Pitt ready for Orange

By Jay Huerbin

With a series dating back to 1916, the Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1) will take on the Syracuse… With a series dating back to 1916, the Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1) will take on the Syracuse Orange (1-3) tomorrow in a game that officially kicks off the Big East season for both teams. Following last week’s victory over Big Ten opponent Iowa, head coach Dave Wannstedt knows the team is getting better, but it still has work to do. ‘Last week we had a nice win,’ said Wannstedt during this week’s press conference. ‘But we’re still not doing things as well as we’d like and as well as I think we’re capable of. It was a win, and I think we can learn from that win.’ Part of the Panthers’ improvement will come from quarterback Bill Stull and the offensive line. After two solid outings to start the season, Stull saw his throwing attempts and production significantly decrease in his fourth career start. For Wannstedt, the offensive line and Stull progressed well against Iowa. ‘We only gave up two sacks,’ said Wannstedt of the offense. ‘And they were sort of protection sacks where, rather than throwing the ball in a dangerous situation, we held onto it rather than risk the turnover.’ Defensively, the Panthers will see strong safeties Dom DeCicco and Elijah Fields split time against the Orange. Wannstedt liked the contributions of both players and thought their development warranted more playing time. At the linebacker position, the coaching staff hopes to give Shane Murray more playing time than he saw against Iowa. Austin Ransom started for the third time last week, while Murray continued to recuperate from his nagging knee injury. ‘Austin deserved to be the starter after the way he’s progressed,’ said Wannstedt. ‘Shane is close to being 100 percent, so we’ll evaluate him this week in practice.’ As Pitt prepares for its first Big East matchup of the season, the team realizes that it cannot take anything lightly. Having won only four times in the past 14 games at the Carrier Dome, tradition may not be on Pitt’s side. After starting the season 0-3, Syracuse is coming off a win against Northeastern. ‘When you look at Syracuse, they had a nice win on Saturday,’ said Wannstedt. ‘I think that if you look at their history and tradition up there and playing at the Carrier Dome, we’ll have a lot of work to do.’ The Orange enter tomorrow’s game with junior quarterback Cameron Dantley as the starter. Dantley replaced fellow junior Andrew Robinson after Syracuse’s opening loss at Northwestern. Dantley, who is fifth in the Big East in quarterback rating, has settled into the position.’ Although Syracuse’s quarterback situation was expected to be a week-by-week decision, Dantley has started every game after the opener. ‘I thought [Dantley] played well last week,’ said Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson at his press conference on Tuesday. ‘He was very efficient. He did a good job running the ball a couple of times, and he did a lot of things to keep it going.’ Along with an improving passing game, Syracuse also brings an efficient run attack to the table. Senior running back Curtis Brinkley’s 358 rushing yards are second only to Connecticut running back Donald Brown. Still, the Orange are second to last in the Big East in points per game. Tomorrow’s kickoff will mark the 64th match between the two programs, which have met every year since 1955. With the series tied at 30-30-3, both teams will look for bragging rights in the series. The Panthers have been dominant against Syracuse the past few seasons, going 5-1 since 2002. Pitt outlasted the Orange in last year’s contest at Heinz Field, 20-17.