Pitt's Deep Defense Takes Charge

The Pitt football team has a long way to go to regain respect for its defense, but if its debut performance against Eastern Michigan is an indication about what to expect in the future the Panthers are well on their way.

Pittsburgh gave up just three points against EMU, 39 yards rushing (1.7 per carry) and 145 total yards. It was so stifling a performance by the Panthers defense that coordinator Paul Rhoads had to nit-pick through video of the game just to find any mistakes.

"We missed two tackles overall on defense for 11 extra yards,'' Rhoads said. "And any time you do that at any level, you should be pleased about your performance. I think tackling as well as we did in that first week, you'd like to believe that a standard has already been set.

"And secure tackling, that's always the No. 1 priority for a defense. So, going from week one to week two, if we set a goal on the same type of standard, we'll be very pleased with how we've played. So, we're looking for the same type of performance from our defense this week.''

Fifth-year senior cornerback Kennard Cox practically guaranteed it.

"We have the talent to play like that every week,'' Cox said. "And if we continue to do what we know we can do, we should be successful. We want to get a shutout every week and just missed one last week, but I don't think we feel like we have to get one. So, we're not worried about our offense.

"They'll do what they need to do, and we'll do the same thing. We can only take care of ourselves. If we get a shutout, so be it, but we don't think we have to get one now. We have confidence in our offense, no matter who the quarterback is, so we'll just move forward from here.''

Rhoads noted that the Panthers will continue to rotate the defensive line, like it did against EMU, and play several different linebacker combinations as well to combat Grambling's speed. Over four quarters, this would give Pitt an edge due to its depth on defense.

"We had a play or so that we loafed on against Eastern Michigan, and we'd like to see the tape on a Sunday when we haven't done that at all,'' Rhoads said. "But the same play that we pointed out, Grambling had a play where three guys took off from Alcorn State, and it turned into a big play. So, we don't want one play where we loaf or have a lack of effort.''

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt also pointed out a deficiency on defense and believed that the Panthers could play a lot better on that side of the line.

"I thought the quarterback got out of the pocket one time, and we need to come up with more negative plays,'' Wannstedt said. "We had one turnover and one sack. So, we have to create more of them. You can get containment and make plays, sacks and force turnovers.

"You do that by gang-tackling and trying to get the football out. We've got to become a turnover-crazy defense. (And) on defense, if you're in the right spot and give great effort, you can play great defense. And that's the type of defense that we want to play here.''

Otherwise, that's just nit-picking.

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