Pitt offense moving in wrong direction

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With every game Pitt plays, the Panthers get further and further from their 58-point offensive outburst Sept. 21 against Duke.

Their 21-10 loss Saturday against Georgia Tech was the latest in which Pitt's offense showed flashes of competence, but couldn't put together extended drives on a consistent basis. Even worse, the offense showed none of the explosiveness that appeared to be a defining characteristic of the unit early in the season.

Pitt's longest play from scrimmage against the Yellow Jackets was a 17-yard pass to receiver Kevin Weatherspoon in the second quarter. When the Panthers were trying to come back from a 14-3 halftime deficit in the second half, quarterback Tom Savage didn't hit a pass longer than 15 yards.

"We tried to take some shots on it, tried to push it down," coach Paul Chryst said. "But we had some called that went underneath on some. We certainly didn't get anything down the field, at least anything vertical."

The majority of Pitt's passing attack Saturday focused on short- and medium-range crossing routes, primarily to freshman Tyler Boyd. He finished with 11 catches for 118 yards and Pitt's only touchdown.

Boyd said while he's happy to take what the defense gives him, he and senior receiver Devin Street would like to try and make some more big plays.

"Me and Street, we love to go deep and make plays but we didn't have enough time to go deep all the time," Boyd said. "We just had to take what we did short. Once we caught the ball, we just tried to get what we could."

Pass protection was an issue for the Panthers again. It wasn't quite as dismal as the back-to-back games against Virginia and Virginia Tech, in which Pitt gave up a combined 15 sacks, but the Yellow Jackets got to Savage five times for losses totaling 32 yards.

Left tackle Adam Bisnowaty and left guard Cory King were out with injuries. Freshman Dorian Johnson made his first career start in Bisnowaty's place and redshirt senior Ryan Schlieper replaced King for the third consecutive game.

Savage said he had some words of advice for Johnson before the game.

"Go out there and play hard," he told Johnson. "If you let one go, who cares? I'll get up. It doesn't matter. Go out there, have fun and play ball."

The result was disappointing, but Savage and Boyd tried to find silver linings after the game. The Panthers were efficient on their first drive of the third quarter, which ended in a lofted 12-yard touchdown pass from Savage to Boyd.

After that score, Boyd said there was an attitude on Pitt's sideline that the Panthers "knew [they] were going to win," but it didn't pan out that way.

"It felt like we were rolling a little bit," Savage said. "We've just got to seize those opportunities and put points on the board.

"It's frustrating losing. It doesn't matter if we win, 3-0, our offense would be satisfied. We've just got to find a way to win. It's not easy, but we've got to do it."

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

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