Football: Huerbin: Stull is silencing critics, winning games

By Jay Huerbin

Remember when Pitt fans booed Bill Stull? And then booed him again? And one more time — you… Remember when Pitt fans booed Bill Stull? And then booed him again? And one more time — you know, just to get the message across?

Well, it looks like the quarterback is finally fighting back. When fans booed him last year, he shrugged it off and kept quiet as he led the Panthers to a 9-3 regular season record and their first bowl game since 2004.

A year later, Stull took heat from a hostile hometown crowd in Pitt’s season opener against Youngstown State on Sept. 5. His response? He threw for two touchdowns on 123 yards and a passer rating of 162.08 in the Panthers’ 38-3 victory.

In the Buffalo game, Stull looked nearly flawless at times as he completed 21 of 30 attempts for 170 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed from three yards out for a fourth score.

It wasn’t a statement game because Stull didn’t need one. He just needed to play his game and find chemistry with his teammates. His passes weren’t overthrown, wobbly or poorly executed. He played with poise — on the road — and found success.

Stull’s performances in the first two games of the season were impressive enough for Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt to reflect on the redshirt senior’s adversity.

“Last week, the best thing that could have happened for Bill was to play on the road,” Wannstedt said. “I think it was good for him mentally to get away and play in front of a road crowd where he could focus on just playing football. He went up to Buffalo and had success.”

Stull kept it going in Pitt’s win over Navy Saturday. The Midshipmen (1-2) nearly upset then-No. 6 Ohio State in the first weekend of college football and were coming off a 32-14 stomping of Louisiana Tech.

But Navy’s recent strong play didn’t affect Stull. He threw for 245 yards and one touchdown by completing 17 of 24 attempts, including two passes to sophomore receiver Jonathan Baldwin on crucial fourth down plays.

In three games this season, Stull has completed 70 percent of his passes and has thrown for six touchdowns and only one interception.

Say what you want about Pitt’s opponents so far this season, but Buffalo is the defending Mid-Atlantic Conference champion, and Navy’s defense has averaged six sacks per game and is a threat to take down a team any week.

And when freshman running back Dion Lewis was only able to put up a solid 81 yards — not nearly as impressive as his previous effort — Stull was steady.

Stull’s only mistake — a fumble at Navy’s 4-yard line after catching his own deflected pass and running for 20 yards — came early in the game.

As the Panthers’ offensive playcaller, Stull expects big things from his team this year. For him, there is only one team that can take down Pitt.

“The only thing that can stop us is ourselves,” he said after the Navy game.

Some quarterbacks can play superb football right out of high school, while others need a few years. Wannstedt has stuck with Stull for this long and now the quaterback is shining under in his fifth year at Pitt.

If Stull continues to put up solid numbers as the Panthers head into Big East play in a couple weeks, I’ll feel confident that this year will be Pitt’s year to play in a BCS bowl game.

And as much as some will be surprised to see it, No. 11 will be taking snaps behind center in that game.

Not me, though. It’s about time.