EL PASO, Texas -- The Sun Bowl is two days away but it is clear that the game can't get here soon enough for senior Pitt defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan, who believes the Panthers are not getting the respect they deserve and won't until they show the nation who they really are.
Duncan said yesterday that Oregon State's offensive line might be good, but it has no idea what it is in for come game time because the Panthers' defensive line is too athletic and too quick for the Beavers to handle. Pitt (9-3) will play Oregon State (8-4) in the Sun Bowl at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
• Game: Pitt (9-3) vs. Oregon State (8-4).
• When: 2 p.m. Wednesday.
• Where: El Paso, Texas.
• TV: KDKA.
"[Oregon State's offensive line] is a tight unit and seem to know where they are at," Duncan said. "But the thing I see when I watched them is that I don't think they have faced a defensive line like us. I mean, the last defensive line they played like us was Penn State and the results speak for themselves.
"Like [Southern California], for instance, they had some big [defensive linemen] guys, but they weren't as quick as us. They might have been as strong us, but they are not as quick as us. Like I said, I don't think [Oregon State] has faced anyone like us and that will be our plan, to surprise them [with athleticism].
"If not, if they want to make it a fight, we'll strap it up like we do."
Duncan continued to say that the Beavers' offensive line is good, but that it struggled against speed and he talked about the speed of the Panthers' defensive ends, Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus, as well as the athleticism of defensive tackle Mick Williams.
He said that Penn State's defensive line exposed some holes in Oregon State's line and he believes the Panthers' defensive line will be able to duplicate the Nittany Lions' strategy because they are similar in speed and athleticism. Penn State beat Oregon State, 45-14, Sept. 6, and in that game the Nittany Lions held the Beavers to 92 yards rushing.
"Looking at the film, Penn State did some twists and had all kinds of things like that going on and [Oregon State's] O-line couldn't adjust to it," Duncan said. "Their O-line is still young, besides the one tackle, who is a senior. So the mixture of Penn State being quick and with them moving around, I don't think it was a combination that Oregon State could handle, so hopefully that'll be our game plan going in."
Duncan, from Belle Glade, Fla., might sound like a typical trash-talker from South Florida, but he's really not. In fact, he's one of the quieter players on the Panthers and typifies the blue-collar, hard work that has been a trademark of this team all season.
But he's also perhaps the most focused player on the roster because he knows that Wednesday is his final collegiate game and he is working hard to make an impression on some NFL teams about his ability as a run-stopping defensive tackle.
That's why he hasn't spent much time hanging out with the team and enjoying the El Paso night life, participating in activities or running around El Paso having fun. To him, this is a business trip and he is 100 percent about handling his business.
It is also why he walked off the practice field yesterday wearing the same intense look he'll have game day. He said he was mad that practice was over because he was pumped and ready to play the game and doesn't want the Panthers to go into the game unprepared.
"We are trying to have some fun but this is my last game and I don't know what my future holds," Duncan said. "So I'm focused on this game, I really haven't enjoyed the festivities, I didn't go out last night, I just stayed at the hotel with my family. So it is fun for some, but for me, personally, I don't take this as a vacation because it is not for me, it is my last game."
Duncan has transformed himself from a perennial underachiever who lived in the coaching staff's doghouse to one of the most respected and productive players on the roster. He is a beast in the middle of the defensive line at stopping the run and he is fourth on the team with 52 tackles.
He said the Sun Bowl is somewhat of a statement game for the Panthers because he doesn't believe the Beavers respect the Big East Conference and don't understand how tough teams from the conference are.
"They probably are going to expect us to be just another team from the Big East," Duncan said. "And since they have been here before [Oregon State played in the Sun Bowl in 2006], they think we are just another team, you know, just some nobodies. I just hope we come out strong and play focused and let them know we play Pittsburgh football, that's where we're from, we're blue collar."
Paul Zeise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .