Pitt football needs to be more aggressive

Over the past two seasons, Pitt football put its offense into safety mode whenever it took the lead. Instead of continuing to run the offense the way it had through the earlier parts of the game, Pitt becomes ultra-conservative, mostly running the ball and occasionally passing short. This leads to a lot of quick drives and three and outs, which do not give the defense much of a rest and give the opposing team more opportunities to come back.

The Panthers even went with conservative calls in situations when they were down, most notably against Penn State last season. Pitt trailed by seven and had the ball on the Penn State 1-yard line on fourth down. Instead of going for the end zone to tie the game, Pitt sent out kicker Alex Kessman, which was a questionable decision. Kessman missed the kick, making the decision look even worse and the Panthers lost 17-10 with their heave to the end zone falling to the ground as time expired.

If Pitt wants to contend with top teams in the ACC this season such as Clemson and Notre Dame, it will need to come out of the gates playing aggressively and stay on the gas through all four quarters. Settling for three and outs in which they simply keep the clock running will not be enough to fend off the more talented teams Pitt will face deeper into the season. The Panthers will need to put together scoring drives or at the very least long sustained drives throughout the entirety of the game.

On Saturday against Syracuse, the Pitt offense went into safe mode for almost the entirety of the second half and kept the Orange in the game instead of running away with it. The Panthers went three and out on three of their seven drives in the second half and had one drive that ended in a missed field goal on the fourth play of the drive. Failing to pick up a first down on over half of their second-half drives gave Syracuse the chance to make a comeback and kept the defense working.

The defense may be the best in the country, but it will not be able to sustain holding off top tier offenses over and over without any substantial rest period. Longer drives on offense will give the defense the time off the field it will need to maintain the high speed and intensity it plays with. If the Pitt offense can’t do enough to even give the defensive players the rest they need, the Pitt defense could play at a level much lower than they are capable of later in games and allow opponents to climb back into them.

If Pitt hopes to be successful this season, it will need to stop playing conservatively, especially with the lead. It will need to be willing to take shots down the field while holding the lead and not just run the ball three times in a row for little to no gain. The Panthers playing more aggressively on offense will give them the opportunity to grow leads instead of just hoping to hang onto them and will be crucial as they hit the tougher part of their schedule.

Photo by Heather Tennant | The Pitt News