Football Takeaways: Pitt needs more offense, less mistakes

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Football Takeaways: Pitt needs more offense, less mistakes

Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett has tossed eight interceptions, all in pairs, this season.

Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett has tossed eight interceptions, all in pairs, this season.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett has tossed eight interceptions, all in pairs, this season.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett has tossed eight interceptions, all in pairs, this season.

By John Riskis, Staff Writer

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Turnovers, turnovers and even more turnovers. Pitt football once again floundered on offense. But, true to the season, its defense came to the rescue. The Panthers secured bowl eligibility with a 20-10 win Saturday, but need to revamp their offense after an anemic showing against Georgia Tech.

Turnovers continue to plague the offense

Pitt coughed up the ball three times — twice from interceptions by junior quarterback Kenny Pickett and once on a fumble by senior wide receiver Maurice Ffrench. This is not a new theme for the Panthers and the miscues almost cost them a win this week.

Ffrench’s fumble resulted in a touchdown by Georgia Tech on the very next play. Additionally, special teams suffered as redshirt sophomore Kirk Christodoulou saw his punt blocked by the Yellow Jackets. Fortunately, the defense stepped up and denied a Georgia Tech touchdown chance at the goal line.

Pitt must avoid these costly offensive mistakes if it hopes to achieve a divisional championship. They faced a weaker opponent this week, but these flaws will cost them games — like the one against Miami — if they aren’t corrected.

Slow-paced offense is a double-edged sword

When Pitt’s offense is running optimally, offensive coordinator Mark Whipple can control the clock and give the defense time to rest. But when it’s struggling to move the chains, a horrific reality takes hold — the Panthers can’t score points. It’s as simple as that. With no dynamic play calls, Pickett throws screen passes while the running game churns to no avail.

A new generation of college football offenses have moved away from the old-school format in favor of fast-paced tempo offense. But Pitt doesn’t need to change its whole offensive identity to produce. Rather, the Panthers must keep the ball on the field and convert in the red zone while also reducing turnovers. The defense has upheld its end of the bargain, but it’s all in vain if the offense can’t take advantage.

Nevertheless, there were some positives. Running backs Vincent Davis and A.J. Davis contributed to a total 158 rushing yards, with the former scoring on a 61-yard breakaway touchdown. Additionally, Pickett lead an eight-play, 67-yard drive that resulted in a well-placed touchdown pass to sophomore wideout Shocky Jacques-Louis. But a handful of highlights doesn’t excuse Pitt’s excruciating mistakes.

Panthers still remain in ACC Coastal contention

Despite dropping two games in the conference to Virginia and Miami, Pitt sits in second place in the division. Consequently, the Panthers still need Virginia to drop another conference game to repeat as divisional champs. A historically tight-race division has led to no repeat champions since Virginia Tech in 2011. Can Pitt break the mold this season and repeat? That will fall on its performance in the remaining schedule.

Pitt likely needs to secure victories in its final three games to find itself in the conference championship, which will prove to be no easy feat. The Panthers’ next three games include two opponents with an above .500 record.

To make it, the Panthers must execute on offense as well as continue their dominant performance on defense. Tied for first in the FBS for sacks, this defense has proven to be a legitimate wrecking ball. However, Whipple needs to respond on offense. Revitalizing this side of the ball will make or break the team’s season.

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