Pitt picked up their third win and first win in the ACC in a nail biting 24-17 win over Duke. Although this was their third win on the season, this was the first legit win for this struggling Pittsburgh team, considering their only two other wins came against FCS Youngstown State and Rice.
In this win against Duke, this Pitt team showed some really good things, however at the same time, the Pitt coaching staff left me overwhelmingly confused. There are three key takeaways that I gathered from this crucial win to keep some bowl hopes alive.
1.) Darrin Hall is an Absolute Beast
Coming into this game, out of all halfbacks used this season Darrin Hall was at the bottom in terms of rushing yards with only 108 yards on 31 carries. He more than doubled this, this past weekend as on his way to three rushing touchdowns he ran for 254 yards on 24 carries. Not to mention, including two of his touchdown runs went for 92 yards and 79 yards.
Now he leads the team in rushing yards with 362 yards on 54 carries and is also tied for the lead of rushing touchdowns with four. This play was good enough for him to garner the honors of ACC Offensive Player Week.
His play limited other backs that had been the main backs throughout this season carries in this game. Qadree Ollison only had 3 carries for 17 yards, Jordan Whitehead was limited to two carries for -3 yards, and Quadree Henderson to six carries for 24 yards. While in previous games, Hall had been the one who was getting less carries. His play certainly should give him the first string halfback role, however, with this coaching staff, who knows.
2.) Quarterback Situation
Some people will answer this with, “DiNucci won the game and last week they made the switch and Pickett couldn’t win the game.”
Well you’re not wrong, however, I believe it is pretty obvious that if it wasn’t for Darrin Hall’s game, the Panthers would have taken a loss to the Blue Devils. I don’t think DiNucci won this game by any means.
DiNucci didn’t play awful, however, it is pretty obvious they’re scared to give him too much freedom. I don’t disagree with this because if you do give him too much freedom he will make mistakes.
For example, when they gave him freedom on a play towards the end of the game when the Panthers were trailing, DiNucci threw a 49 yard bomb to Jester Weah that was picked off but, the refs made a bad call and said it was a completion and it wasn’t a reviewable play. If they would have made the right call the Panthers could have very well lost this game.
DiNucci is good for short passing plays, handing the ball off and his dual threat ability and that is why I don’t believe he is a bad quarterback by any means. I just don’t think he has the big play ability in him just yet to finish off these drives.
Which is the exact reason I was asking myself, why didn’t Kenny Pickett come in this game. You used his redshirt up and he is better than DiNucci, so why not get him experience. I understand the fact that he is young and DiNucci has more experience in this offense, however, DiNucci isn’t exactly lighting it up out there and the Panthers more than likely won’t even make a bowl game this year.
This game showed me though that until Pitt has absolutely no mathematical chance at making a bowl game, I don’t think we will see much of Pickett unless DiNucci plays absolutely awful. Which probably won’t happen. I expect him to continue playing at an average level and making some mistakes but not many, only because they won’t let him do things that would cause him to make many mistakes.
3.) Pitt’s Defense Looked Good
Pitt looked good on defense and really limited the Blue Devil offense. Going into the second half, the Duke offense hadn’t even scored a single touchdown. The passing defense did have a few slip ups on the two Daniel Jones touchdowns as they left Shaun Wilson and T.J. Rahming uncovered however, other than that they pretty much locked up the Duke receivers.
On top of this the rushing defense looked great. Not that Duke is much of a threat on the ground, but, only giving up 76 yards on the ground is very good, especially after giving up 248 yards just last week.
If this Pitt defense can keep this type of play up we could very well see them make a bowl game. At the very least, go into the final two games just needing a single win to make a bowl game. The Pitt defense will be a very crucial piece to watch the rest of this season.
Pitt looked very good this weekend on both sides of the ball. To make a bowl game Pitt is going to have beat Virginia this upcoming week, beat North Carolina the following week and either beat Miami or Virginia Tech in their following two games.
Beating Miami or Virginia Tech may be a strong feat to accomplish and it will be very hard. but, after watching Darrin Hall and the Pitt defense this weekend, if they can keep that up it will give them a much better chance at pulling a huge upset over one of those schools. Before I was saying there were very slim bowl hopes but now I think there is a little bit more than slim bowl hopes.