By Matt Popchock

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Looking strictly at bottom line, Pitt has been unimpressive through the first half of its Big East Conference farewell, but as of late, its defense has been quite the opposite.

Senior defensive back Andrew Taglianetti, who contributed six solo tackles to a losing effort in Syracuse last Friday, believes that unit has matured significantly since Paul Chryst and his new coaching staff arrived on campus.

“I think guys are stepping up. I think a question coming into this season was some of the younger guys replacing guys from last year, and I think they’ve done a really good job,” he said after practice on the South Side. “They’re stepping into their roles, and doing what they’re supposed to, and I think it’s really starting to show.”

The Panthers are preparing for an early homecoming contest against No. 18 Louisville, against whom they’ve won four consecutive Big East meetings. In its last three games, two of which Pitt has won at Heinz Field, the defense has allowed only two offensive touchdowns.

Pitt ranks third in the conference–just ahead of Louisville–in terms of total defense, and has allowed the second-fewest passing yards of any Big East squad. That’s important, because, next to the Panthers’ Tino Sunseri, UL sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has the best passer efficiency rating in the conference (157.4), and ranks 20th nationally in that category.

“I was impressed with him last year, even as a freshman,” Taglianetti said, reflecting on a 21-14 Pitt victory in the first meeting between the two. “He’s athletic, he gets the ball where it’s supposed to be. In the future, I think he could be a guy to look out for nationally. He’s one of the better quarterbacks we’ve played.”

Taglianetti further discussed what has worked for Pitt defensively through five games:

Kickoff between the Panthers (0-2, 2-3) and Cardinals (0-0, 5-0) is set for 11:00 A.M. Saturday, with Panther Preview, featuring Gregg Giannotti, beginning at 8:00, on your flagship home of Pitt football, SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan.

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