#21 Pitt’s Defense Resists #24 Louisville 23-20
The Pitt Panthers football team wore special alternate uniforms in their Saturday matchup vs. the Louisville Cardinals. Those black and gray uniforms are a tribute to the city of Pittsburgh’s legendary steel industry, of which the NFL’s Steelers are named after.
Like the Iron alloy, the Panthers defense showed their strength and endurance as they held off a talented Louisville team 23-20 at an empty Heinz Field which continues to prohibit fans due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“All right, guys, obviously we played well enough to win today.” Said Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi “Kids did a heck of a job, played their tails off, 60-minute game. Last week we finished with the offense on the field, this week I was hoping to finish with the offense on the field but the defense was ready to go, we had to go, and obviously we did, and Jason Pinnock had a nice play again, interception to end the game.”
Like the Steelers legendary Steel Curtain defense, the Pitt defense were able to impose their will on the Cardinals, especially in the second half where they gave up only 3 points in the second half after giving up 17 points in the first half. Overall, the Panthers defense collected 3 interceptions (DBs Jason Pinnock, Marquis Williams and Damar Hamlin), 7 sacks (Led by DE Rashad Weaver’s 2.5), 12 Tackles for loss and 223 yards total yards allowed.
“Our kids know what to do. They’re confident in what they’re doing. They’re putting themselves in good position, and again, the credit goes to Paris Ford and Damar Hamlin. They’re those two safeties making those checks and covering up the receivers to the point where the quarterback has got nowhere to go with the ball.”-Said Narduzzi
The performance by the defense bailed out a Pitt offense that scored enough points to win, but didn’t capitalize to it’s fullest on several scoring opportunities, especially in the Red Zone. The points the offense couldn’t get, K Alex Kessman could as he rebounded from a rough start to the season and added 3 FGs in this game.
“Proud as heck of Kessman. We’ve got a lot of faith in him and he’s three for three today, and again, I go back to that’s why they call us “coach,” to get them right, and those are the details that great football teams do.”-Said Narduzzi.
But Pitt QB Kenny Pickett was efficient as he passed for 2 TDs (to WRs Jordan Addison and Taysir Mack), 220 yards and in interception. He also ran for 28 yards. Addison led all receivers with 77 yards on 7 receptions and Mack (in his first 2020 game) with 62 yards on 3 receptions and his 40-yard TD was a act of pure hustle as Louisville’s defense thought he was down and while they stood around, he bounced up and ran into the endzone.
Collectively, the running game rushed for 156 yards, led by Vincent Davis’s 47. Freshman RB Israel Abanikanda added 41.
All week, the talk had been about Louisville’s speed and they showed it on 2 plays: Javan Hawkins 75-yard TD run in the first half (finished with 78 yards total) and WR Tutu Atwell’s 21-yard TD catch from QB Malik Cunningham. But the Louisville offense were hurt by several dropped passes and a near-TD that was ruled out of bounds.
Cunningham finished with 107 yards (9-21 passing), 2 TDs and 3 Interceptions. He also suffered a very concerning injury late in the 4th quarter as he was carted off the field as his teammates and Pitt players both knelt in prayer.
The Cardinals (1-3, 0-2 ACC) will have a bye week before traveling to Atlanta October 9th to take on Georgia Tech.
This is the Panthers 2nd consecutive win vs. the Cardinals since both teams joined the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) as they also beat them 45-34 in 2015. The last time Pitt lost to the Cardinals was in 2013, 43-35 when Pitt had already joined the ACC while Cardinals were still in the Big East Conference.
Pitt is now 3-0 (2-0 ACC) and will host NC State next Saturday. Since 1990, Pitt has only started a football season 3-0 four times, the last time being under former head coach Paul Chryst in 2014. Their goal is to continue to display the toughness and resolve that’s needed as their schedule will prove to be more challenging in the upcoming weeks.
“Just happy for really our entire football team.” Said Narduzzi “They just continue to fight and find different ways to win football games, and that’s what good teams do. Doesn’t matter if we don’t get a 1st down. Doesn’t matter.”
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