Pitt's front 4 poses sack threat to WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- WVU quarterback Geno Smith is on pace to have the best sophomore passing season in school history. But on Friday, he will face his toughest test.
Pitt has recorded 27 sacks in 2010 -- 19 of those coming from defensive linemen Brandon Lindsey and Jabaal Sheard.
"Their blitz tendencies aren't as much as Louisville or Syracuse, but they do have a lot of talented guys on the front four that can get just as much pressure," Smith said. "I have to do a good job of getting the ball out of my hands and being sharp with my reads."
Opposing defenses have found success when blitzing the Mountaineers' sophomore signal-caller. WVU is giving up an average of 2.1 sacks per game. That number has increased in Big East play, when West Virginia has given up three sacks per outing.
Smith was sacked four times last weekend against Louisville.
"You don't want to get away from your game plan," offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said. "You have to have a plan to try to find out where the rush is coming from and try to get more than one hat on them."
Mullen said the key to Pitt's success up front has been the talent, not necessarily the defensive strategy.
"They're really good players, and they're well-coached," Mullen said. "There's not a lot of scheme involved. They just strap it on and get after you."
West Virginia has been working hard to try to game-plan against Pitt since this summer. Mullen said the coaching staff put in an offseason plan on the Panthers prior to the season.
"There's a number of opponents that we thought when we got here that we needed to pay close attention to, and Pittsburgh's one of them," Mullen said.
Linebacker Anthony Leonard said the team has watched film on Pitt earlier in the week than it normally has to try to prepare for Friday's high-stakes game.
Punter receives honor
West Virginia punter Gregg Pugnetti was named the Big East's Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance against Louisville.
He punted seven times for an average of 44.9 yards against the Cardinals, and withstood a rush on nearly every punt without having a blocked kick. Two of his punts were downed inside the Louisville 20-yard line.
"That's a great honor for Gregg. He earned it, because he flipped the field for us," Stewart said.
ESPN has exercised its six-day option for West Virginia's game against Rutgers on Dec. 4.