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Pitt's Lewis looks to break free

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By John Grupp
Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010

Pitt sophomore running back Dion Lewis knows what to expect from New Hampshire's defense at Heinz Field.

"Eight in the box," he said. "Nine in the box."

Coming off a career-low 75 yards in which the Utah defense stacked the line of scrimmage, Lewis figures to remain the target of opposing defenders.

New Hampshire (1-0) likely will take the same approach when Pitt (0-1) welcomes one of the nation's top Division I-AA (FCS) programs at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"The whole focus is going to be, 'Stop Dion,' " Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "We know that. Trust me. We are not sitting around saying 'I can't believe that (Utah) had eight, nine guys in the box to stop the run.' "

Utah was devoted to stopping Lewis in the Utes' 27-24 overtime victory over Pitt at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday.

Lewis was held to 2 or fewer yards on more than half (13) of his 25 carries and managed only one run longer than 8 yards. His previous career low came against Navy (79) last season.

"It was pretty tough," Lewis said. "They brought a lot of guys in the box. They were pretty much trying to stop the run the whole time."

The 5-foot-8, 195-pound Lewis appeared to be a little more tentative than last season, when he rushed for 1,799 yards — No. 2 in Pitt history behind Tony Dorsett — and scored 18 touchdowns. Lewis said he was looking for holes to open behind an offensive line that was outnumbered by Utah's defense.

"I missed a couple of things," Lewis said, "but for the most part I think I did a pretty good job. I was just waiting for the blocks. You can't just run up behind your blockers and run right into them. Coaches were trying to set up my blocks a little bit, but sometimes the back-side pursuit got to me before I made a move for it."

With Pitt breaking in so many new offensive players, including a quarterback and three offensive linemen, defensive coordinators are going to force the inexperienced newcomers to do their job.

New Hampshire, ranked No. 5 in the FCS Top 25 Coaches' Poll, held Central Connecticut State to 86 rushing yards on 39 carries in Saturday's 33-3 victory. The Wildcats feature junior defensive end Brian McNally, a 6-3, 258-pound first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association pick, and senior cornerback Dino Vasso, a preseason FCS all-American.

"We are going to have to be somewhat better this week if we want to have any opportunity to win the football game," Wildcats coach Sean McDonnell said. "Pitt is going to run it, and they are going to run it big-time."

Wannstedt said the passing game must loosen up some runs for Lewis.

"I've said it a thousand times," Wannstedt said. "You've got to throw the ball to score points and run the ball to win games. It's a very touchy situation. ... You are trying to give those (new) players a chance to be successful. At the same time, you know you have to throw the ball to get them off our backs a little bit."

Additional Information:

Modest gains

Here was Dion Lewis' breakdown for his 25 carries, totaling 75 yards, in the opener against Utah:

0 yds or fewer : 4 times

1-2 yds : 9 times

3-5 yds : 7 times

6-8 yds : 3 times

9 yds or more : 1 time

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