Pitt head coach Paul Chryst talks with quarterback Tino Sunseri near the end of the second quarter against Temple at Heinz Field Saturday.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Every player's first collegiate start is a memorable experience. Now, throw in facing a top-five undefeated team in one of college football's most famous stadiums.
Quite the environment for making a starting debut.
But that will be the situation in Pitt's offensive line Saturday, when the Panthers will have to replace right guard Ryan Schlieper, who was lost for the season last week with a foot injury. None of Pitt's second-string offensive linemen have made any career starts.
The task likely will fall to redshirt sophomore Arthur Doakes, who filled in for Schlieper after he went down against Temple.
"I think he did some good things, I do," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said.
"Whoever it is, has got to step up. Going against I think a really, really good defensive front, so it'll be a great opportunity, too, for our whole offense."
Doakes and the rest of the offensive line will face a tall task Saturday. Notre Dame's front seven is widely considered among the best in the country and has been the linchpin to the team's success.
Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, though, said he was confident in Doakes' ability to get ready for his first start on somewhat short notice.
"I think you've prepared along the way because you have had physical practices," Rudolph said. "You try and practice that way from fall camp on."
Pitt left guard Chris Jacobson said he and the other offensive linemen would be spending extra time this week helping Doakes prepare for Saturday.
"Arthur's a big man," Jacobson said.
"He can hold people off with just one arm. Once he gets in the film room with me and [center] Ryan Turnley, he'll get more confidence as the week goes on, which is good."
The offensive line also can gain some confidence from the way it played in a 47-17 win against Temple. After a couple of weeks that were deemed "inconsistent" by players and coaches, the unit won the line of scrimmage against the Owls. They allowed just one sack and paved the way for 207 rushing yards.
With Doakes playing in the second half, the Panthers gained 104 of those rushing yards.
This week, though, will be different.
The Irish rank second in the country in scoring defense and didn't allow a rushing touchdown until last week. Even then, they held Oklahoma's high-flying offense to 13 points.
"From what I've watched of them this year, on defense, they just fly around, they play with great energy, great excitement," Turnley said.
"They've got 11 guys trying to get to the ball and their defensive line does a great job protecting their linebackers, allowing them to make plays."
Turnley may have the toughest assignment among the Panthers linemen, lining up against 6-foot-3, 326-pound defensive tackle Louis Nix.
"I think any time you play against great talent on the other side, it really comes back to playing fundamentally," Rudolph said.
"I'm excited for that challenge for him.
"I'm excited to see him compete in that environment and I think he's excited to do the same."