Central Florida at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh running back Vincent Davis (22) evades Central Florida linebacker Nate Evans (44) on a run during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh upset number 15 Central Florida, 35-34. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

PITTSBURGH – As conference play lingers on the horizon for the Pitt Panthers, one thing is certain: If the Panthers want to repeat as the ACC’s Coastal Division champions, they’ll need to score more points. 

Pitt barely defeated FCS opponent Delaware this past weekend, winning by a score of 17-14 with backup quarterback Nick Patti taking over for an injured Kenny Pickett.

Pickett has taken reps in practice this week, perhaps an indication that he could return to the field sooner rather than later. While it would certainly be good news if Pickett could play on Saturday at Duke, the Panthers still struggled to score in the games Pickett started.

“We need to be able to put up more points, really,” center Jimmy Morrissey said on Wednesday.

“We put up 17 points last week against an FCS team Now granted, Delaware’s a very good team. A lot of respect for them, they played their hearts out. But that shouldn’t happen.”

Pitt’s offense is averaging over 400 yards per game, but that production hasn’t translated to points. The Panthers are averaging just 19.2 points per game, which ranks 118th out of 130 FBS schools and they’ve scored more than 30 points just once.

Pitt’s inability to threaten in the ground game could be a contributing factor when it comes to putting points on the board. 

Last year with running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, Pitt averaged 228 rushing yards per game. So far this season, that number is at 126. 

Running backs coach Andre Powell said some of the decrease in rushing numbers can be attributed to the tough defenses the Panthers have faced this season.

“Everything we do, it’s all a chess game. If they do this, we’re doing this, and sometimes we match up better throwing the ball as opposed to running the ball,” Powell said. “It’s just all relative to what people are doing against us.”

Morrissey said the offensive line also bears some of the blame for the struggles in the ground game, which he said “isn’t even close” to where it needs to be. 

“We’ll take big responsibility for that, that’s all on us, but then also the running backs and tight ends too,” Morrissey said.  

Morrissey thinks finer attention to details would help remedy some of the running game woes. 

“It’s just the little things,” Morrissey said. “If we’re running outside zone to the right, we have to make sure our backside tackle takes the proper footwork to cut him off. I have to make sure I have my proper head placement. If I have backside head placement, and I get penetration up the front, it’ll cause an automatic cutback. 

“It’s all those little things, all five of us. And then if the tight end’s in the play, he has to do his job. It’s just making sure we’re one cohesive unit and we just haven’t put that on film yet.”

While Morrissey feels the offensive line needs to do a better job of run blocking, he thinks the unit has improved in pass protection since allowing 14 quarterback pressures against Virginia in Week 1, something he attributes to position coach Dave Borbely.

 

“That’s all credit to Borbs and then the o-line too,” Morrissey said. “The o-line, we got a room of guys that care a lot about this team. We take pride in our work. So yeah, I do think it has improved.”

Morrissey thinks fixing the mistakes on offense won’t be difficult, but he says it needs to happen now. 

“They’re little mistakes everyone goes through,” Morrissey said. “We went through them last year, went through them my freshman year. Just, you know, we don’t have much time left. 

“We’re getting into Week 6 and it’s ACC play.”

Amanda Filipcic-Godsey is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. She covers Pitt football and basketball for CNHI Pa. newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaFGodsey.

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