Pitt Notebook: Hutchins' range led to fourth-down decision

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Pitt faced a fourth-and-5 at the Louisville 27 on its first drive Friday night, and coach Dave Wannstedt chose to go for the first down rather than kick a field goal.

The Panthers did not make it and turned the ball over on downs, and, after the game, Wannstedt said "I was a little more confident in going for it than I should have been."

What Wannstedt did not say was that a big reason he went for it is that a 44-yard field goal likely is just beyond the range of kicker Dan Hutchins.

"Yeah [Hutchins range is 45 and under], but it depends on the wind and the conditions," Wannstedt said. "Hutch will tell you he can kick a 50-yarder and, if we have to attempt one, we would. When they warm up, the kickers will test the conditions, and they'll let me know where they are comfortable kicking it from.

"And depending on the wind, it could vary as much as 10 yards one way or the other."

Wannstedt said that 40- to 50-yard field goals could be kicked by freshman Kevin Harper, who has a stronger leg than Hutchins, but Harper was not as accurate as he needs to be.

That is why Hutchins ultimately won the job.

"Harper has the strong leg and, if we needed him to kick a long field goal to win a game, he'd kick it," Wannstedt said. "I have no reservations putting him in there and he can kick a 55-yarder."

A throwback

Connecticut, like Pitt, plays a physical style rooted to stopping the run and running the football. So, the Panthers anticipate a hard-knocks type of game when the teams meet Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field.

One player clearly excited about playing an old-fashioned kind of game is fullback Henry Hynoski, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound wrecking ball of a blocker and runner.

"I love it," Hynoski said. "It will be even better if we get some rain and it gets a little sloppy, too. I love games when you grind it out and just pound the ball. That is how I have played my whole life, and I am looking forward to it [Saturday]."

Quick hits

Wannstedt said yesterday that safety Elijah Fields (ankle) would be limited in practice this week but "he's a lot better than he was Monday, and I am optimistic [he will play Saturday].". ... Wannstedt said Cameron Saddler's (ankle) "Is a high-ankle sprain, and they take a little longer. It is probably going to be a couple of weeks to be honest with you." ...Defensive linemen Justin Hargrove (foot) and Tyler Tkach (foot) returned to full practice this week.

Paul Zeise can be reached at pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720.


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