Second chance for Pitt's defense


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For most teams, facing Navy's triple-option offense is a one-week departure from the usual spread and pro-style attacks that populate college football these days.

For Pitt, its 24-21 loss to the Midshipmen Saturday also provided a preview for what they will see against Georgia Tech Saturday in Atlanta.

Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson coached Navy from 2002-07, and brought the triple-option offense to Georgia Tech with him.

Pitt succeeded in stopping the Midshipmen early in the game, holding Navy to just six first downs and a 7:42 time of possession in the first half.

In the second half, though, Navy's offense came to life, rushing for 158 yards and eating up the clock with long, run-heavy drives.

Cornerback K'Waun Williams said Navy began running some more up-tempo offense in the second half, which caught Pitt off-guard a bit.

"It did surprise me a little bit," defensive end Bryan Murphy said of Navy's second-half success. "I thought we practiced so great. I thought we were confident. I thought everyone was so confident, everyone trusted that they were going to have each other's back and everything."

The biggest difference this week will be the caliber of athletes running the offense. All but one of Georgia Tech's past five recruiting classes have been ranked in the top 50 nationally by Rivals.com.

Georgia Tech averages 315.6 rushing yards per game, fourth best in Division I-A. The Yellow Jackets have rushed for 394 yards each of the past two weeks in wins against Syracuse and Virginia.

Ultimately, though, the fundamentals to stopping the option stay the same.

"Honestly, it's very easy," Murphy said. "You're playing an option team. You've got to do your job. One play I have the quarterback, one play I have the dive. I tackle the dive, I tackle the quarterback. Sometimes he has the ball, sometimes he doesn't. It's very simple. You do your job, you win the game. That's it."

Despite the loss, Murphy said the experience of having already faced an option team will serve Pitt well against the Yellow Jackets. The Panthers will return to another practice this week full of cut blocks and emphasis on "assignment football."

"We've been practicing this all week," Murphy said. "We were just killing it every single day. 'You've got the dive, you've got the quarterback, you've got the pitch.' I hate to say this, but, yeah, hopefully by next week we should be able to get it. I think we should be OK."

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


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