Pitt football to rebound against Ohio

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Pitt football to rebound against Ohio

Sophomore wide receiver V’Lique Carter (19) pushes for yardage against Virgina at the season opener on Aug. 31.

Sophomore wide receiver V’Lique Carter (19) pushes for yardage against Virgina at the season opener on Aug. 31.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Sophomore wide receiver V’Lique Carter (19) pushes for yardage against Virgina at the season opener on Aug. 31.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Sophomore wide receiver V’Lique Carter (19) pushes for yardage against Virgina at the season opener on Aug. 31.

By Michael Elesinmogun, Staff Writer

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Pitt football (0-1, 0-1 ACC) will look to bounce back after a demoralizing Week 1 loss to Virginia when it hosts the Ohio Bobcats (1-0) this Saturday. In the season opener last week, the Panthers weren’t able to get consistent offensive production and put their defense in tough situations, which led to easy scoring opportunities for the Cavaliers.

Entering this season, Pitt’s biggest question was how the revamped offense would look under new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Skepticism also arose on the defensive side after star junior defensive end Rashad Weaver tore his ACL in training camp, leaving Pitt without the anchor of its front seven.

Even though it’s enticing, you can’t make assumptions about a team after one game. Still, Week 1 undoubtedly added to the narrative about what the Panthers can be this year.

Pat Narduzzi put voice to the disappointment that was Week 1 for Pitt’s team and fans. 

“Obviously not what we planned from the opener,” Narduzzi said. “Disappointing start to the season. Obviously, it was a different opener than most.”

And that scheduling wrinkle might have contributed to Pitt’s poor offense. This season, the ACC decided to schedule a few conference games during Week 1 to help promote the new ACC Network. But on the football side of things, this provides a lot of challenges, especially for a new offense — mainly because in a typical season, teams open with a lesser opponent to try and work out some kinks with real game snaps. The Panthers didn’t have that luxury but have this week to continue to improve on both sides of the ball.

Narduzzi also noted in his press conference Monday that the Panthers beat themselves.

“Really when you look at it,” Narduzzi said, “it’s a lot of self-inflicted wounds as far as what we did, not what they did.”

The offense had opportunities to keep drives alive and score touchdowns but made silly mistakes. For example, a key drop from redshirt junior Taysir Mack in the first half was followed immediately by an interception from junior quarterback Kenny Pickett, putting the defense in a precarious situation.

The offensive line was also unable to give Pickett time in the pocket and once it finally sorted out the issues, Pickett’s internal clock was so rushed that he appeared scared to stay in the pocket.

Despite the difficult situations it was put in, Pitt’s defense was its strongest phase. Narduzzi raved about his young defensive studs following the game.

“Deslin [Alexandre] played really, really well,” Narduzzi said. “We were impressed with him, and obviously he’s the new end that was taking over for Rashad [Weaver]. He played well. Inside, Devin Danielson played well, young guy that maybe played 10 snaps … Obviously [Jaylen] Twyman has been in there. Haba [Baldonado] played solid. [Baldonado] played what we kind of thought he would, and we are very, very encouraged with Haba, as well.”

Unfortunately, this afternoon Pitt lost another one of its more experienced defensive linemen. Redshirt junior Keyshon Camp suffered a season-ending knee injury on Saturday. The defensive line, once thought to be a strength of this Pitt team, has been depleted.

Looking toward Saturday, Ohio is far from the cakewalk Pitt fans may expect. The Bobcats were picked to win the ever competitive MAC this season after a 9-4 record last year. The young defensive line will have to step up against a potent Ohio rushing attack that went for 278 yards last week. Tackling is going to be a huge factor in this game if the Panthers want to slow down the Bobcats. Narduzzi spoke to the challenges Ohio will bring.

“And then you’ve got Ohio U coming in here, who I think is a 1-0 football team, picked to win the MAC,” Narduzzi said. “It’ll be a challenge at 11 a.m. on Saturday, that’s for sure. Again, preseason MAC champion. That’s what they’re calling for. We get lucky enough to get them.”

To win on Saturday, the Panthers’ offense has to make strides. We saw a glimpse of how good the offense could be in the second quarter, when it seemed like everything was working right for Pickett and the rest of his unit. If it can build on that quarter, Pitt’s offense can become very exciting and if not, fans will get a preview of a long season.

Prediction

Pitt: 30, Ohio: 21

The Panthers’ offense has playmakers in sophomore running back V’Lique Carter and senior wide receiver Maurice Ffrench. Carter specifically didn’t have a good game against Virginia. Expect a breakout game from him and the offense as a whole.

Pitt’s defense will try and find a way to replace Camp’s production and build on a game that had bright moments defensively. An experienced secondary looks to continue to build on chemistry they are starting to form and Pitt will win by more than a touchdown.

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