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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.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.