Through the first four games, Pitt surrendered 49 fourth-quarter points.
Against South Florida Thursday night, not only did the Panthers shut things down against the Bulls in the fourth quarter, but they also pitched a second-half shutout for the first time this year.
"We imposed our will," defensive end Chas Alecxih said.
Pitt was more physical with the Bulls than they had been with earlier opponents, but safety Jarred Holley explained that the Panthers were a lot more organized before the snap. That led to players being in position to make plays. "It really is as simple as we communicated things a lot better," Holley said.
"From getting the calls from the sideline quicker, to us making the calls and getting everyone lined up, it was a lot smoother of an operation and it showed.
"We really focused on trying to get lined up right and making sure everyone is on the same page before each snap. It makes a huge difference."
Holley said communication flow is extremely important because Pitt is learning a new system and also because there are a number of freshmen and other young players on the field.
"Once we got things organized, it worked out well," he said.
"We just need to continue to get better in this area and, if we do, we'll continue to improve as a defense."
Guard Lucas Nix injured a knee Thursday and coach Todd Graham said Friday that an MRI revealed no significant damage, but there was no timetable for his return.
That means Ryan Schlieper could be in the starting lineup for the next week or two.
Based on his performance against the Bulls, he seems up to the task.
Schlieper played most of the game after Nix was knocked out early in the first quarter and, by all accounts, played extremely well.
"First off, Ray makes everyone look good," Schlieper said in reference to running back Ray Graham.
"But I didn't have time to think about being nervous. I just tried to hang in there, and the guys were great, they helped me out.
"I have a lot to learn, though, but I felt like I learned a lot."
Senior defensive lineman Myles Caragein was nominated as a candidate for a scholar athlete award by the National Football Foundation.
Candidates for the award must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.
The class is selected each year by the NFF Awards Committee, which is comprised of a nationally recognized group of media, College Football Hall of Famers and athletics administrators.
Paul Zeise: email@example.com or 412-263-1720