Freshman RB Dion Lewis
Sept. 15, 2009
GAME NOTES LINK:
When Pitt hosts Navy at 6 p.m. at Heinz Field on Saturday, it’ll continue a tradition that stretches all the way back to 1912.
Since then, the two programs have faced each other 37 times. And while the Panthers (2-0) lead the all-time series with a 21-13-3 record, they know that the future is what matters.
“We know what a great football program they have, what good players they have, what they bring every time they show up on the field from an effort and attitude standpoint,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “We’re familiar with that.”
Coming off a 32-14 win against Louisiana Tech, The Midshipmen (1-1) are used to facing strong competition from around the country. Navy has played 30 games against BCS schools since 2003, taking home wins in 13 of those contests. That ties the Midshipmen with Utah for the most wins by a non-BCS school against BCS opponents since 2003.
Pitt beat Navy in Annapolis last year, 42-21, behind a strong offensive attack that piled up 499 yards. While the offensive side will be key on Saturday for Pitt, Wannstedt said one of his biggest focuses this week is tightening up some things on the defensive end against a non-conventional Navy attack that can both run and pass the ball with success.
“The biggest challenge for us is that they are different on offense because of the triple-option, and on defense they are multiple,” he said. “Their quarterback this year, Ricky Dobbs, he is probably as good of a passer as what they’ve had in the past several years. They’ve brought in very good athletes from the standpoint of being able to make big plays.”
That showed on Saturday during Navy’s win against Louisiana Tech, when the Midshipmen scored 32 unanswered points to help them come away with the win. A week before, Navy hung in a tight game with then-No. 6 Ohio State, but lost, 31-27.
To help combat Navy’s offensive attack, the Panthers will look to a major strong point on the Pitt defense this year in Adam Gunn. A senior linebacker, Gunn was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week after an 11-tackle performance at Buffalo where he had three sacks that went for 25 yards in losses, helping Pitt finish off the Bulls, 54-27. Gunn, who sat out last season with a neck injury, leads the Panthers in tackles (19), sacks (five) and tackles for loss (5.5).
“That’s a great honor for Adam, well deserved,” Wannstedt said. “There’s nobody that’s more serious about trying to help this football team than Adam Gunn.”
While Pitt will do its best to slow Navy’s ground game, the Midshipmen will also do its best to slow down the rush attack of the Panthers, who have gotten consistent tailback play from freshman Dion Lewis. In two games, Lewis has 319 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, while adding 56 yards and a touchdown as a receiver. He’ll face a Navy defense that held Louisiana Tech to just 11 yards rushing and two trips past the 50-yard line on Saturday.
Wannstedt spoke about Navy’s multiple-formation defense, which has the ability to change quickly from play to play, if necessary. The Midshipmen sometimes rotate from a 4-3 base formation into a 3-4, then back to a 4-3 again depending on the formation that the offense is showing.
“They create problems from a strategic standpoint,” Wannstedt said of the Navy defense. “They are very intelligent.”
Still, Wannstedt said that the improvement on Pitt’s offensive line has been apparent over the course of the first two weeks, and the numbers back it up. Behind strong protection, senior quarterback Bill Stull connected on 21-of-30 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns, giving him five touchdown passes and a 69.6 percent completion rate the year. Senior tight end Dorin Dickerson caught all three of Stull’s touchdown passes against Buffalo, giving him four touchdown receptions on the year.
After facing Navy, Pitt will travel to Raleigh, N.C. to face North Carolina State.
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