Football Takeaways: Twyman and the defense prove true to hype, while the offense continues to disappoint


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman (97) posted a career-high six tackles and added 1.5 sacks, bringing his team leading total for the season to 4.5.

By Ben Bobeck, Staff Writer

So close and yet so far — Pitt football was within a yard of closing its rivalry with Penn State out with a colossal upset Saturday at Beaver Stadium, but came up short in a 17-10 loss.

Even with a disappointing loss, there is still plenty to take away as the Panthers close out their non-conference slate against No. 15 UCF and Delaware before heading into the home stretch of ACC conference play.

Pitt is still a one-quarter wonder.

As discussed in last week’s takeaways, Pitt has struggled to get on the scoreboard outside of the second quarter. Once again, Pitt put up 10 in the second quarter but was blanked in all others, including the much-discussed failure to come away with any points from a first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line. This is now officially a problem that needs to be addressed.

The Panthers dominated the time of possession in the second quarter with a total for the majority of the second quarter, including a long, 18-play, 85-yard drive that chewed up 9:15 off the clock — but resulted only in three points off the leg of Alex Kessman. After the defense forced a quick three and out, Pitt took eight plays to drive 78 yards down the field and finally punch it in with a Vincent Davis touchdown run, bringing its total time of possession for the second quarter to 11:40. That’s 76% of the period.

That offensive rhythm and domination of possession proved unsustainable through halftime. Pitt managed just 8 yards of total offense in 5:40 of possession in the third quarter. The fourth quarter showed a bit of improvement, but again, without scoring results.

Once again, it seems as though opposing defenses are fairly competent at adjusting to offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s game plan at halftime, and Whipple and the offense are unable to counteract those changes and continue the momentum developed in the second quarter. That’s not a recipe for success in any situation.

Kenny Pickett has found his groove … but the offense still has a ways to go.

By far the biggest question this season was how the transition from the run-first scheme of former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to the new, quick passing look under Mark Whipple would go over for Pitt and junior quarterback Kenny Pickett.

After a rough outing against No. 25 UVA to begin the 2019 campaign, Pickett has settled in rather well, setting a career high in completions and passing yards against Ohio before quickly setting new ones in both categories against Penn State, completing 35 of 51 passes for 372 yards.

A Pitt quarterback successfully attempting 51 passes in a game was nearly unthinkable for the last decade, but Pickett has proven he can be comfortable with that kind of reliance on his throwing arm.

But the bigger question, again, comes with the inability to translate the positive production through the air into points. Coming into this game, Pat Narduzzi was undefeated (4-0) when his quarterback threw for more than 300 yards. In those four games (2019 Ohio, 2018 Wake Forest, 2017 Rice and 2016 Clemson) Pitt averaged nearly 35 points, hitting the lowest scoring output at the game against Ohio this season.

The offensive output is there, but the efficiency and execution needed to convert that yardage gained into points is still lacking. With a matchup looming against the high powered UCF offense — ranked third in the nation in yards per game and sixth in points per game — the Panthers will need all of the points they can manage if they hope to get back to .500 before heading into ACC play.

Jaylen Twyman and the Pitt defense are for real.

If you were of the mindset that Jaylen Twyman’s three-sack outing against Ohio was an anomaly or a result of a matchup with slightly lesser quality opponents, please stand corrected.

The redshirt sophomore defensive tackle posted a career-high six tackles and added 1.5 sacks, bringing his team leading total for the season to 4.5. Twyman and the rest of the Panthers’ defensive front made Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford uncomfortable in the pocket all afternoon, with three total sacks, five tackles for loss and an additional three quarterback hurries.

The pressure upfront played a key role in containing a Penn State offense that had scored 124 points and averaged 515 yards per game this season. The Panthers were able to hold them to just 17 points and 389 yards.

Even without producing any turnovers on the season, Pitt ranks 37th nationally with 307 yards allowed per game and 42nd with 19 points per game.

With dynamic impact playmakers throughout the depth chart such as Twyman, linebacker Kylan Johnson and safety Paris Ford, the Pitt defense will be a dominant unit as the season progresses.