunks
Pitt defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman still lis ooking for his first turnover this season.
But if he continues to hit the quarterback the way he has done it the first four games, his wait won’t last much longer.
So he better polish up those basketball skills.
Pitt’s defense wanted to do something special when it recovered a fumble or intercepted a pass. So the seniors got coach Pat Narduzzi’s permission to place a basketball hoop on the sideline. The player responsible for the turnover dunks the ball while teammates celebrate around him.
“We’re looking forward to doing more of those things and doing some trick dunks,” said Twyman, who has 5 ½ sacks and is fourth in the nation with an average of 1.38 per game.
But can he dunk?
By the time Twyman (6-foot-2, 290 pounds) got to H.D. Woodson High School in Washington, D.C., he was focused on football. When he played basketball, his game consisted of lots of rebounds, very few points and five fouls.
“I didn’t play in high school because I would have gotten into too many fights with somebody I tried to foul,” he said.
Defensive end Patrick Jones II said the team wanted to do something to celebrate turnovers but didn’t want to mimic Miami’s turnover chain.
“We decided as a defense to bring some juice,” he said. “Everybody has chains and stuff, so we decided to think of something out of the box.”
Pitt had no turnovers through the first three games before linebacker Phil Campbell III and cornerback Jason Pinnock intercepted passes against Central Florida.
Twyman said he barely noticed his sack total, even after the Ohio game when he became the first Pitt tackle since Aaron Donald in 2011 to record three in a game.
“I see it, but then again I don’t,” he said. “I try to just keep moving on. Coach Narduzzi always says, ‘Forget about what happened last week. What are you going to do this week?’
“So I have zero sacks this week as far as I see it.”
Jones said he plays with a similar mindset.
“The goal is not to be where we are now. The goal is to be the best,” he said.
Jones said defensive end Rashad Weaver, who is out for the season with a knee injury, plays an important role on the sideline during games.
“He’s like a second pair of eyes,” Jones said. “He can tell me, ‘Do this the next time’ and I’ll say, ‘All right, cool’ and I’ll go do it and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, it really worked.’ ”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .