Pitt needs clean-up effort to reduce a wave of penalties
Pitt’s margin for error will be reduced significantly Saturday when it faces No. 13 Penn State at Beaver Stadium. The game will be the first of two consecutive games against ranked opponents. Pitt plays No. 17 Central Florida on Sept. 21 at Heinz Field (kickoff 3:30 p.m.).
As the schedule gets more difficult, coach Pat Narduzzi becomes more demanding of his team to clean up the sloppiness from the first two weeks. Especially in regards to penalties. Pitt has committed 15 for a loss of 126 yards in two games.
“There are still things you’re disappointed in,” Narduzzi said Monday. “There are five illegal procedures. That’s 25 yards, OK. They’re drive killers.”
Narduzzi said he was surprised by the penalties because they didn’t occur in training camp.
“I remember complimenting the offense,” he said. “We do some hard cadence, and we worked the cadence pretty good on offense, where our guys don’t even move.
“So I don’t know what was going on out there, but I’m sure we got them all out of our system. We got five for the year. I don’t expect to see another one.”
He also said he will fix the special teams errors: two muffed punts by Maurice Ffrench (he recovered his own fumbles) and Alex Kessman’s missed field goals from 50 and 45 yards.
“Sometimes we think those 50-yarders are easy,” Narduzzi said. “Like what are we doing here? It’s a 50-yard field goal. Maybe we should just go for it or punt it.”
Narduzzi said the misses were tied to an issue with Kessman’s plant foot.
Deeper depth chart
Narduzzi added a couple more ‘ors’ to his depth chart, most notably at running back where the starters are A.J. Davis or Todd Sibley Jr. or freshman Vicnent Davis, who is second on the team in rushing yards (56) to A.J. Davis’ 114.
“It’s the Davis twins right now,” said Narduzzi, joking because they are not related. “But A.J. Davis has done a nice job, and Vince is a young kid that I’m glad we put him in at the end of that Virginia game just to see how he’d react, what he’d do.
“I mean, if he fumbled the ball in the last two snaps, he might not have played at all (against Ohio). But he’s mature. He’s loose. He doesn’t play tight. He doesn’t get nervous. He doesn’t trip and fall down.”
The other ors:
• Redshirt freshman Devin Danielson (Thomas Jefferson) is an ‘or’ with Amir Watts at defensive tackle.
• Senior Saleem Brightwell, who didn’t play in the first two games, has entered the competition at middle linebacker with Chase Pine and Elias Reynolds. Pine and Reynolds have each started one game. Reynolds was used on third down Saturday.
What was he thinking?
Narduzzi explained why he chose fourth-and-1 over third-and-5 on Saturday when he declined an offsides penalty against Ohio.
“You listen to your staff, and you feel pretty good about what you were going to do,” he said. “But you know, flip a coin.
“We had a play we liked, we thought, and that play wasn’t as good as you thought it was (a sweep lost 3 yards). So bad decision.
“But the great thing is we put our defense in a tough position, and they held. I think you take risks. There’s high-risk, high-reward when you do that, but, obviously, we had some faith in our defense.
“But I don’t want to do it to them all the time. Yeah, you could say it’s a bad decision. I’ll take it. My fault.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .