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Zeise on Pitt and USF Game

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Football: Pitt tackles big agenda rest of way

Monday, October 30, 2006

By Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pitt Panthers can all but lock up a bowl bid Saturday when they face the South Florida Bulls in Tampa.

The Panthers, 6-2, 2-1 in the Big East Conference, already are bowl eligible, but a victory in Florida will clinch a winning record.

Unless Pitt can upset Louisville or West Virginia in key conference games at Heinz Field in November, the Panthers will fill one the Big East's lower-tier bowl berths.

The game is important for the Panthers for a lot of other reasons. For one, they are coming off a disappointing, 20-10 loss to Rutgers and need to rediscover the form that resulted in four consecutive wins before that game.

This also is a Big East game, and a win would keep alive, at least mathematically, the Panthers' hopes of winning the conference championship.

South Florida is a team on the rise and particularly dangerous at home, but the Bulls are relatively young at a lot of positions, especially at quarterback, where freshman Matt Grothe is the starter. Pitt, however, will be favored to win, and so far this year, the Panthers have fared well in that role.

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, however, believes the Bulls are a tough matchup for anyone because they rely so heavily on speed, a great equalizer in any game.

"They have a couple of players on both sides of the ball who will be playing on Sundays," Wannstedt said. "They have a lot of talent. They have a lot of speed, and that's the thing that you see when you watch them on film. The other thing is, they have a young quarterback who is really improving every week. They can hurt you in a lot of ways."

The Bulls' speed is evident in the number of big plays they have made.

Grothe leads the Big East in total offense (239 yards per game) and is the conference's second-most efficient passer behind Pitt's Tyler Palko. The Bulls also boast the conference's leader in punt returns (Ean Randolph) and interceptions (Trae Williams).

South Florida has been reliant on big plays, however, because, like the Panthers, it has experienced trouble running the ball and stopping the run. In fact, it ranks fifth in both categories in the Big East. When the Bulls lost to Cincinnati, 23-6, in their last game, the Bearcats outgained them on the ground by 99 yards.

The Cincinnati game was on the road, however, but the Bulls showed they are a much different team at home when they nearly upset Rutgers. South Florida lost, 22-20, and tried a two-point conversion to tie the score with less than 20 seconds left.

Wannstedt said that game is more indicative of the problems the Bulls present.

"Against Rutgers, they were able to use their speed to slow down that running game, and then their quarterback got into a groove," Wannstedt said.

"The thing is, they can make so many things happen that, if you aren't careful, they will change the game in one big play."

The South Florida game also marks the beginning of the Panthers' rugged four-game homestretch. After the Bulls, the Panthers will travel to Connecticut (3-4, 0-2), then come home to play No. 3 West Virginia (7-0) and close out the season with No. 4 Louisville (7-0).

"We can't even think about that," Wannstedt said, when asked about the final four weeks.

"We have to worry about one thing -- South Florida, and we're going to have enough problems and enough of a struggle to try and win one game. That has to be our focus."

(Paul Zeise can be reached at pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720. )

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we slowed down rutgers running game?

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Yes, they slowly racked up 226 yards.   ::)

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we slowed down rutgers running game?

I'm sure it seemed that way to Wanny after he saw what Rice do to his defense.

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Imagine if we didn't slow it down?

I think Rice had one big run in the 4th quarter for something like 60 yards.  The rest of the game he was consistently gaining 4 or 5 yards each carry and falling forward on every play for a couple extra.  I dont' remeber many big gains, but lots of converted first downs.

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Quiet 226.

The only number that mattered was 22. I think if RU had a better passing game that 226 would've been huge, but it wasn't.

Palko could be a different story.

GO BULLS!

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This is a tough math-up for USF.  Pitt has come into RayJay before and spanked us.  Grothe is going to have to make smart decisions and not throw high like against Cinn.  We could easily lose this game if he is not sharp.  Spread offense is all about the QB.

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Oh, I agree 100%. I think we'll be able to score. It's just that if Pitt comes in and are able to balance their running and passing with our inability to stop third downs it could be a long afternoon.

On the other hand, if we can do the same, it will be one heck of a fun game. As usual, it comes down to controlling the line. The team that does that has the best chance to win.

GO BULLS!

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wannstedt acknowlegdes  the nfl talent on usf roster

very flattering comment

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Give Ponton the ball, let him get in a rythym and we will win this game.  

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