Look past Tino Sunseri’s 307-yard, 3 touchdown performance, Dion Lewis’s 130 yard rushing effort and Pitt’s 41 points and you’ll find the Panthers’ best defensive game of 2010.
At least that’s what coach Dave Wannstedt and the rest of the Panthers said after Saturday’s 41-21 win over Rutgers at Heinz Field.
Defensive end Brandon Lindsey put it rather simply when asked if Saturday was the defensive line’s best performance of the season — “By far.”
“(Rutgers’) tackles, we knew that they were susceptible to underneath moves so me and Jabaal (Sheard) just worked on that all week to see how it would work out,” Lindsey said. “It worked out pretty well for us.”
Lindsey finished the game with 5 tackles – 4 for loss – and 3 sacks. All together, the Pitt defense recorded 7 sacks, severely limiting what the Scarlet Knights were able to do on offense.
Rutgers finished the game with 203 total yards, a big chunk of which came on the final drive of the game against Pitt’s second-team defense.
“I think their smallest receiver might be 6-2,” Wannstedt said. “They’ve got big, athletic receivers and they go up for the football. We knew that we were gonna have good coverage, but, at the same time, if we didn’t generate a pass rush today it was gonna be a long afternoon.
“Brandon, stepping up, did a good job.”
Wannstedt had the same assessment as Lindsey on the defensive performance.
“I would say yes,” Wannstedt said when asked if Saturday was the Panthers’ best defensive performance of the season. “Pressure, stopping the run … I think we had seven sacks and I don’t know what they rushed for — it was probably the best overall performance (by the defensive line).”
Rutgers’ quarterback Chas Dodd struggled mightily all afternoon, rarely having enough time to survey the field and find open receivers. He finished the game 8-for-19 passing for just 62 yards and an interception.
It didn’t help that the Rutgers running game struggled to gain momentum. The Scarlet Knights totaled 95 yards on the ground and, outside of a few big gains, rarely made an impact play.
The credit goes to the men up front, Wannstedt said.
“They were literally triple-teaming (Sheard), and then you get guys like Brandon Lindsey to step up and have 3 sacks,” Wannstedt said. “I thought our defensive line today showed up. We didn’t blitz. I don’t know if we blitzed twice, maybe three times.
“We were playing coverage today. We were generating pressure out of the defensive front, which we do. I thought that made a huge difference today.”
A similar effort will be needed against Lousiville Saturday for another noon kickoff at Heinz Field. The Cardinals have had a lot of success offensively this year, averaging 30 points a contest.
But duplicating the defensive dominance from Pitt’s win against Rutgers is not what the Panthers have in mind.
Rather, they’d like to be even better.
“We can get better every week,” Lindsey said. “Watching film, executing in practice, taking what the coaches tell us every week — we can get a lot better.
“We’re real confident right now, but every week we just gotta get better.”
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog