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Pitt freshman lineman gets opportunity

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, Oct. 14, 2011

Pitt coach Todd Graham is doing something about the offensive line that allowed six sacks last week against Rutgers.

Redshirt freshman Matt Rotheram, a backup guard since he arrived on campus last year, will play tackle Saturday against Utah, Graham said.

"The guy I am really, really excited about this week is Rotheram," Graham said. "The light has come on. He has tremendous potential, a big, big man (6-foot-6, 350 pounds).

"He's excited, too. I can tell he's excited about the opportunity to get some playing time. He has had a great week of practice."

Rotheram, who played at North Olmstead (Ohio) High School, was named first-team all-state in 2009 in Ohio's largest classification.

Graham said he remains hopeful to get senior guard Lucas Nix (knee) back into the lineup. Nix hasn't played a complete game since Notre Dame on Sept. 24.

The coaching staff also is hoping outside linebacker Todd Thomas will be available, but it will be a game-time decision. Thomas is trying to return from a leg injury suffered in the South Florida game Sept. 24.

Harper recovers

Kicker Kevin Harper missed his first two field-goal attempts of the season, but he is 10 of 12 since that time.

With 10 field goals and a 1.67 per-game average, Harper is third in the Big East and 14th in the nation.

Rutgers defense

Utah's defense is ranked 19th against the run (99.4 yards per game), possibly creating the stiffest challenge this season for Pitt running back Ray Graham, who leads the nation with 899 yards.

Todd Graham said Utah (2-3) doesn't blitz nearly as much as Rutgers, but he expects the Utes will change their defensive strategy against the Panthers.

"I look for them to (blitz) early and often," he said. "They are going to game-plan and I think that is what you'll see."

Pitt is last in the nation in sacks allowed (28 for a total of 4.67 per game).

Pitt's goal defined

The Panthers may need to win all of their five remaining Big East games to win the conference championship, and Todd Graham said that remains the goal.

"We talked about winning championships (Thursday), and if we intend on winning championships, we can't do what we have been doing. We have to take it to a different level."

Passing woes

In six games, Pitt has 13 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and the Panthers are averaging only 9.8 yards per reception. Pitt is one of only 14 schools in the nation averaging less than 10.

Meanwhile, Ray Graham has nine runs ranging in length from 20 to 75 yards. He also leads the team with 27 catches.

Broadcast moves

If Pitt and Pirates broadcasts are scheduled for the same time next season on KDKA-FM (93.7 The Fan), Pitt would remain on the flagship station, and the Pirates would move to KDKA-AM.

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