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October 25, 2010

Monday Notes

Sophomore running back Dion Lewis broke out for 130 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries on Saturday. It was Lewis's first 100-yard game of the 2010 season after notching 10 games above the century mark last year.

Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt had a feeling Lewis might be in line for a breakout.

"This may sound like a strange comment, but standing on the sidelines, you just had that feeling in your stomach that when Dion was getting the ball, it was the old Dion. Every play had a chance of breaking. Why? I don't know. But he was in sync, he was into it, he was making cuts, he was making reads that he's capable of making. It was nice to get him the yards, but also, I think he walked off the field feeling the best that he has all year."


Maybe, maybe not
The general talk around Pitt the past two weeks has been that redshirt senior defensive end Greg Romeus, who has not played since the season opener at Utah, will return this week for the game against Louisville.

But Wannstedt wouldn't commit to such a timetable on Monday.

"Greg is making progress and we're week by week with him. Nothing new to report."


Forget the record
Wannstedt and the Panthers are currently sitting atop the Big East with a 2-0 conference record. But Pitt's head coach is nonplussed about the team's unblemished record.

"After two games. After two games. I think we have to keep it in perspective, and our guys will. This is the toughest conference game we have this week, and we're not focused any further ahead or on anything else other than Louisville. It would be foolish to try to look at it from any other angle."


Getting better
Pitt has scored 40-plus points in back-to-back games and hasn't allowed more than two offensive touchdowns in either of the last two weeks.

"If you look at our team now as opposed to five weeks ago, you're seeing improvement in the offensive line, you're seeing improvement in our running game, you're seeing improvement with Tino Sunseri, and defensively up front and all the way across. That's the key: the team that can stay healthy and continue to work hard with the right attitude and get better every week."


The boot
Pitt redshirt sophomore kickoff specialist Kevin Harper had another strong game against Rutgers, landing touchbacks on three of eight kickoffs and averaging 69.8 yards per kick. On the season, Harper is averaging 66.2 yards per kickoff.

"Kevin Harper is kicking off very well," Wannstedt said. "I think he had three touchbacks in the game Saturday, but his hang-time, even on the kicks that were returned, was over four seconds, so that's real positive."


Back in action
One of the key blocks on Lewis's 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter on Saturday came from redshirt junior lineman Greg Gaskins. Gaskins opened the season as the starting right guard but was replaced after the first three games.

On Saturday, he had to get back on the field in the fourth quarter when junior Lucas Nix left the game with an injury.

"If he was not working hard and approaching it the right way, the odds are against you going in and performing," Wannstedt said Monday. "So he's preparing to be the starter; he knows he's one injury away from being in the lineup.

"He's disappointed, obviously he would like to be playing more. But I think he's approaching it the right way and I'm sure before it's all over, he'll be getting a lot of playing time."

Wannstedt added that Nix practiced on Sunday night and is expected to play this Saturday against Louisville.


Never mind Rutgers and Syracuse
Pitt will play its third Big East game of the season on Saturday when the Panthers host Louisville at Heinz Field. Pitt outscored Syracuse and Rutgers 86-35 in the first two conference games, but Wannstedt expects this week's opponent to be considerably more challenging.

"There's no question, as a football team from top to bottom, Louisville is the best team that we've played in our conference. Without a doubt.

"Charlie Strong has implemented an attitude and a system that the kids have bought into, and they're performing at a high level."


Quote of the day
"Every year you're counting on the Jonathan Baldwin's and Dion Lewis's and Dom DeCicco's, but for us to really be a good team, the Mike Cruz's of the world, the Jarred Holley's of the world, the Brandon Lindsey's, guys that people necessarily aren't talking about but we know they're as valuable as the next guy, all of a sudden these guys start stepping up. Players like this step up and have big days and big seasons; it's a team game, and that's what gives you a chance to win." - Dave Wannstedt





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