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A little love for Wannstedt

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2007

How about some love for Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt?

When the Panthers lost to Navy at home in double-overtime on October 10th, the common wisdom was that they would be lucky to win one more game, perhaps against Syracuse. They did beat the Orange, and then some. With an inexperienced true freshman quarterback that Wannstedt had hoped to redshirt this year, and a more than sizeable list of injuries to key players, Wannstedt held his Panthers together and ended the season with the most memorable win in the 100 games that make up the backyard brawl.

But forget the upset of West Virginia Saturday night for a second. If not for a lousy call for offensive pass interference in the end zone against Rutgers, and a LeSean McCoy fumble near the goal line late against Louisville, this team could easily be 7-5 and headed to a bowl game.

The margin for error shrinks next year and they have to improve and win those types of games. But with a new contract extension in his pocket along with the win over West Virginia Saturday, things are looking up for a coach that many fans wanted to be fired a few months ago.

• While enjoying the misery of West Virginia fans, older Pitt faithful can at least emphathize with the downhearted in Morgantown.

In 1981 there was no BCS Championship game of course, but Pitt was ranked number one in the country and needed just a final home win against their most hated rival to maintain their top ranking and head to the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. Same setup as Saturday. But Penn State beat them 48-14 at Pitt Stadium to ruin their season.

The Panthers rebounded to beat Georgia in a thrilling Sugar Bowl but Clemson won the national title. Pitt finished second in the UPI poll and fourth in the AP poll behind Penn State. And that's the big difference. That Penn State team was ranked 9th before beating Pitt. They were not a four touchdown underdog which makes Pitt's win Saturday all the more amazing or crushing depending on which blue and gold side of the border you are on.

• Regardless of your affiliation, when was the last time you could honestly say you looked forward to watching Pitt play Duquesne in basketball• Wednesday night. Palumbo Center. Should be interesting.

• It's hard to understand people who say the condition of the turf at Heinz field is an embarrassment, a word used often after the Steelers' 3-0 slopfest win over Miami last Monday.

While it may be one of the worst surfaces in the NFL, no natural field, new or old, could stand up to six games over four days with the last one being played after two inches of rain fell in a very short time period as it did last week.

Has it been considered that this is actually one of the reasons the Steelers have such a dominant home record• Visiting teams struggle on the stuff while the Steelers have it somewhat figured out, particularly kicker Jeff Reed who's numbers may be better on the road, but he's still better than the visiting kickers on that surface.

This isn't to say that a change isn't necessary. The newer, improved types of artificial surfaces should, and are, being explored for a possible change. But embarrassment• Look a few blocks to the east. There sits PNC Park, the crown jewel of today's major league baseball facilities. But the team that plays on it's pristine surface hasn't had a winning season in the last 15 years. Now that's an embarrassment.

• Sean Taylor was a star for the Washington Redskins. His funeral is today. Shame on me for presuming his questionable past somehow led to his shooting death last week. In fact it appears the man had conquered many of his previous demons and had matured greatly as a person. Instead it looks like he was just the victim of a group of punks looking for the easy way.

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