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Panthers focused on communication

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said the Panthers spent their bye week trying to correct communication problems in the secondary, which has allowed 10 touchdown passes in the past three games.

"There are going to be very good throws and very good catches from the opponent," Wannstedt said. "The things that we've had a few plays against us this year are some mental mistakes."

Senior safety Eric Thatcher said the Panthers emphasized using hand signals to improve communication among the defensive backs in an effort to eliminate mental breakdowns.

• Thatcher, a graduate of Moeller High School, is the lone Cincinnati native on Pitt's roster.

"Never have I ever thought that I'd be going back to Cincinnati and for the magnitude to be so high," Thatcher said. "I can't wait to get home and play in front of the fans and my family."

• Pitt is paying special attention to its kick-coverage unit, as Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard leads the Big East and ranks fifth nationally in return average (30.3). Gilyard has two returns for touchdowns this season.

Digits

7 -- Ohio natives on the Pitt football team: offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh (Youngstown), junior cornerback Jovani Chappel (Dayton), senior left tackle Chase Clowser (LaGrange), freshman kicker Kevin Harper (Mentor) junior right tackle Joe Thomas (Cleveland) and safety Eric Thatcher (Cincinnati). Junior quarterback Bill Stull is from Poland, Ohio, but moved to Mt. Lebanon in middle school and graduated from Seton-La Salle.

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