PITTSBURGH (AP) -A Top 10 opponent in a nationally televised road night game is a challenge that would appear to be too difficult for a still-building Pitt team.
Sound familiar?
The Panthers (3-1) play at No. 10 South Florida (5-0) on Thursday night, their first game against a Top 10 team since they upset then-No. 2 West Virginia on Dec. 1.
That game, arguably the biggest upset by Pitt in school history, made the Panthers' offseason. Beating South Florida could make the Panthers' season, supplying a badly needed confidence boost for a program that often struggles to beat the teams it should defeat and only infrequently spring an upset.
Hmm, any parallels between Morgantown in early December and Tampa in early October?
``There's definitely a lot of people doubting us, going into this game against a high-ranked opponent, but we've been there before,'' running back LaRod Stephens-Howling said. ``West Virginia was ranked No. 2, but we were ready to play. We're not thinking about rankings right now. We're just ready to play another big game.''
raged by this.
A season ago, South Florida catapulted to No. 2 at midseason, only to fall out of the rankings with three consecutive losses. The Bulls won at Pittsburgh 48-37, but had trouble putting away a team that had lost six of eight.
``It's just like I told our guys against West Virginia last year - don't look at the scoreboard, just try and be the best team,'' coach Dave Wannstedt said. ``We're not going to get caught up in the rankings because it's just too early in the year to do that.''
Not many teams gain confidence from beating Syracuse, but the Panthers insist they did by rallying from an early deficit to win 34-24 on Saturday behind LeSean McCoy's 149 yards rushing.
``We're not where we need to be but we're inching closer,'' Wannstedt said. ``We haven't gone backward so as long as we keep moving forward and keep a good attitude, then I'll be happy. ... This will be a great opportunity this week.''
McCoy had three rushing touchdowns against South Florida last year, but the Bulls aren't letting anybody run against them this season. They haven't allowed a team, much less a player, to gain 100 yards on the ground, although their schedule has been relatively soft.
s per attempt.
``Billy has struggled a little bit on some of those short passes and I think that's because he's just anxious to get these guys the ball when they're open,'' Wannstedt said. ``That's a little bit of inexperience but he's only making his (sixth) start. He'll improve every game.''
South Florida's Matt Grothe, by contrast, might be the Big East's best quarterback.
Grothe threw for 259 yards and a touchdown as the Bulls beat North Carolina State 41-10 last week and has thrown at least one TD pass in 25 of his 31 career starts. He's third in South Florida career rushing with 1,713 yards.
``The style of offense they run, they spread you out and they're going to run some option with him,'' Wannstedt said Tuesday. ``That gives him more opportunities to make plays.''
Grothe's 80-yard touchdown run started the Bulls on a 17-point third quarter that gave them a 27-14 lead at Heinz Field last season. That lead allowed the Bulls to withstand a 23-point fourth quarter by Pitt.
``They want the ball in his hands,'' Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop said. ``He makes a lot of people look silly.''
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