Louisville is 'key game' for Pitt
If fans can sharpen their pencils and do enough math, they can figure a way for Pitt (2-3, 0-2) to win the Big East championship, even if the Panthers lose to Louisville on Saturday at Heinz Field.
But history and logic tell a different story: Lose and forget about it.
In the 21 seasons of Big East football, the champion never has lost three conference games. In fact, the champ has lost twice in only four seasons, and each time co-winners were involved.
“With a 12-game schedule, anything is pretty much a must-win,” said senior defensive back Andrew Taglianetti said. “We are in the hole, 0-2. This is a key game. It's going to be a challenge, but I think it's a game we have to go out and win.”
Pitt appeared to be a title contender before snapping a two-game winning streak last week in a 14-13 loss at Syracuse. That game was disappointing for the Panthers, who have lost 10 games in the past 1½ seasons — five by four points or fewer.
But the loss to Syracuse offered flashes of hope that Pitt's resurgent passing game can work just as well against undefeated and 18th-ranked Louisville (5-0) as it did in the Carrier Dome.
Pitt wide receivers Devin Street and Mike Shanahan often worked against Syracuse single coverage, and they responded with 14 receptions for 213 yards.
Coach Paul Chryst said Louisville has shown a similar look this season.
“Man, they feel confident about matching up with a team's receivers,” he said. “If you're in a pro formation, they can bring an extra guy down into the box (to stop the run) because they're not afraid to play man. I think they're a good defense. Schematically, it's very sound. Enough pressures to where you've got to be aware and communicate. And I think they have good players.”
Louisville coach Charlie Strong puts the pressure on the rest of his defense because he has so much trust in his secondary. Three-year starter Hakeem Smith, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, works at strong safety and Calvin Pryor (6-2, 210), a two-year regular, is an impactful free safety with a nation-leading four forced fumbles.
Cornerbacks Terell Floyd and Adrian Bushell have held up well in single coverage, but Pitt counters with the Big East's No. 2 passing game (303.2 yards per game).
The matchup is intriguing, but Pitt can't afford the mistakes and penalties that led to the Syracuse loss.
“We really have to play our best game,” Taglianetti said.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997. Kevin Gorman contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.