Win vs. Miami just what Pitt needs


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Pitt's football team is in need of some positive energy after getting its share of negative publicity during the past few weeks.

That's why Thursday's game against Miami may be much more important to the Panthers than a typical early season non-conference game.

It still only counts as one win in the standings -- and it means nothing in terms of the Big East standings -- but if ever there was a team that could use a confidence boost, it is Pitt. And a victory against the 19th-ranked Hurricanes on national television would provide it.

"I think from a confidence standpoint in ourselves [it is important to win]," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "When you are playing against a top team in the country, anytime you get an opportunity like this, you look for these opportunities to seize the moment because they don't come around very often."

"I'll be very curious to see how far we have come from playing a very good Utah team to where we are at Thursday night. So it is important for the development of our team this year, it is important from the standpoint of confidence and knowing that we have improved. It is going to be a 60-minute game, there is no question about that."

The Panthers have a lot of football left and haven't begun their conference schedule, so Wannstedt wanted to emphasize that while this game is a big one, it is only one and it is early in the year.

But given the recent arrests of several players, the high profile injuries that have sidelined some key starters, the demotion of a very promising young linebacker and the lackluster play of the offensive line and linebackers, there is no questioning the benefit of a Panthers victory.

"It would be a huge thing for our program regardless of what has been going on," wide receiver Mike Shanahan said. "We as players are going to take responsibility if we win or lose. A win would definitely be huge but not just because of what's been going on, but for our program and our fans and everybody else who support us."

Wannstedt said he's not worried about the Panthers coming out and being too emotional -- perhaps leading to mistakes -- because he said he believes they have prepared well and they have responded well in big games in the past.

He added that Pitt is not the only team in this game thinking it has something to prove. The Hurricanes are coming off a 36-24 loss at No. 2 Ohio State, where quarterback Jacory Harris was intercepted four times.

"Don't forget, this will be an emotional game for them as well," Wannstedt said. "We talk all the time about controlled energy and discipline and we can't afford to go out there and do anything stupid. ... This is one of those games when you miss a tackle in the backfield, you miss a tackle on the perimeter with a receiver, and they are capable of going 60-70 yards."

Wannstedt said he is looking forward to seeing how his players respond to the big stage and hopes the Panthers fan base -- the game is close to being a sell out -- will show up in a big way.

"When you are playing a ranked team like Miami, any little edge we can get from the home crowd is much needed and much appreciated," he said.

Wide receiver Cam Saddler agreed.

"We all grew up watching the Hurricanes dominate college football," Saddler said. "So we know how big this game is and we also know that people would stop talking about everything else around us and start talking about us again.

"That's what we're looking for: We want to win the game and show we're definitely worthy of being ranked again."


Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720.


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