Miami Hurricanes needs strong pass rush and red zone defense versus Pittsburgh

Oct 26, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; .Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; .Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The formula the Miami Hurricanes defense has used in the last three seasons in victories over Pittsburgh have been a strong pass rush and stout red zone defense. Miami has held Pittsburgh to one touchdown in nine red-zone trips in wins over the Panthers from 2018 through 2020. The Hurricanes’ defensive line has also thrived.

Miami had 30 tackles for loss and 13 sacks the last three seasons in victories over Pittsburgh. Panthers’ quarterback Kenny Pickett will be starting against Miami on Saturday for the fourth time in five seasons against the Hurricanes and the third time at Heinz Field. Miami has been successful defensively against Pickett.

With Pickett starting at QB against Miami from 2017 through 2019, Pittsburgh scored two TDs in six red-zone trips. The Hurricanes had 21 TFLs and sacked Pickett 11 times from 2017 through 2019. Miami generated only five TFLs and one sack against the Panthers in Pickett’s first collegiate start in a 2017 loss.

Pittsburgh is tied for 31st nationally in 2021 allowing only 35 TFLs. The Panthers also rank 31st allowing 11 sacks in seven games. Pittsburgh allowed eight TFLs and two sacks in their one loss this season, 44-41 to Western Michigan. The Miami Hurricanes are 23rd nationally averaging seven TFLs per game in 2021.

The Hurricanes are 58th getting to the QB averaging 2.29 sacks per game with 16 in the first seven games. Miami has to improve that number against Pittsburgh and Pickett. The Hurricanes have averaged seven TFLs and 3.67 sacks per game in the three starts Pickett has made against the Hurricanes in his career.

Miami has oddly been much better getting into opponents’ backfields in wins this season than in losses. The Hurricanes have 15 TFLs in their three wins and 34 in their four losses. Miami has five sacks in their three wins this season and 11 in their four losses. The Hurricanes have a clear formula for victory against Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is ninth nationally in 2021 converting 75.68 percent of their red-zone trips into TDs. Miami is 75th with opponents scoring TDs on 61.9 percent of their red-zone trips. The Hurricanes are a brutal 127th nationally allowing opponents to score points on 95.24 percent of their trips in the RedZone.

The Miami Hurricanes have to be stout again against Pittsburgh in the red zone on Saturday. The Panthers’ lone red-zone TD against Miami the last three seasons came after they returned an interception to the Hurricanes’ one yardline last season. Pittsburgh punched it in from there in a 31-19 loss to Miami.

dark. Next. Miami success versus greatly Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett

Pickett has emerged as a major Heisman Trophy contender this season. The fifth-year senior has completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 2,236 passing yards, 9.2 yards per attempt, 23 TDs and one interception. Pickett is in the top 10 in most major passing categories and top 20 in most.