Quarterly Report : Defense

Over the course of the last four games, Pitt has shown a dramatic difference in fumbles forced--creating turnovers in general--and pass defense.

SACKS
First Four Games: 10 sacks
Last Four Games: 14 sacks

Even when Pitt was struggling in the first four games, they were still getting to the quarterback. Outside of the Utah game, and despite the injury to Greg Romeus, the defense has been putting pretty good pressure on the quarterback all year. Jabaal Sheard still got to Miami quarterback Jacory Harris twice in the 28-point loss. He also got to Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist on the opening series of that game.

Sheard and Brandon Lindsey pace the Panthers with nine sacks and eight sacks respectively, followed by defensive tackle Chas Alecxih with four and a half sacks.

QUARTERBACK HURRIES
First Four Games: 20
Last Four Games: 10

It's actually a good thing to see quarterback hurries go down, and sack totals go up. Though the Panthers only picked up four more sacks in exchange for 10 less quarterback hurries, they are able to make more plays on the quarterback. Much like with tackles for losses, the defensive line is just missing out on tackles--Sheard's miss on Notre Dame quarterback Crist, where Crist juked him out, and eventually ran for a score. Interestingly of the 30 quarterback hurries, Sheard has half of them with 15.

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TACKLES FOR LOSS
First Four Games: 18 for 94
Last Four Games: 27 for 131

Again, thanks to the defensive line, Pitt was already getting some stops in the backfield. The scary thing is that they've been in position for more, except for missed tackles. The Rutgers game was evident of that. Despite missing a few tackles in this last win, the Panthers held Louisville to a season-low 103 yards on the ground.

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INTERCEPTIONS
First Four Games: 4
Last Four Games: 4

PASSES BROKEN UP
First Four Games: 13
Last Four Games: 16

The interception total is the same, but the timing of the interceptions in the second quarter of the season has been even better. Jarred Holley had an interception at Syracuse that ended any kind of momentum that Syracuse had. The Orange were trying to keep up with the Panthers--who were having a breakout game on offense--but when Holley made the interception, it was impossible at that point for Syracuse to come back. Gary, later in that game, returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown giving the defense a score. Dom DeCicco has had interceptions in consecutive games, including this past week at Louisville. His Louisville interception came late in the fourth quarter as Pitt was trying to close out the game. Though Pitt was having minimal success running the ball and getting first downs, DeCicco's interception was able to close out the game.

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FUMBLES FORCED
First Four Games: 2
Last Four Games: 8

FUMBLES RECOVERED
First Four Games: 3 for 6 yards
Last Four Games: 4 for 88 yards

Though they've kept up with their interception pace through the first quarter of the season, the forced fumbles and fumbles recovered have increased dramatically. Additionally, Greg Williams returned a fumble 32 yards against Syracuse, and Myles Caragein returned a fumble 56 yards. In both cases, the Pitt offense capitalized by converting touchdowns in the red zone--something the offense has struggled with this season.

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POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME
First Four Games: 22.8
Last Four Games: 15.3

RUSHING YARDS
First Four Games: 97 yards per game, 3.0 yards per carry
Last Four Games: 90.5 yards per game, 2.9 yards per carry

Though the rushing defense leads the Big East, and hasn' t allowed a 100-yard rusher all year, they've become even stronger as all the other areas around them--more sacks, better pass coverage, more turnovers forced. The run defense has been the strength of Pitt's defense all along, and becomes stronger as other areas show improvement and become factors.

PASSING YARDS
First Four Games: 244.7 passing yards per game, 11.4 yards per completion
First Four Games: 165.8 passing yards per game, 9.2 yards per completion

While the sack total has increased slightly over the second quarter of the season, credit the cornerbacks for coverage sacks--especially the last two games. The pass rush showed a slight sack increase, but based on the drop in yards per completion, number of completions, helped cut down the number of passing yards per game significantly.


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