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I couldn't have imagined watching last night's nationally broadcast Pitt-Rutgers game as a Rutgers fan, because the ESPN announcers were gushing over Dion Lewis in a way that would put John Madden-Brett Favre to shame.

The freshman phenom, who's leading the nation in rushing (as they mentioned about a dozen times), once again led the charge for the Panthers, to the tune of 180 yards and two touchdowns. And yes, the announcers did mention his name in the Heisman race. I'm not making this up.

Individual performances aside, the Panthers did win the game, beating Rutgers 24-17 and gaining their first win over the school since roughly 1862. OK, I'm exaggerating. It was actually 2003 when the Panthers last beat the Scarlet Knights. Let's just say it seemed like it hadn't happened since 1862.

There were many things to like about Pitt's performance, starting with Lewis and extending to Dorin Dickerson, who's finally found his niche in his senior season with his eighth touchdown of the season. Better late than never, I suppose. I also liked what I saw from Henry Hynoski out of the backfield. A lot. Bill Stull played well for the most part, although he did cough the ball up in the fourth quarter, leading to a Rutgers TD that brought them back into the game late. And the defense did a good job keeping the Rutgers offense in check, allowing two touchdowns on short fields of 11 and 49 yards, and limiting the Scarlet Knights to 38 yards rushing on 20 carries.

On the other side, there were things not to like as well. For one, OC Frank Cignetti's got to find a way to get Jonathan Baldwin the ball more than one time in a game. He's just too explosive. Second, I don't know if kicker Dan Hutchins was having a bad day, but his two missed field goals could've really come back to bite the Panthers. Third, I think the offense needs to be mixed up a little bit. I love Lewis, and how can you not? But 31 carries is a lot on his frame, especially when Ray Graham only touched the ball twice. Finally, teams in this town seem to have a growing problem closing out opponents of late. The Steelers have struggled with it all year. The Pens blew a two-goal lead in the third period the other night against Carolina. Even Pitt gift-wrapped a game to NC State by allowing 14 points in the fourth quarter. That game last night could've easily gone south in the final quarter, but the Panthers eventually rose to the occasion, as good teams have to do. Like I often say, it's more about the position you put your team in, and when the lead is only seven points late, you've set yourself up for a situation where one play could change the game - in a bad way.

Excuse my slightly negative tone despite the win, because it's managed to happen yet again. I've bought back in to the Pitt Panthers, and recent history has proven that this team can rip your heart out at the most inopportune times (although, is there ever a good time to have your heart ripped out?). The Staches are now 3-0 and in first place in the Big East, with a 6-1 record and probable spot in the Top 25 tomorrow. I'm officially excited. And if Pitt can take down South Florida in a yuuuuuge game next Saturday, they would be three wins away from a BCS bid, with one of those games being Syracuse. What a batch of Wannstache Kool-Aid that could be.

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Unknown said...

Shady who? And yeah, totally agree about mixing up the offense. With how many weapons they have, why only rely on one guy?

I also love how this team can't make anything look easy. Fumbling the snap in a victory formation?? Really??

Dcousin28 said...

Dion is the real deal a golden workhorse to say the least. he will lead this team to a bowl win mark my words.