Louisville Vs. Pitt: Panthers Move To 3-0 In Big East With Win

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Defense Keys Pitt's Victory Over Louisville

In a pre-game interview on 93.7 The Fan, Dave Wannstedt said the winner of the Pitt-Louisville game would be the team that ran the ball the best.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Both teams were able to run the ball a little bit, but Pitt won the game with its defense. Led by Jabaal Sheard, who had two forced fumbles and two sacks, the Panthers didn’t give Louisville a chance to get much of anything going.

Dom DeCicco may have said it best today:

“I think Jabaal is the best player in the Big East regardless of position. If you watch him, he dominates out there on the field despite going up against two or three guys. Without him, our defense would be a lot different.”

Sheard’s been a one-man wrecking machine this season. Today was just another example of how important he is to the team.

Louisville RB Bilal Powell was able to move the ball, averaging more than five yards per carry. But when he went down in the third quarter with an injury, the Cardinals’ anemic offense couldn’t put any more points on the board.

Pitt and Louisville both had trouble in the red zone. Pitt had three trips inside the 20 in the first half, but couldn’t muster more than six points. Louisville had two trips in the entire game, coming away with the lone field goal. The difference was that Pitt made other plays in order to win the game.

There were the two fumbles by Sheard – one was recovered by Louisville, but killed a drive before halftime. The second came when Louisville was marching down the field, still within striking distance trailing 13-3. When Myles Caragein scooped up the ball and ran all the way inside the Louisville 5-yard line, Dion Lewis scored a touchdown and that was effectively the end of the game.

Pitt’s first three drives of the game were also long ones. Each took up more than five minutes and on Pitt’s second drive, it converted two fourth down plays on the way to kicking a second field goal.

The best thing to come out of today’s game may have been the fact that Pitt now knows it can win games with its defense. The team scored more than 35 points in each of its four previous wins. Today, it was able to win a game against a good conference team even when the offense had a hard time moving the ball.

The Panthers now have a bye week before facing UCONN on a Thursday night the following week.

Stop over at Pitt blog Cardiac Hill for more the post-game report.

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Louisville Vs. Pitt: Dion Lewis, Ray Graham Score In Second Half As Panthers Win, 20-3

Panthers running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham scored touchdowns in the second half as Pitt beat Louisville Saturday, 20-3. The Graham touchdown was a 21-yard run as the Panthers opened the third quarter. The Lewis touchdown came thanks in part to Pitt’s defense – Jabaal Sheard and Cameron Graham’s sack forced a fumble by Louisville quarterback Adam Froman, and Myles Caragein recovered the ball and lumbered 56 yards to the Louisville 5 yard line. Lewis then took three tries and finally got the ball into the end zone.

The Panthers defense managed to shut down Louisville for the rest of the game, and the D sealed the deal in the fourth quarter – Aaron Donald’s sack knocked Froman out of the game, and on Louisville’s next possession, Dom DeCicco intercepted the first pass by backup quarterback Justin Burke. DeCicco also led the Panthers defense with 11 tackles.

Pitt moved to 3-0 in the Big East with the win, improving its chances of becoming conference champions.

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Louisville Vs. Pitt: Panthers Head Into Halftime Up 6-3

Pitt heads into halftime with a 6-3 lead, but the Panthers have to feel like they could have more. A promising drive just before halftime was cut short when Louisville managed to stop two Tino Sunseri passes in the red zone (neither of which were particularly likely to be successful anyway), and then Dan Hutchins badly missed a short field goal. Overall, there wasn’t much offense in the first half – while Pitt’s Dion Lewis and Louisville’s Bilal Powell have each rushed for 51 yards, the two teams have just 145 yards passing between them. Hutchins has two field goals, from 26 and 42 yards. Fullback Henry Hynoski suffered a mild concussion, and it does not appear he'll be back.

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Louisville Vs. Pitt: Panthers Try To Keep Momentum In Big East

Pitt will look to move to 3-0 in the Big East with a home win against Louisville. The Cardinals, like Syracuse, are another upstart team that is much improved from last year.

And like Pitt, Louisville will try to run the ball. Bilal Powell is arguably the best running back in the Big East, and maybe the conference's MVP. With five games still left to play, he's already broken the 1,000 yard mark and is having a year similar to Dion Lewis' 2009. The formula for the Cardinals' success doesn't just rest with Powell having a good game, however, as evidenced by his 153-yard effort against Kentucky and his 209 yards against Cincinnati - both of which ended in losses.

Louisville can't simply rely on the running game, and quarterback Adam Froman is having a good season as well. The Panthers are facing another quarterback who is playing mistake-free football. He's gone three games without throwing an interception, and over the past four, he's thrown nine touchdowns and only one interception. But unless they fall behind, the Cardinals likely won't be throwing the ball all over the field, as they've only thrown for 250 yards or more in three of their seven games.

The Panthers have been on a roll since entering Big East play and could be the favorite in the conference. Dion Lewis is getting back on track and could receive the bulk of the carries today. Jon Baldwin, too, is looking like the NFL first-round draft pick that he has been projected to be.

Pitt DE Greg Romeus is listed as 'out' for this game, according to the weekly Big East injury report. It was hoped that Romeus might be back before this week, but the coaches decided to give him some extra rest. With a bye week next week, I wrote over at Cardiac Hill that I thought sitting Romeus was the right move. Brandon Lindsey has given the team plenty of production this season and is doing fine since starting at defensive end for Romeus.

According to the report, RB Victor Anderson, who shares duties with Powell, is listed as questionable. Anderson is not the talent that Powell is, but averages more than five yards per carry and had a 1,000-yard season as a freshman before suffering some injuries the following season. I expect Anderson to play, but if he can't, that would be a blow for Louisville.

The bottom line is that Louisville is looking like a good team, but I don't expect it to win this game. It's on the road and Pitt is looking like the team to beat in the Big East. I've got to expect that seeing West Virginia lose again last night is fueling them a bit ,and as long as they don't let their foot off the pedal, they should win.

Prediction: Pitt 34 - Louisville 20

Head over to Pitt blog Cardiac Hill for more pre-game analysis.

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