Pitt must watch Wolfpack’s Chubb
N.C. State star DE could be problem for QB DiNucci
Pitt football already has faced the best running back and best wide receiver in Football Bowl Subdivision, so why not take a crack at the best defensive end, too?
There’s not much argument that Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley and Oklahoma State wideout James Washington wear the crowns at their positions, and the same can be said for Bradley Chubb, a senior 6-foot-4, 275-pound pass-rushing juggernaut for No. 20-ranked N.C. State.
Ben DiNucci, who will start Saturday for Pitt at quarterback, was in front of a TV watching Chubb wreak havoc Oct. 5 when the Wolfpack took down then-No. 17 Louisville, led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson under center.
“He’s got a very good motor, he’s pretty big. … Lamar was running back there a little bit,” DiNucci said of Chubb. “So I’m gonna be prepared for whatever comes my way Saturday. I have full trust in the line and the running backs to make the right calls up front, get their protection squared up.”
The thing about Chubb is that even if your protection scheme is picture-perfect and executed to a T, he might just plow right through you anyway. On the season, he has 35 tackles, 14 for a loss (second most in the FBS) and 6.5 sacks (tied for third in FBS). In the Louisville game, even against the electric Jackson, Chubb came away with six tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.
N.C. State’s front seven is considered one of the best in FBS, and its defensive line even more elite, but Chubb stands out above the rest. He has at least a half-sack in every game since the season opener against South Carolina, the Wolfpack’s only loss, and he has brought down the quarterback five times in three ACC games.
“We’ll do some different things to kinda contain him and the rest of those guys up front, and then we’ll try to attack their weaknesses in whatever ways that we can,” DiNucci said. “Obviously, they’re a top-25 team for a reason; they’re good, so we’re gonna have to execute pretty well on Saturday.”
Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson pointed out that N.C. State’s defense has allowed 296.3 passing yards per game, so Chubb’s presence hasn’t completely derailed some opposing quarterbacks. But while Watson wants his new starting quarterback to be more comfortable in the pocket, he said this week, the key for DiNucci is to get rid of the ball fast to neutralize the pass rush.
He also will have to keep his head on a swivel, as Chubb and company will be a major test for Pitt’s offensive line to keep DiNucci off the turf. Left tackle Brian O’Neill certainly will have his hands full, but so might whoever starts at right tackle, because Chubb will rush from both sides of the field.
“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s talented. There’s no shying away from that,” O’Neill said. “I know it, our offensive line knows it; he’s a great player. Probably the best defensive end I will have played to this point in my career.”
That’s lofty praise, and O’Neill carried it further in discussing the N.C. State defensive line as a whole, saying it’s the best Pitt has seen this year. A redshirt junior who matched up with eventual national champion Clemson, O’Neill said the unit he’ll square off with Saturday actually might be the best he has ever faced.
“They’re right up there, for sure,” O’Neill said. “I know Clemson was really talented up front, and these guys are up there. In the top two or three, for sure.”
And when it comes to defensive players in college football this year, Chubb might be No. 1.
N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb might be the best defensive end in college football, recording 6.5 sacks, tied for third in FBS, and 35 tackles, 14 for a loss, second in FBS.