Pitt Football Blue-Gold Game: Offensive struggles continue for Panthers
Jonathan Baldwin celebrates the only touchdown of yesterday's spring game -- a 54-yard pass from quarterback Bill Stull on the first series of the game at Heinz Field.
Pitt defender Nate Nix takes down running back Chris Burns in the Blue-Gold game yesterday.
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Pitt held its annual Blue-Gold game yesterday and judging by the results the Panthers' offense picked up right where it left off at the Sun Bowl in December.
And that's not a good thing.
There was -- at least technically -- some improvement from the bowl appearance. The Panthers did manage to score. In El Paso, Texas, they were shut out by Oregon State, 3-0.
Pitt scored just one touchdown yesterday and it came on the first series of the game on a 54-yard, play-action pass from quarterback Bill Stull to wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.
The second series, which was led by quarterback Tino Sunseri, ended with a 36-yard field goal by Nick Harper.
• Game: Pitt vs. Youngstown State.
• When: TBA, Sept. 5.
• Where: Heinz Field.
That was the extent of the offensive output as the defense completely dominated the rest of the scrimmage at Heinz Field. The Panthers managed to run the ball for only 16 yards on 37 carries and the quarterbacks combined to throw three interceptions.
It was certainly not the impression the Panthers were hoping to leave fans with, but there is no question it was a tough day for the offense.
"Last year we walked out of the spring game and we had scored a bunch of points and I remember saying to myself, 'We need to get better on defense,' and, offensively, I was very pleased," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said when asked if he was concerned about the Panthers' lack of production on offense.
"It will even itself out, this was one day and the defense didn't give up anything cheap. We have work to do in all phases and we know that, so I am not going to overreact. I will say, if we do not run the football better we will not be an effective offense. That is one area we need to focus in on and that will be a priority when we get to training camp."
Stull added, "We were playing against a darn good defense and we have a really good defensive line. I'm the quarterback and I'll take it upon myself, I have to make better decisions and give ourselves a chance to move the ball down the field."
One thing that makes a spring football game different is that when one unit struggles it can at least be spun that the other unit was dominant. That would be an accurate description of the events yesterday.
Pitt's defense, which should be strong again, was a big reason the offense couldn't get going. At times the defensive linemenseemed to be in the offensive backfield more than the running backs.
Two young players who stood out were defensive ends Brandon Lindsey (Aliquippa) and Shayne Hale (Gateway). They combined for three sacks, two tackles for losses, eight tackles overall and clearly made a strong case to be a part of the rotation at defensive end in the fall.
"The defense has a lot of depth," Wannstedt said. "One thing we learned today is our defensive line is a little ahead of our offensive line. I thought Shayne and Brandon and Tyler Tkach showed up for us. Obviously the young guys are going to be with us for a while, so it was great to see them improving.
"This year's challenge is for the defensive players to continue to make plays and continue to have that edge. Defense is based on giving great effort and if we continue to do that, good things will happen."
NOTES -- The Ed Conway Award winners (most improved players of the spring) were quarterback Pat Bostick and linebacker Max Gruder. "Pat came in and lost weight, worked hard and continued to make strides and Max continually strives to better himself," Wannstedt said. ... The attendance was 6,160. ... One development to watch -- guard John Malecki played some center when Alex Karabin went out with a knee injury. ... The freshman academic achievement award winners were wide receiver Mike Shanahan and linebacker Joe Trebitz.
First Published April 12, 2009 12:00 am