Virginia Tech defensive end J.R. Collins pressures Pitt quarterback Tom Savage Saturday.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Just three weeks ago, after a wild shootout win against Duke, it looked like Pitt's offense had the potential to be one of the most explosive in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the defense had significant concerns.
Now, two days after a 19-9 loss at Virginia Tech, it's clear that the defense has made major strides the past two games, but will the offense be able to right the ship?
"Defensively, I thought we did some really good things," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said after the loss. "[Virginia Tech] made some plays and a game like that, we all own that one."
The biggest concern for the offense the past two games has been the offensive line. The unit that was a pleasant surprise through three games has allowed 15 sacks in the past two. The run blocking hasn't been much better, with the Panthers combining for just 31 rushing yards in the past two games.
"The combination, it all goes hand-in-hand," Chryst said. "We were behind the sticks quite a bit. You lose some of your run game."
Five of Virginia Tech's sacks came on first downs, which allowed the Hokies to rush even more aggressively on ensuing plays.
Chryst said the sacks were not just on the offensive line, but also running backs and tight ends helping in pass protection, as well as quarterback Tom Savage holding on to the ball for too long.
He said the offensive staff needs to make sure they're calling the right plays to give Savage time and options to throw to.
"We've got to earn our keep too," he said.
"We've got to help him out. Schematically, we've got to make sure we're doing everything right there."
Chryst was also quick to praise the Virginia Tech defense, which, Hokies coach Frank Beamer said, missed chances for more sacks.
The Hokies rank fourth in Division I-A in total defense, allowing opponents 256.0 yards per game.
"It'd be pretty arrogant to think it was all us," Chryst said. "They've got a really good defense and clearly the defensive line, but you can also give credit to the back end as well."
Chryst's own defense, meanwhile, did continue to show improvement. After an opening-drive touchdown, Pitt held Virginia Tech to five field-goal attempts. Despite the dreadful offensive showing, the Panthers were only two scores down at the end.
"We did tighten up a little bit, but at the end of the day, as a team, we lost," linebacker Todd Thomas said. "We've just got to come back next week and, as a whole, just execute and do what we do so we can come out with a win."