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Pitt Panthers Film Review: First Quarter

The defense was on the field a lot.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


Louisville blew a coverage early on in the game because one of the corners didn’t make it on the field until right before the snap. UofL is in their “money” package where they replace a Linebacker with a Defensive Back so I’m guessing someone didn’t get the message. This play ended up being the second longest pass play of the game for Pitt. Not the best start for the defense after having alignment issues last week.


I thought this was a soft call by the refs even though Dez Fitzpatrick does put his hands on the corners back. If he really pushed off, the corner would have actually moved. Dez doesn’t really use him to push off of but I guess it probably doesn’t look that way in real time and the ref who threw the flag is trailing the play on the sideline. This probably looks like a push off from his angle.

I do love the call from Louisville. They came out swinging and took a shot against single coverage. They probably should have done this more often.


Marlon Character had a good game and I loved the coverage on this play. We saw Anthony Johnson force a receiver into the sideline and we see Character do a good job doing so here as well. He gets width with the receiver and doesn’t bite on the double move because he is in a good position to see the Quarterback while staying with the receiver.

I also think it’s important to see Character and others play the football like he does here. We just haven’t seen that with any consistency over the last handful of seasons. This bad pass is forced by good coverage and a play on the ball is likely if it were a good pass.


Pitt tries a similar formation that Miami ran non stop last week but Louisville handles it well. They overload the formation with a Tight End to the twins side and a fullback in the backfield. UofL drops Isaiah Hayes into the box like they did against Miami but they have a corner behind him. The Linebackers shade over but Dorian Etheridge doesn’t go all the way to the edge like he did previously. They man up with the receivers and keep a deep Safety.

Louisville essentially decided to trust the front seven to handle the run here and it works out. Hayes holds the edge with Nick Okeke crashing the line to plug this up. The back bounces it outside and Hayes is there to make the play.


Just watch CJ Avery on this play. This is a perfect play by him and it forces a field goal. He makes this play because he takes an aggressive approach to the play. We’re seeing more of that this season and it needs to continue.


There was a good amount of this on Saturday and it’s a bit concerning because Pitt didn’t do anything special up front. Cole Bentley and Robbie Bell (could be Cam DeGeorge. Couldn’t see the number well.) just get split by the Defensive Tackle and he meets Javian Hawkins in the backfield.

I do wonder if Pitt made an effort to align in a way that would make it hard to combo block them. Bell has to get a solid block here with Bentley also getting the snap off and getting in front of this block. That’s not an easy thing to do but it really looks like they didn’t communicate here. Two guys to make sure one guy doesn’t get through shouldn’t lead to a tackle for loss, no matter how he’s aligned.


Pitt defends this perfectly. UofL has been decoying Tutu a lot this season so it’s not nearly as predictable what will happen when he goes in motion. However, you can see that Pitt’s Linebacker to the wide side takes a direct path towards the numbers as soon as the ball is snapped. Rashad Weaver also pushes Renato Brown back into the path of the play to force it wide. At that point its a numbers issue for Louisville as Pitt has too many guys to block and it goes for a loss.


This throw is a little high but Justin Marshall absolutely has to make this catch. He does everything right on the route and puts himself into position to make a play but he either sees the ball late or just doesn’t jump high enough. I’m honestly not sure what happens but he’s a big body and he is athletic enough to rise up to snatch this out of the air.

Plays aren’t always going to be run cleanly so Louisville needs guys to step up and be play makers. Blocks might be missed or passes may be off target. We’ve seen players adjust and make something out of nothing. They need guys to consistently step up when their number is called.


Louisville does a poor job closing down the cutback lane here. Dezmond Tell gets washed out of the play by a double team and Ramon Puryear gets sealed by the Left Tackle. That leaves a big hole to work with for AJ Davis. This play also highlights an issue at Inside Linebacker as Monty Montgomery looks to avoid this block as opposed to taking him on. Montgomery isn’t really big enough to take on a big 300-pound lineman. He does a really good job as a situational rusher because he can use his speed to close space and run down players. Handling the run right in the mix like this isn’t where he wins.


Pitt comes back with the same play on the very next snap. It looks like UofL has the same call but Puryear plays it much better. He gets around the inside of the Left Tackle and works his way back to the runner to stop him. Yasir Abdullah shuffles down the line to read any boot action and then crashes once he sees the handoff.

I don’t know if the call was exactly the same from Louisville but it looks the same to me and I think it’s important that they corrected the mistake from the previous play.


UofL has struggled on third downs but they get a hit on the QB here and Tre Clark is in pretty tight coverage. This is an aggressive call which I think most fans want to see from the defense. It just doesn’t work out.

What I would like to see is the corners allowing the receiver to eat up their cushion as opposed to backpedaling at the snap. As much as you don’t want to get beat deep, there is pressure coming on this play and the ball has to come out on time. That means the routes have to be around 10-12 yards. Bailing out and giving them 15 yards means you’re going to allow a lot of 10-12 yard passes to be completed while you try to close on the ball.

There are a few things I’ve seen from Louisville’s defense that I don’t feel like were normal at App State. This is the most glaring thing to me. The veteran corners Bryan Brown had in 2018 sat at 10 yards a lot and broke on the ball when it came out on time.


Really good to see UofL adjust on the fly to this pre-snap motion. Isaiah Hayes bails from the box and Russ Yeast walks up on the opposite side to play in the box or to cover the Tight End to that side. That leaves Marlon Character as a free runner on the edge and he does a good job to force this inside and to make the tackle.

UofL has had plenty of issues with their alignment and they had very real issues with motion last season. They improved a lot in this game and this play is honestly the most movement I’ve seen from the defense in the last two season. It’s good to see that it went well with minimal effort from a communication standpoint.


There’s an insane missed hold on this play that looks even worse than it did when I watched the game live. How this wasn’t seen right in the pocket is beyond me. this is a good pass rush by UofL that maybe gets home without the hold and Kenny Pickett is able to extend the play because of it. Really frustrating.

In coverage, Dorian Etheridge has to stay in his zone and trust that the pass rush will chase down this play. He steps up to chase the Quarterback right after getting hands on the back and he leaves him wide open to make the catch. There has to be a trust that everyone will do their job. It’s third down so Pickett gaining 20 yards from where he is to get the first down is not likely. Just stay back and force Pickett to actually run.


We have a lot more action to come in this season but the improvement in coverage from the corners has been really good to see. Tre Clark has been on campus for like two months and he’s easily the best cover guy on the team. This is a very tough play to cover and even harder to actually make a play on. He does both and he stops a very good back shoulder throw by Kenny Pickett.


Rodjay Burns has to do a better job here of knowing his depth. He ends up in no man’s land here when he should have the underneath zone to the middle of the field. Russ Yeast takes the outside zone while Dorian Etheridge picks up the inside receiver and runs with him. The corners are in zone with Clark playing outside shade and Hayes making sure the receiver isn’t coming inside before getting his eyes back to the QB. They also spy Pickett as he’s a threat to run.

It appears that Burns is the guy that didn’t get his assignment done on the play. If that’s the case, it’s another example of individual mistakes killing the defense. A better pass rush would be great here and it shares some of the blame, but if Burns takes this throw away they might force a field goal on this drive.


The run blocking was abysmal for most of the game but this may have been the most well blocked run of the season. UofL goes overload with Renato Brown at Left Tackle and he kicks out the end on that side. The decoy motion pulls Demar Hamlin out of the play with Pitt looking to stop the jet sweeps like we saw above. Adonis Boone just washes everything down inside with his block. You can’t ask for much more from him on this play. The hole is massive and Javian takes off.

I have no clue why this play worked so well while the rest of the run plays in the game didn’t. It might just be that they didn’t allow penetration and Hawkins saw a cutback lane and hit it hard. He said after the game that Dwayne Ledford told him this cutback lane would be there so that’s a great sign. Just not sure why they couldn’t replicate it at all.


Louisville’s offense accidentally put the defense in a bad spot with a one play drive but Bryan Brown and his staff put backups in the game and trusted them to get the job done. They did just that even though they had a couple of plays that left some things to be desired. This was not one of those plays. The coverage takes away Pickett’s options and the rush gets his feet moving. That leaves him with just a dump off to the back.

Robert Hicks has been working hard to find his way on the field and I’m not sure he would have been able to make this play last season. He dropped a bunch of weight since last season ended and you can see him do well to not only close the space here but also break down so that he doesn’t get juked. Just so nice to see a guy like Hicks stick it out and finally get on the field to make a play like this.


I believe UofL is in cover three here which means that both corners have a third of the field and a deep Safety has the other third. I also believe that Jack Fagot should have the zone directly underneath this route but he gets depth with the inside receiver and leaves a clear passing lane for Pickett. You can see that CJ Avery gets his hands on the inside receiver but still stays under. Fagot doesn’t do that and not only is the passing lane open but he’s too far away from the receiver to keep him short of the sticks.

The Free Safety spot is a liability in coverage. At this point you have to wonder when they will start getting young guys game action at least in situational packages.