Pitt's defense lost its potency

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In Pitt's two wins this season, and even in the close loss Oct. 5 against Syracuse, the defense had been dominant. Saturday, it was anything but that.

The unit that had allowed just two offensive touchdowns in its previous 12 quarters gave up six against Louisville in the Cardinals' 45-35 win.

The 45 points allowed are the most Pitt has given up since the 2009 regular-season finale, a memorable 45-44 loss to Cincinnati at Heinz Field.

"Our biggest enemy right now is ourselves," safety Jarred Holley said. "We just have to come out, execute our plan and move forward from there."

Just like in the Syracuse loss, the Panthers allowed an opponent to march the ball down the field on its opening drive. The Orange went 70 yards on eight plays, the Cardinals moved 75 yards on 12 plays.

Unlike the Syracuse game, though, Pitt's defense didn't stiffen up from that point.

The Cardinals also drove 75 yards for a touchdown on their first series of the second half, but didn't need 12 plays to do it. On the first play of the half, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater found DeVante Parker streaking down the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown pass.

"Those drives, starting the game and coming out of halftime, you've got to be ready to play," Holley said. "You've got to go out there, you've got to execute and get the ball back for our offense. We didn't do that."

Parker beat Pitt cornerback K'Waun Williams on the play. Williams left the Syracuse game early with a knee injury and was questionable to play this past week as recently as Thursday. Chryst, though, said he wouldn't have put Williams out there if he wasn't ready to play.

"You can do a lot of things call-wise, but in the end there are going to be some times when they're one-on-one and I'd take [K'Waun] again," Chryst said. "They made some plays and I give them credit for that."

Bridgewater threw for 304 yards and the one touchdown, the first time Pitt has allowed a 300-yard passer this season.

"He's a great quarterback," Holley said. "He makes all the throws. He does a great job of looking guys off."

It wasn't much better for the Panthers on the ground. Louisville ran for 156 yards and running back Senorise Perry reached the end zone four times.

After the loss, Pitt players said there was nothing they could do but get ready for Buffalo this week. That game might be the tonic for this defense, as the Bulls have lost four in a row and put up just three points Saturday against Northern Illinois.

"We're at a crossroads right now, halfway point of our season," Chryst said. "We've got to go forward."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG.


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