Tigers were not very defensive at Pitt

Tigers were not very defensive at Pitt


Tigers were not very defensive at Pitt


PITTSBURGH — Sooner or later something had to give.

All season, Clemson’s defense has been able to hold off the opposition and give its offense a chance to win the game. And while the Tigers continued to struggle in Saturday’s 27-17 loss to No. 23 Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, the defense was unable to get it done in the Steel City.

After holding the Panthers’ high-flying offense scoreless for the first 27 minutes of the game, Clemson yielded two touchdowns in the final 3:18 and never got back on track.

“Defensively, I thought we played a good quarter and a half to start the game,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after the game. “We had a big bust on the throwback, and they made a nice play on the sprint-out touchdown, and they come back with a two-minute drive and on fourth-and-seven they get for a touchdown.

“It was very disappointing. We did not affect the quarterback like we needed to.”

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett finished the afternoon 25 of 39 for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Clemson (4-3, 3-2 ACC) did sack him two times, but both sacks came in the first half when the Tigers were getting him off rhythm and dedicating the game.”

But that all ended when the Panthers (6-1, 3-0 ACC) got the football at its own 10-yard line with 7:37 to play in the first half. Pickett led them on a 13-play, 90-yard drive, which he capped with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Addison with 3:18 to go in the second quarter.

After going 1-for-5 on the third down on its first five possessions, Pitt was 4-for-4 on the tying touchdown drive. The Panthers’ finished the game 10-for-18 on third down.

“It was precision,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We lost leverage on routes. We let them run the ball, as well. We let him out of the pocket. They executed at a better level than we did.”

Starting with the first touchdown-drive, the Panthers did not punt the rest of the game. After their 13-play, 90-yard drive, the Tigers allowed a 9-play, 76-yard touchdown drive just before halftime.

The second half was not much better, as they gave up scoring drives of 11 plays, 49 yards and 11 plays, 64 yards. Both drives resulted in field goals.

Perhaps the most disappointing of all the drives was the Panthers’ last one. As they ran out the game’s final seven minutes and 56 seconds, following a 6-yard D.J. Uiagalelei touchdown that drew Clemson within 27-17.

“They just kicked our butts. It is as simple as that,” Swinney said.

Pitt finished the game with 464 yards, the most allowed by Clemson all year.

“I thought they were really precise,” Venables said. “We would make a couple of really good plays, then we would lose leverage on a route. We just had a lack of precision that it takes to beat a good team.”

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