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Thread: Pitt hopes season doesn't end like '82

      
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    Default Pitt hopes season doesn't end like '82

    11/11/2009
    Pitt hopes season doesn't end like '82
    Associated Press

    PITTSBURGH - There wasn't a hint of sunshine Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh, which is enjoying the football team's first top-10 ranking in November since 1982.

    At least the Panthers can take comfort in this: It's looking a lot brighter now than it did 27 years ago.

    The Panthers are 8-1 and ranked No. 8, just as that 1982 team was on this day back then, but the similarities appear to end there.

    The '82 Panthers were a star-laden team coming off three consecutive 11-1 seasons, a preseason No. 1 that had nine seniors drafted by the NFL - including one of the greatest passers in football history. Regardless, that team is remembered as one of the most disappointing in school history.

    By contrast, these Panthers are on the rise, with their best games and best teams apparently still ahead of them.

    For now, there's nothing for this 2009 team to take out of 1982 except this cautionary note: That season began to unravel with an unexpected home-field loss to Notre Dame, which coincidentally plays at Heinz Field on Saturday night.

    Just like then, the Fighting Irish (6-3) were ranked early in the season, but no longer are. Just like then, Notre Dame's hopes of going to a major bowl are gone. Just like then, Notre Dame's coach, who wasn't in college football when he was hired, is under considerable scrutiny; then it was Gerry Faust, now, it's Charlie Weis.

    Warning enough, Panthers?

    "They are college football," linebacker Adam Gunn said. "They're the leaders of college football. So this is a chance to show that we are, too, now."

    A chance to show that 1982 is nothing but ancient football history, too.

    Then, friction between the defense and an underachieving offense, a big falloff in production by Marino and, ultimately, three losses in the final five games doomed a Pitt season that couldn't have been less satisfying. Even worse, linebacker Todd Becker died during a fall from a dormitory window between the end of the season and a Cotton Bowl loss to SMU.

    Within two years, a Pitt program that won one national title and contended for several others from 1976-81 would be 3-7-1 and fading fast. That 1982 season has long been considered the beginning of the end; since then, Pitt has played in a major bowl only once.

    "We thought we were the best, but we got complacent," said lineman Bill Maas, who later played in the NFL.

    This '09 season seems much, much different.

    The Panthers have won 18 of 23 games since upsetting then-No. 2 West Virginia at the end of the 2007 season and they look to be primed for a string of successful seasons. They're rising as the season winds down, not fading, with five consecutive victories. A number of key players are underclassmen. The 1,000-yard running back, Dion Lewis, is a freshman.

    "You can't tell the future, but I know that coach (Dave) Wannstedt has a vision of where he wanted the program to be," Gunn said. "Once we all had time to buy into that vision, well, here we are. ... To be back in the top 10, where Pitt lived for a long time back in the day, that says a lot about this program."

    Back in the top 10, too, less than a month after the Panthers weren't ranked at all.

    "When coach Wannstedt came into our meetings (Sunday), he said we were No. 8," Gunn said. "We weren't shocked or anything, it's great, but we weren't overly enthusiastic about it because we still have more to accomplish."

    Win on Saturday, and they might end up in a BCS bowl if they can win their final two games, against West Virginia and Cincinnati.

    Of course, the 1982 team knew it might land in a national championship-type game, if it could win its final two games, against Rutgers and Penn State. At least until Notre Dame got in the way by beating Pitt 31-16 behind Allen Pinkett's 76-yard touchdown run. Pinkett now is one of the Irish's radio announcers.

    Coincidence, or a cause for concern?

    "I feel that we're definitely prepared for the final three games, and our coaches certainly are going to make sure that we're ready for anything," quarterback Bill Stull said. "But I can speak for everyone and say we're only focused 110 percent on them (Notre Dame) and are focused only for this game."

    http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/...0Ag-11-10-0778
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    Default Re: Pitt hopes season doesn't end like '82

    Definitely riding a high right now. Just hope that everyone is really concentrating on Notre Dame and not looking beyond that.

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    Default Re: Pitt hopes season doesn't end like '82

    Still waiting for the inevitable Wannstedt

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    sjdrewk
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    Default Re: Pitt hopes season doesn't end like '82

    Go Pitt!

    Irish anything but a distraction for No. 8 Pitt
    By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer
    2 hours, 33 minutes ago
    Buzz up!
    Print
    PITTSBURGH (AP)—The game against an unranked opponent falls right before No. 8 Pitt plays archrival West Virginia followed by perhaps the biggest of this season’s Big East showdowns—against No. 5 Cincinnati.

    Winning probably won’t substantially boost the Panthers’ ranking. Losing might derail all the momentum they’ve spent a half-season building. It’s the kind of non-conference distraction many players and coaches dislike so late in a season.

    Except for this: It’s Notre Dame and, for Pitt, that means it’s always a big game. Couldn’t be anything else.

    “Notre Dame, that’s Rudy, they are college football,” linebacker Adam Gunn said, referring to one-time Irish walk-on player Rudy Ruettiger and the movie made about him.

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    Pitt (8-1) still remembers how another unranked Notre Dame team rolled into Heinz Field in 2005, ruined the nationally ranked Panthers’ opener by winning 42-21 and wrecked a promising season in which Pitt would finish 5-6.

    No, it’s not a Big East Conference game, but yes, it’s a big game for Pitt, which is 19-44-1 in school history against Notre Dame.

    “I’ve been ready for this game all year,” defensive lineman Gus Mustakas said. “They really put it to us my freshman year at Heinz Field. I can’t wait to get another shot at them. … It doesn’t matter that this is a non-conference game for us, because it’s Notre Dame. Pitt and Notre Dame have great traditions, and when I got our schedule this was a game that I circled.”

    Older Pitt fans remember how the Fighting Irish, also unranked, upset Dan Marino’s previously undefeated senior season team in 1982 that had been ranked No. 1, starting the Panthers on a slide that led to three losses in five games.

    Notre Dame (6-3) has long recruited in western Pennsylvania—a quarterback named Joe Montana was among those signees—and Pittsburgh radio station KQV has carried Fighting Irish games for more than 30 years. Some Pittsburgh sporting goods stores seemingly sell nothing but Pitt, Penn State and Notre Dame apparel.

    “Yes, this is a big game, a statement game for us,” said quarterback Bill Stull, who missed Pitt’s 36-33, four-overtime win at Notre Dame last season with an injury. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with us in the Big East, but we definitely can get the spotlight on us if we play to the best of our ability and come out with the win.”

    Nearly every Pitt player knows someone who plays at Notre Dame or was recruited by the Irish. Some were recruited by Notre Dame themselves. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt went down the Irish’s depth chart this week, and was impressed by how many five-star recruits or potential first-round draft picks they have.

    “I know firsthand, from recruiting here and at Southern Cal, that they can go into any state, any high school, anywhere, and they are going to be one of two or three schools recruiting a kid,” Wannstedt said. “Whether it’s California, New Jersey or Texas. There’s no other place in the country that can really do that.”

    Notre Dame’s upset loss to Navy last weekend probably won’t help Pitt, as the Irish now have a season to salvage. Beating Pitt would help a lot; the Irish have lost their last seven games to Top 10 schools, matching the longest such streak in school history.

    “It’s Notre Dame with (quarterback) Jimmy Clausen and all their great players coming to town,” Gunn said. “We have to be ready for everything that comes with playing Notre Dame.”

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