|Turnaround or one-game anomaly? Pitt about to find out|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 25 October 2007 00:15|
Funny what finally winning a game will do for a coach's mind-set and his overall health.
Pittsburgh (3-4, 1-1 in Big East) halted a four-game losing streak with its 24-17 upset of then-No. 23 Cincinnati on Saturday, its first victory over a ranked team during Wannstedt's 2 1/2 seasons on the job.
``I felt better with about 25 stitches and two surgeries than I did a week ago (following a 48-45 double-overtime loss to Navy) when I had nothing,'' Wannstedt said. ``A win helps everything, including your Achilles and your knee.''
The Panthers ended a six-game Big East losing streak that dated to their final five games of last season. For the first time this season, they gave themselves a tangible reason to expect that a mostly young team may finally be turning the corner.
Before dealing Cincinnati its second loss in a row, Pitt had been outscored 215-132 in Big East games since beating Syracuse 21-11 on Oct. 7, 2006.
``Coming in here on Sunday nights, before this week, it was tough to watch film and sit through meetings,'' center Chris Vangas said. ``This week, I think everyone was looking forward to coming in and watching film and getting ready to practice.''
At least the Panthers were until they saw game tape of Louisville (4-4, 1-2), which has outscored them 90-44 during a pair of one-sided games since 2005. Louisville, which plays host to Pitt on Saturday afternoon, won 48-24 last season in Pittsburgh and 42-20 the season before.
Normally, the Panthers wouldn't be one of the bigger games on the Cardinals' schedule, but circumstances have changed that. The Cardinals are one of major college football's biggest disappointments, a one-time Top 10 team that has lost to Kentucky, Utah, Syracuse and Connecticut. Only No. 14 Kentucky is ranked.
Pitt is coming off its first solid defensive effort of the season, shutting out Cincinnati in the second half, but now must go against a Cardinals offense it hasn't begun to slow with Brian Brohm at quarterback.
Brohm, who might be the unquestioned Heisman Trophy front-runner if he played on a team with a better record, is 230-of-338 for 2,993 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. In two games against Pitt, he is 42-of-60 for 584 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
``The last two years, we could not even slow him down,'' Wannstedt said. ``The games were close for a little while but, in the end, we just could not hold up physically. We just couldn't hold up on the scoreboard.''
On the stats sheet, either.
This could be the Pitt defense's biggest challenge to date this season, slowing a quarterback who no other team has managed to shut down. The Cardinals average 376.5 yards passing, or about 200 yards per game more than Pitt is allowing.
``If you go down there and try to blitz this guy, he'll kill you,'' Wannstedt said. ``He'll tear you up. But you have to be willing to pressure him enough so he understands he can't just stand in there and do whatever he wants.''
Or exactly what Brohm has done against Pitt the last two seasons.
Still, Wannstedt believes that winning a game was exactly what his team needed before going on the road, where the Panthers have dropped four in a row.
``It's easy, as coaches and players, to suddenly start believing that you're not very good and you can't win a game and you can't go out and make plays,'' Wannstedt said. ``We were kind of at the crossroads of that juncture. ... Hopefully, deep inside, they've got that feeling back that they can go out and make some plays and win a game.''