Panthers believe problems vs. Rutgers an anomaly not sign of worse things to come
Rutgers' Tim Brown pulls in a long pass against Pitt's Jovani Chappel in the second quarter Saturday.
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Pitt's coaches, defensive players and fans have spent the past week asking themselves this question:
Was the Panthers' 54-34 loss to Rutgers just a bad day for the defense or did the Scarlet Knights expose some flaws in the secondary?
There is no doubt the Panthers and the coaching staff believe it was simply a bad day.
"I think obviously that time will tell, but the plays [Rutgers] made on us are all plays that are very correctable. That's the thing I saw," said Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. "Actually they came back around at some again later in the game and we did some of the right things. And that is the thing that I tell the players, whether you make a good play or a bad play, you have to have a short memory.
"I thought in the second half, we got ourselves in gear to play. Obviously, when you have four plays when you give up right around 200 yards and 28 points it makes it tough to win; that's too many points.
"I told them it is inexcusable by them and it is inexcusable by me. But I say this again: The people involved, it is very correctable, it will be corrected, it was fundamentals."
Pitt middle linebacker Scott McKillop, asked if Rutgers exposed some of Pitt's vulnerabilities, said: "Not really. I think it was just a matter of some coverages and perhaps a few other things we could have done better."
Their theory about the defense will be put to the test tomorrow when Pitt (5-2) plays at Notre Dame (5-2).
The Irish have a strong passing attack led by sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen and the implementation of a no-huddle offense that features plenty of four and five-wide receiver formations.
Bennett said Clausen is one of the best quarterbacks the Panthers will face this year and has a stable of big-play receivers to throw to.
Last week, the Panthers struggled against Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel, who threw six touchdown passes. Bennett said Teel had a great day passing and it can be difficult to stop a hot hand.
"There is no excuse for what happened," Bennett said.
"But you have to give Rutgers some credit. They felt like they couldn't run the ball and so they tried to isolate some of our guys and take some shots down the field and it worked well for them."
Notre Dame is averaging 263 yards passing and 27 points per game and Clausen has thrown 15 touchdown passes. Clausen has two favorite targets, Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, who each have 31 receptions.
Tate, who averages 18.2 yards per reception and has scored four touchdowns, has eight receptions of 30 yards or more.
"They have three exceptional receivers," Bennett said. "We are facing a challenge, let's not kid ourselves. We are facing a team that is capable of doing it all. [Tuesday], we had a sense of urgency that I liked. We had much more of a sense of urgency than we did on Saturday.
"I think if you watch [Clausen], he's absorbing and he has a whip of an arm. They have some weapons. Our guys, it really didn't take them but one session watching them on tape to know this offense is for real."
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said earlier this week that he expects Notre Dame to line up and throw "60 times" after they watch what Rutgers did to Pitt's secondary.
The Panthers have spent most of this week trying to shore up their secondary
"If I had to guess, Notre Dame is going to try and mimic what Rutgers did to us," McKillop said. "I mean, if it worked last week against us, why not try it again this week. And that will be a challenge for the defense as a whole.
"We need to create more pressure up front and cover better in the secondary."
First Published October 31, 2008 12:00 am