Florida State’s front seven dominates Pitt


By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

For Paul Chryst, the game of football is a simple one at its core. 

“Most football games you play in, who controls the line of scrimmage is a team that has an advantage.”

Those were the words of Pitt’s head coach last week as his Panthers prepared to play the Florida State Seminoles in Pitt’s debut as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A week to the day after those words were spoken, Pitt found itself on the losing end of a 41-13 loss to the ‘Noles, while Florida State controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game. 

“We never made them uncomfortable,” Chryst said. “Big picture, they won the line of scrimmage.”

Pitt’s defensive line was unable to pressure redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, who completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four passing touchdowns. 

Winston not only had plenty of time, but also plenty of space, as his offensive line created gaping pockets in the backfield. And when Winston scrambled, it wasn’t by force of Pitt’s pressure, but more just a choice. 

When Panthers defenders did get within reach of Winston, Pitt struggled to wrap up the quarterback. Winston ran eight times for 25 yards, and scored on a designed keeper for the quarterback from five yards out in the second quarter. 

That same quarter was the one in which Florida State took control of the ballgame.

“I thought we had some opportunities to make some tackles for loss,” Chryst said. “I thought that they did a good job of protecting when we did have shots at the quarterbacks. They did a good job of making plays, extending plays.”

Pitt opened up a 7-0 lead after the Panthers went 80 yards in nine plays on the game’s inaugural drive. From there, FSU outscored Pitt 28-3 to take a 28-10 advantage to half time. 

But on the next drive, quarterback Tom Savage was intercepted and began feeling increased pressure throughout the rest of the game. While Savage was only sacked twice for a total loss of nine yards, he frequently had to leave the pocket and almost ran into danger when he was hit hard near the sideline.

Savage started the game 4-for-6 with a touchdown on Pitt’s first drive, but it went downhill from there, as Florida State adjusted to Pitt’s offensive attack. Savage finished 15-for-28 for 201 yards, a touchdown, and a pair of interceptions. 

On many of those incompletions, Florida State’s front seven — and sometimes just front four — flushed Savage from the pocket and forced him into off-balance throws or to simply just throw the ball away entirely.

But he doesn’t blame any of his teammates responsible for blocking for him.

“I think our offensive line did a great job,” Savage said. “Our tight ends, running backs did a phenomenal job of picking up blitzers.”

Instead, Savage says he just didn’t handle Florida State’s pressure as well as the rest of his teammates on the line of scrimmage.

“I take full responsibility,” Savage said. “I gotta get the ball out quicker so I don’t have to take those sacks.”

From the perspective of Savage’s lead receiver, Devin Street, Florida State just flat out executed well. Street finished with six receptions for a single-game career-high 141 yards.

“I think we were carrying them man-to-man receiver-wise,” Street said. “They did well against the run, and pressuring Tommy.”

When the game ended, though, Pitt hadn’t scored another touchdown since the pass from Savage to tight end Manasseh Garner with 10:10 on the clock in the first quarter. The reason, in the eyes of Street?

“It was just the pressure,” he said.