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Pitt Falls at Hands of Penn State

By Southern Pigskin Staff
SouthernPigskin.com
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Two of the biggest storylines coming into Pitt's season were the departure of OC Matt Canada and the arrival of QB Max Browne.

Two of the biggest storylines coming into Pitt's season were the departure of OC Matt Canada and the arrival of QB Max Browne. For the latter, Saturday didn't go his way. Max Browne started off the game with an interception on an overthrown ball and it didn't get much better for him from there.

Struggles with turnovers continued, as late in the 2nd quarter there was a miscommunication with a receiver, resulting in another interception. Browne was able to complete some throws as the game went on but was inefficient in the biggest moments of the game. Some of the overthrows could be attributed to the pressure he was facing while trying to pass and the coverage on receivers as well. But, with that being said, there was still a large amount of overthrown balls throughout the game.

Even though Matt Canada is gone, it seems like the Pitt offense is attempting to operate as they did underneath his leadership. The creativity of the Panther offense was very Canada-esc, complete with routine shuffle passes, end around, jet sweeps and all.

Although there were flashes, the attack lacked consistency throughout the day. The same plays that gave the Penn State defense nightmares a year ago showed sparks today, but never really burst into the flame that Pitt needed. Although they didn't work out today, this could still be an offense to keep an eye on as the year goes on and chemistry starts to build.

While on the topic of last year's game, Pitt's two Quadree’s made very big impacts in the Panthers win over Penn State. And with the graduation of Pittsburgh legend James Connor, Qadree Ollison needs to have a big season if Pittsburgh is going to make waves.

Today, Ollison's production was halted early in the 1st half as he went out of the game with a shoulder injury. After a few series, though, Ollison came back into the game and made his presence felt. Ollison was the most consistent part of the Panther attack, giving the Nittany Lion defense fits in the running game and finishing with 96 yards on the ground. Ollison also added 30 yards receiving.

The other side of the Quadree equation was one of the biggest headaches for Penn State last year. This year, Henderson had no where near the same kind of impact. Henderson is looked to in the Pitt return game and is a constant spark plug in the offensive gameplan. The Nittany Lions contained Henderson well today, though, as he finished with -5 yards rushing, 5 yards receiving and only 33 yards in the return game.

Even though Penn State finished with 33 points on the scoreboard, the defense played pretty well for Pittsburgh today. The Panther defense was forced into some bad positions early and was down 14-0 very quickly as a result. But once the nerves were settled a little bit, Pittsburgh started to bottle up the rushing attack of Penn State and force bad throws out of Trace McSorley.

After the quick start by the Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh held Penn State at 14 for the rest of the half. But midway through the third quarter, the dam broke for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and the Panthers defense started being gashed, ultimately leading to two Barkley touchdowns in the second half and putting the game out of reach.

Although it was a long and difficult day in Happy Valley for Pittsburgh, there's a lot of the season left and a lot of talent at the Panthers' disposal. Pittsburgh has to build on what they know they have: a good offensive line, very good talent at running back and receiver and a defense that can hold it's own. Let's face it, on the defensive side of things, while there are a number of extremely talented teams in the ACC, you won't be facing the Penn State offense every week. Honestly, the offense did most of what it wanted to do today. It ran the ball well, controlled time of possession and gave the Panthers opportunities to score.

While Pittsburgh was able to do all of this, the inability to convert on third downs (5-17 on the night) and score touchdowns in the redzone (1-4 on the night, 2 redzone FGs) ultimately cost them the game.

 

​Written By P.J. Zucco, Southern Pigskin Contributor