Pitt's Players and Coaches Have Done Their Part, Now It's the Panther Fans' Turn

Good teams play a perfect game, up to their potential, and win by a touchdown.  Great teams can afford to play below their potential, make a few mistakes, and still win by three touchdowns due to their greatness.  The Pitt Panther football team has been a great team for most of this season.  They have also started their ACC schedule 2-0 and have beaten the heads in of Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in back-to-back games on the road.  And they haven’t even played a perfect game yet.

Panther Defense Finally Steps Up

The past weekend, for the first time this season, the Pitt defense needed to pick up the offense.  The Panthers had grown accustomed to scoring 40+ points per game and hoping their defense could hold their opponent to under 30.  In some games this season, the defense hasn’t.  

The offense has carried Pitt to victory week after week mostly on the back and shoulders of quarterback Kenny Pickett.  To this point, the defense had not played a good game against a decent opponent, nonetheless a perfect one.  That is, they hadn’t before their game against Virginia Tech.

In the Panthers matchup against Virginia Tech on Saturday, the narrative changed.  The Panthers only scored 28 points all game, only seven points in the second half, and even Kenny Pickett had a stretch of three or four bad passes in a row *crowd gasps*.  Add to that the several drops from Panther receivers and it was clear the offense was not going to put up numbers like they had all season.

Fortunately for the Panthers, the defense finally stepped up.  Despite the odd “Panther Island” graphic that ESPN came up with to inflate Pitt’s pass defense reputation, the secondary has not played well this season.  The Panthers have often won in spite of their pass defense or due to opposing quarterbacks missing open receivers.  

However, on Saturday the Pitt secondary performed extremely well, holding the Hokies to only 134 passing yards.  It was a masterful performance by the Pitt defense overall, holding Virginia Tech to just 224 total yards and only seven points.  It was a near perfect game from the defense.

Offensive Line Performs Again

The narrative also switched on the offensive side for Pitt.  The offense still hopped on the back of a star in the making, but instead of it being Kenny Pickett, it was running back Israel Abanikanda.  Abanikanda looked like a four-year veteran, bouncing off tacklers and seemingly finding every hole the offensive line made for him.  He ran for 140 yards on 21 carries. It was the first game of the season the Panthers were able to depend on the run and make the passing game a secondary option. 

This was also a huge testament as to how well the offensive line played all afternoon.  I wrote about how the Panthers offense had one thing left to prove, and that was keeping Pickett clean against a good pass rush like Virginia Tech’s had proven to be so far this season.  Not only, did the Panthers O-line hold the Hokies to one sack, but they helped the run game outgain the pass game 208 yards to 203 respectively.  Pickett was also able to easily gain down and 1 plays for first downs behind great O-line pushes and through the use of QB sneaks.

In a game where the Panthers passing actually showed some issues for the first time all season, the run game and the defense stepped up.  It is exactly the type of team win Pitt and Pitt fans have been looking for.  Also, for all intents and purposes, any concerns about the offensive line are dead and gone. 

Pack Heinz Field

The Pitt Panthers players and coaches have now done everything they can to prove themselves to their fans.  It is now time for the fans to prove themselves to the players and coaches.  And they have an immediate opportunity to do so.

The Panthers play the perennial ACC champion Clemson Tigers at home this Saturday, October 23rd at 3:30 pm.  Now, and let me be the first to say what you will most likely hear over a dozen times leading up to Saturday, this is not the same Clemson team we have seen in the past.  They are struggling as of late, just nearly beating Syracuse and Boston College after losing to NC State in overtime several weeks ago.  However, they still have an elite defense, are 4-2, and are still the Clemson Tigers. 

It is time for Panther fans to sell out Heinz Field.  With the momentum this team has and the way they have been performing, the players deserve our in-person support.  In fact, at the time of this writing, the Pitt Panthers have the 8th best odds to win the National Championship and Kenny Pickett has the 6th best odds of winning the Heisman Championship per Draftkings Sportsbook.  Also, the Panthers are ranked 23rd in the nation in both the Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Poll.  I have not lived in a time where the Pitt Panthers football team had this amount of national attention.

At this point, the Coastal Division is the Panthers to lose as they are two games up on the 2nd place Virginia Cavaliers.  Pitt does have a lot more conference games to play than Virginia, but Virginia has two conference losses already.  An ACC Championship appearance at this point isn't just realistic, it's likely.  

It is time for Heinz Field to rock on Saturdays and not just Sundays.  The players deserve it.  Let’s #PackHeinz on Saturday and cheer Pitt on to another huge win over Clemson.