South Florida coach Jim Leavitt summed it up pretty good – "They just whooped us," he said today after the Panthers pounded his Bulls 41-14.
Frankly, I’m not sure what else can be added. We’ve all said – if this team could ever play a complete game it could be pretty good and that’s what we got today – a complete game in which the Panthers dominated from start to finish.
It was a great win, probably the most dominant win the Panthers have had – over a reasonably talented team (so I don’t count beating UCF by a zillion points a couple of years ago) – probably since the 2001 season when the Panthers pounded Virginia Tech into the Heinz Field turf, 38-7.
At any rate, here are some notes from the game…..
** Elijah Fields started the game but not at safety. Instead he was that bandit linebacker type player and that’s mostly because the Panthers were in their nickel package for most of the game. Fields is better at coverage than Greg Williams and thus he will help them more against the spread offense teams – but don’t be surprised if we see this look even against some more traditional teams because Fields played extremely well against the run and pass – and let’s face it Williams has struggled. At any rate the Panthers will face spread teams in three of their last four games and the way Notre Dame throws the ball, I’d expect Fields and Holley to be on the field at the same time a lot.
** Tight end Mike Cruz had his first reception – and it went for a touchdown – of his career and that was nice development. Cruz, you might remember, left camp for a few days while he contemplated his future in football but returned and has slowly but surely worked his way into the lineup. He was asked about leaving camp and he said it was just "stress" and he thanked his coaches and teammates sticking by his side. Cruz is the future for this position as both Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham graduate.
** As if the Panthers didn’t have enough weapons – receiver Mike Shanahan made his first career start and had three catches – two of the diving variety to make first downs – for 21 yards. He’s a guy who is reliable and as Bill Stull said "just an excellent football player."
** Dion Lewis rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns and he did that in three quarters. He now has more than 1,000 for the season and he tied Larry Fitzgerald for the third highest point total for a Pitt freshman (72). I’m thinking that LeSean McCoy’s record of 90 is in serious danger of falling.
** Jonathan Baldwin had a career high 144 yards receiving on six receptions but he also gave the crowd and his teammates and coaches the biggest scare of the day – perhaps season – when he dove for a catch and stayed on the ground injured. He got up and returned but it was pretty quiet for those few minutes.
** Tino Sunseri got some work and threw a touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson but he also missed Shanahan on a couple of wide open passes and showed he is still a work in progress and not yet ready. It was good for him to get some work (sorry, couldn’t resist) though….
** Pitt is now 7-1 for the first time since 1982 and 4-0 in the Big East for the first time since the 2003 season. Of course, we all know there are some tougher games coming up as the best three teams the Panthers will play – West Virginia, Notre Dame and Cincinnati – are the final three games on the schedule.
** Pitt didn’t punt for the entire game – the first time the Panthers have done that since that destruction of Central Florida in 2006.
South Florida Coach Jim Leavitt: "Pitt deserves credit, they did a great job. Their line of scrimmage was much better than ours and they are a very good football team. We haven’t played any defense lately and that’s the first thing we need to take care of."
South Florida linebacker Kion Wilson: "They didn’t punt one time today and that just can’t happen."
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt: "Our offensive line was just unbelievable. To protect Bill Stull like they did [he was not sacked] throughout the game might have been the difference."
"Those two field goals Daniel Hutchins made were important – not just for the points, but also for his psyche. Any time a kicker has missed some kicks, the only way to get it back is to go out there and perform. I was pleased with our field goal unit and our kick off coverage. We kicked the ball well and covered well."
Tight end Dorin Dickerson: " Tailback Dion Lewis:
Tight end Dorin Dickerson: "
Tailback Dion Lewis:The difference from this team and last year’s team is that this year we have a lot more playmakers. Last year, Shady was a great player but he was our offense really. This year we have Oderick Turner, Jonathan Baldwin, Mike Shanahan, Dion Lewis and Ray Graham – a lot of guys that can make plays. We also have a great offensive line, a veteran line. It is a good feeling right now.""We’re pretty balanced. A lot of teams know that we’re going to try and run the ball but we also have a great quarterback, receivers and tight ends that will make plays in the passing game. We’re getting better every week but we still have some work to do in order to get where we want to be. When we get there it is going to be a lot of fun."