Big Lead Sports Bar

9/20/2009

PITT'S 3-0. SERIOUSLY.

This may be hard to believe, but with a 27-14 win over Navy yesterday, Pitt improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2000 - and only the fourth time since Dan Marino's senior season in 1982. Even harder to believe, Pitt fans did not boo Bill Stull, actually cheering their starting quarterback in a refreshing change of pace. Someone pinch me.

The 2000 season, memorable if only for the 12-0 win that's been shoved in the faces of Penn State fans for the last decade, was a long time ago. In the years since, there has been early-season disappointment after early-season disappointment. In 2008, they followed the momentum of the 2007-ending 13-9 West Virginia win with...a loss to Bowling Green in the opener. In '07, a heartbreaking 17-13 to Michigan State served as the early toe-stub, despite 181 yards rushing from Shady McCoy. The Spartans would also foil a 3-0 Pitt start in 2006. And who can forget the monumental letdown in the 2005 opener, a nationally-televised 42-21 loss to Notre Dame in the first game of Charlie Weis and Dave Wannstedt's respective tenures.

Going back to the Walt Harris Era, the 3-0 start was ruined by Nebraska in 2004, Toledo(!) in 2003, Texas A&M in 2002, and South Florida in 2001. Even the wizard of offense was not exempt from falling on his face at some point in September.

While it's certainly nice to enjoy this rare start, it's important not to crown the Panthers as National Champions just yet. But I think things at least appear to be headed in the right direction. On Saturday, they allowed a mere 218 yards of offense to a Navy team that ran up 342 yards against Ohio State just two weeks ago. Navy QB Ricky Dobbs completed 6 of 21 passes. Six! He's practically the college equivalent of Jamarcus Russell.

The Pitt offense also came through to the tune of 27 points, and that's despite Stull fumbling on the Navy one-yard-line. Stull was 17-of-24 for 245 yards and a touchdown, as his numbers increased for the third straight week; he threw for 123 yards in Week One and 172 last week. He's shown steady improvement, and as of yesterday, an ability to really maximize the asset that is Jonathan Baldwin. Baldwin, who had relatively been held in check throughout the first two weeks, nearly doubled his 2009 cumulative numbers with a six-catch, 111-yard performance.

Although Dion Lewis wasn't able to crack the 100-yard barrier for the first time in his Pitt career, he did finish with an effective 79 yards on the ground, to go along with his sixth touchdown of the young season. And fellow freshman Dan Mason stepped in for injured linebacker Adam Gunn and made 11 tackles in his first career start. Trying my hardest to keep my expectations in check, there are a lot of things I like about this team so far.

Next week, the Panthers try to run their mark to 4-0 against the NC State Wolfpack, currently 2-1 with wins over Murray State and Gardener-Webb. Against their only real opponent, South Carolina, they struggled to a 7-3 defeat in their first game of the season. The game's scheduled for 3:30 PM on ESPNU, which means I don't get to watch the Panthers on TV for a fourth consecutive week.

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1 comment:

Justin said...

Some pretty awful officiating yesterday. Some of those personal fouls were terrible. Maybe it's just what happens at Heinz Field.

And Dobbs may have only been 6 of 21, but I think all 21 of them were thrown at Elijah Fields. I've never seen a DB picked on that much in one game.