PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Pitt coach Todd Graham said Monday in his press conference that the Pitt defense missed out on a lot of turnover opportunities.
And really, you need look no further than the opening drive of Saturday’s 15-12 loss to Notre Dame to see the examples.
“We have dropped about six interceptions, really five in the last two games,” Graham said. “We’ve got to work hard on that.”
You should remember the first play of scrimmage for Notre Dame’s offense. It was a pass to wide receiver Michael Floyd, one in which he tipped the ball twice and absorbed contact by Pitt linebacker Tristan Roberts before pulling it in and running for 11 yards and a first down (pictured above).
The thing is, Floyd bobbled the ball as it was thrown behind him on a bad pass by Tommy Rees. Roberts went for the hit rather than recognizing the poor execution by the Irish. In turn, he was muscled off by a better athlete in Floyd and the result was a Notre Dame first down.
From the jump, that’s one turnover that wasn’t converted. Rees was slinging the ball recklessly all over the field in the first half, and two plays later he threw into heavy coverage in the flat to Floyd, another ball that could have been picked off — this time by Todd Thomas.
In the same opening drive, Greg Williams dropped a pass that looked like it was designed for him. Rees badly underthrew a ball that hit Williams right in his hands in stride — a sure pick 6.
“Greg’s hit him right in the hands,” Graham said. “He should have caught it. He was in great position, should have caught it.”
Once again, the very next pass from Rees was down the middle of the field and past the hands of Thomas on third down. That one was the least unfortunate, as it was an incompletion and fourth down.
“He’s going for the hit instead of going for the ball,” Graham said. “You just don’t get those opportunities a lot.
“We had the quarterback confused. We had him confused, we had him off-balance.”
Nevertheless, that’s three potential interceptions on the opening defensive drive.
Opportunities like these sprung up a few more times throughout the game. While Pitt did force two turnovers in the first half, it could have done a lot more damage.
Rees was 12-of-24 passing in the first half. He was horrible. He placed the ball in dangerous areas that screamed for turnovers. He consistently missed receivers and gave up on plays.
And Pitt picked him off just once.
In turn, the game’s complexion didn’t change drastically when it could have — from the start — to provide Pitt with enough breathing room to survive the second half.
“We had two takeaways, but we could have had at least two more,” Graham said. “That could have been the difference in the game.”
The offense has struggled, that is undoubtedly true. But the defense needs to execute at Graham’s high-octane expectancy level as well.
“You hold a team to 15 points you ought’a win the game,” Graham said.
Capitalize a few more times and that’s probably the case.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog