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4-1-Zoo: On Second Glance: Pitt vs. Buffalo

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — After every game this season I’ll re-watch the action to further break down the game quarter by quarter.

It’s a series of posts I call ‘On Second Glance.’ So let’s start this thing off with a review of Pitt vs. Buffalo — a game in which we saw the Panthers grow in their system from the first snap to the last.

First Quarter

- Pitt blitzed on most if not all first downs. Buffalo struggled against it in the first half to the tune of 2 for 9 on third downs. However, the Bulls adjusted in the second half with quicker passes out in to the flat and short dumps in to the middle of the defense. It was effective, as Buffalo went 6-of-11 on third downs in the second half. It’s something to think about as Pitt’s defense looks to prevent its future opponents from running 90-plus plays a game like Buffalo did.

- Offensive tackle Jordan Gibbs was removed for Greg Gaskins because he was completely gassed as the first half progressed, and his fatigue showed as early as the second offensive possession of the game. He was pushed back a couple of times on that possession and, when running back Zach Brown scored the game’s first touchdown, all the other offensive linemen celebrated while Gibbs waited off to the side. Gaskins relieved Gibbs with 12:11 left in the second quarter and Gibbs came back in with 4:28 to play in the half but was called for a holding penalty on his second offensive snap. He saw little time the rest of the game.

- It’s interesting to think that Pitt’s defense was best when the offense was putting together more sustained drives in a 43-play first half, but the offensive line struggled to protect quarterback Tino Sunseri during that time. In the second half Pitt ran just 23 plays offensively and the offense was considerably better, but it was the defense that struggled, being on the field for 58 plays and looking completely gassed at times. There’s needs to be a happy medium here and I think, with more execution in the passing game, things might even out in the weeks to come.

Second Quarter

- Buffalo’s Ed Young dropped his first of two sure touchdowns with 5:29 to play in the first half. Many say that if he caught both touchdowns Buffalo would have likely won the game. I get that, but let’s be honest. If Sunseri would have completed deep balls to Mike Shanahan, Devin Street or Cam Saddler Pitt would have blown the Bulls out early. We can play the “if” game all day. It comes down to execution. Neither team executed well early on. Buffalo continued to struggle in the second half (see Young’s second drop with 5:40 to play) while Pitt turned things around. Pitt deserved to win the game.

- The Pitt offensive line really broke down in the latter portion of the first half — their first full half of game play in this system. The pass protection was poor and has to improve. Pitt fans should hope many of the Panthers’ flaws were a product of playing at coach Todd Graham’s fast pace for the first time.

Third Quarter

- Ronald Jones looks like he can be a special player in the return game. He had four punt returns for 52 yards, including a 22-yard sprint. That’s encouraging, considering the return game was, if anything, a disappointment with Saddler fielding punts.

- Pitt’s linebackers did a horrendous job of tackling early in the game and in the second half. Buffalo running back Branden Oliver continually sneaked through Pitt’s three-man front and blasted through arm tackles from the linebackers. This, to me, was one of the most concerning areas of play on the night.

- Completely unrelated to the play on the field, I’m glad I didn’t have to listen to Roscoe Dash and Soulja Boy’s ‘All the Way Turnt Up’ 400 times on every single defensive third down. The Pitt athletic department mixed things up and did a good job of keeping the students in to the game. I know people hate on Pitt playing in a pro stadium, but the university has done a really good job of tailoring the games to the students over the past few years.

- Todd Graham and Keith Patterson really tore in to the defense with about 4:30 left in the third quarter as Buffalo was progressing on its second extended drive of the half. After the game Graham noted his team should have “dominated much more” than it did. You’ve got to love that if you’re a Pitt fan. It’s exactly what you want your coach to say and think, and it’s something we never heard from former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt.

- Ray Graham deserves credit for a lot from Saturday night, but don’t miss the block that set up his second touchdown. He sprinted from behind the play and delivered a crucial block that sprung Shanahan for extra yards inside the Buffalo 5-yard line. It shows what type of player he is — he’s willing to sacrifice and just flat out works when he’s on the field.

Fourth Quarter

- Cornerback K’Waun Williams was everywhere Saturday night, including defending the run. He did a good job of blitzing and recognizing the run. Very encouraging performance from one of Pitt’s young talents.

- There was one wildcat formation on the night and it came in the fourth quarter, but didn’t develop in to anything. Ray Graham lined up at the quarterback position but his motion man got in the way of Ryan Turnley’s snap. Regardless, the play was whistled dead because of a false start.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com

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