Longtime readers know, it will be years before I will ever get over what happened to Pitt in 2001 against USF. Actually losing to the Bulls at home. Giving a program in only its second year in 1-A its first major win, and first road win.
That game alone has forever colored my views and the approach to Pitt playing USF. I never take the Bulls lightly. With good reason. They have a very, very good coach in Jim Leavitt. Even as injuries, arrests and drug suspensions depleted their starters and 2-deep in the first half of the season, they kept winning. They adapted and adjusted.
So Pitt gets ready to go down to Tampa for the Saturday, noon game (Pitt game notes, PDF). It sucks that Pitt had to have the bye following a loss. The flip side, is they had an extra week to think about what they cannot do and yet another reminder not to believe the hype about themselves. As is typical for a coach, they bye week (especially after a loss) is about using practices to get “back to basics.”
â€œWe need to get back to doing what we did earlier, why we won,â€ Wannstedt said. â€œBut Iâ€™m not happy with where weâ€™re at. Nobody is. You always see yourself as having an opportunity to get better, but weâ€™ve got four games left, and we want to play our best football at the very end.
â€˜So, the key is to get back on track this week and pick up where we were when we started the season. … Weâ€™ve got a (third) of the season left, two games on the road and two at home, and thereâ€™s a lot that can happen in a positive way if we get back to the mindset that we had for Virginia.
â€œWe just have to get back to the basics, to get back to what got us six wins and what got us to play successful football,â€ Palko said. â€œAnd thatâ€™s just being sound, playing mistake-free football. It might not be flashy, but thatâ€™s what we need to get back to this week.â€
Junior wideout Derek Kinder, Pitt’s top pass-catcher with 33 for 596 yards and six touchdowns, agreed with his quarterback.
â€œThis last week has helped us go back to the fundamentals, because these last four games are big,â€ Kinder said. â€œSo, if we can go out and play the best games that we play, we can make a strong push down the stretch and go out this season with doing a good job.â€
Coach Wannstedt talked about the best player on USF this season, Redshirt Freshman QB Matt Groethe.
Their young quarterback (Matt Grothe) is good. He’s going to be one of the top guys. Right now he’s in the top three in almost every category statistically in the Big East and he will continue to get better. He’s a redshirt freshman, he’s a very good passer, he’s a very good runner with the ball in his hands, he makes a lot of plays, he’s made pretty good decisions and I think that’s been a real spark for their offense. Their running backs were hurt early on, now they’re healthy, but I think their quarterback has really been the difference in the success that they’ve had on offense. When you look at the statistics in most of the categories they’re very close to where we’re at as far as total offense, total defense, scoring and so on. So this will be a game that they need to win as bad as we do. They’re coming off a tough loss against Cincinnati and a week off as we had – and that should make it for an important ball game and a very good football game.
Since USF runs a variation of the spread, it will also be good practice for what the team will have to prepare to face against West Virginia. If Pitt can’t contain and control Groethe and the USF offense, the WVU game will be another debacle.
There’s been more shifting on the lines. Freshman Jason Pinkston is now backing up Left Tackle Jeff Otah. He had been at back-up right tackle when Chase Clower was switched over from RT to play for Otah. Redshirt Freshman Craig Bokor continues to bounce on both sides of the line. He returns to the O-line this week as the back-up to LG C.J. Davis after being moved to the D-line to provide some depth while some players were banged up.
Redshirt Freshman DT Mick Williams had shoulder surgery and is out for the rest of the season.