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Notre Dame Football

Pitt vs NC State Notes

October 6, 2020

Pitt should have beaten NC State. They had plenty of opportunities to win the game. But they deserved to lose.

They only scored two touchdowns in five red zone trips and gave up way too many plays in the passing game. They are a better team, but didn’t play better than NC State.

This game was a big reason why I wasn’t buying the Pitt hype before the season. The defense is good, but only as good as they can be when their front dominates. They didn’t in this game, at least not when rushing the passer.

The offense is not good and even though they put up yards through the air in this game, they couldn’t put up 30 against a defense that had several injuries and is one of the worst in the ACC.

I think we learned a lot about Pitt in this game and not in a good way.

Pitt Offense

- Quarterback Kenny Pickett put up big numbers in this game. 411 yards and 10.5 yards per attempt is good on any day. He did a good job of escaping pressure and I thought he showed more of a willingness to thread the needle down the field than he had in previous games I had watched him.

As I mentioned, though, NC State’s secondary was hurting. They were down to some third stringers at certain points of the game and this isn’t the third team players at Notre Dame or Clemson. They lost their best corner before the season, Nick McCloud now plays for the Irish, and they don’t have anyone who looks like a future NFL player.

A lot of quarterbacks would have thrown for 400 against this group.

Pickett’s numbers were boosted by a bad blown coverage early in the game where they caught NC State with tempo. He hit a wide open Jordan Addison for a 75-yard touchdown with no one covering him. NC State literally did not have anyone lined up across from him.

- Take that out of the equation and Pickett still had a good game throwing the football and Maryland transfer DJ Turner emerged as a playmaker (8 for 186). That was the positive to take away for Pitt on offense.

We’ll see how much these numbers had to do with a depleted secondary or if this was a game where their passing game found more of an identity.

- Pitt’s red zone problems can be directly tied to the offensive line and the running game. They can’t move people. Virginia Tech and Wake Forest both ran the ball well against NC State. Pitt averaged 2.5 yards per carry and their running backs gained were stuffed (zero yards or less) on over 40% of their carries.

Pickett was the leading rusher on the day.

Pitt Defense

- Though Pitt’s defensive line handled NC State up front when it came to the run game (2.1 YPC), I was surprised to see the pass rush not be a big factor.

Was it an off game or was this them going against better pass blocking? 16 pressures on 47 drop backs (34%) isn’t bad, but it’s not what was expected. They pressured Louisville on 50% of their drop backs the week before.

Rashad Weaver continued to jump out with his play. He had five pressures and should be a contender for first team All-ACC. The other defensive end, Patrick Jones, was generally nullified as a rusher. He only had two pressures and disappeared for stretches of the game.

When it mattered the most on the final drive, the pass rush failed them. NC State had to throw and the rush couldn’t hit home. That really leapt out at me.

- 3-tech Calijah Kancey kept flashing as a run defender in this game and had a big batted down pass in the fourth quarter. He always seemed to be in the backfield.

- Pitt’s corners are good, but they were let down by the lack of pass rush. Overall they played well, but the times they got beat for big plays are going to be remembered even though they were in coverage so many times.

Marquis Williams was in good position, but got beat deep and committed penalties. He’s a smaller player and one who I would target on those contested catches rather than testing the bigger Jason Pinnock (though he did get beat a couple of times on back shoulder throws).

- The key to beating Pitt: NC State quarterback Devin Leary threw 12 passes of 20 yards or longer. He only completed five of them, but two were for touchdowns and they totalled 138 yards.

They dare you to take them and you have to attack them and complete a handful of them.

- I liked what NC State did with some of their RPOs attacking the middle of the field (a typically weak point for an aggressive Pat Narduzzi defense) and I have to give NC State so much credit for what they did on 3rd down.

Pitt came into the game allowing only 17% conversions. NC State converted 43.7% on 3rd downs and moved the sticks on both of their 4th down attempts.

- Speaking of attacking the middle of the field, tight end Cary Angeline caught all four of his targets for 60 yards, two of them for touchdowns. Despite having two veteran safeties, Pitt got gashed in the middle of the field for big plays to the tight end. This wasn’t getting beat one on one either. These were flat out break downs in coverage.

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