The season did not get off to a good start for Pittsburgh defensive tackle Jabaal Sheard, who had always had a reputation as a clean, shy, quiet kid who was a good citizen until being involved in a fight on the South Side.
He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest, leading to his suspension from the team. On Aug. 4, a district judge reduced the charges and ordered Sheard to pay a $300 fine and the other man's medical bills. Sheard also was ordered to apologize. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was immediately reinstated, though his photo was removed from the cover of Pitt's media guide.
The incident changed his entire outlook. A good player before that, he became a great player.
"He's not just a great player, he's a great leader," defensive tackle Myles Caragein said.
Sheard apologized for the incident and is still doing so.
"I made a mistake, and I said I'm sorry for it, and I just want to move on," Sheard was quoted as saying in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Everything happens for a reason. I learned from my mistake."
He has spent this season terrorizing quarterbacks and ball carriers, this week recording a pair of sacks to help Pitt beat Louisville 20-3 with a strong second-half.
Sheard now has nine sacks on the season and, more important, has drawn so much attention that the other defensive end, Brandon Lindsey, who is filling in for the injured Greg Romeus, has eight. They are running 1-2 in sacks in the conference.
Pitt leads the Big East with 23 sacks.NOTES, QUOTES
--The Pitt defense held Louisville RB Bilal Powell, the Big East's leading rusher, to 64 yards on 11 carries before he left the game with a leg injury. It also harassed QB Adam Froman, who was second in the conference averaging 221 passing yard per game, to just 13 of 22 for 82 yards while sacking him three times.
--Redshirt senior PK Dan Hutchins moved into a tie for 10th place on Pitt's all-time scoring list, tying RB George McLaren with 183 points. McLaren played from 1915 to 1918. Hutchins also moved into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time kick-scoring list with eight points, passing Chris Ferencik.
GAME BALL GOES TO: DE Jabaal Sheard, who has taken charge of the defense in the absence of the other defensive end, Greg Romeus, who has been out with a knee injury. Romeus was the co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East last year and Sheard has thrust himself into the picture this year. "Sheard is having a phenomenal year," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "You have to really appreciate what he is going through to get to the passer. He just keeps coming and coming. He's rushing the passer as good as any defensive end in the country. He is focused every week and working extremely hard." Senior S Dom DiCicco added: "Without him, our defense would be a lot different."
KEEP AN EYE ON: C Alex Karabin. Centers do not get much attention paid to them unless their snap goes haywire, but Karabin is a former walk-on who has solidified the offensive line that has made RBs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham go while protecting QB Tino Sunseri. Sunseri was not sacked by Louisville, and since allowing five sacks in a 31-3 loss to Miami, Pitt has given up only five sacks in five games. "Alex Karabin is just incredible," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "You've got to love him. He's doing a great job."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's not just a great player. He's a great leader." -- DT Myles Caragein on DE Jabaal Sheard, the leader of the Pitt defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Pittsburgh defense has emerged as one of the nation's best, lead by DE Jabaal Sheard. Sheard had two more sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles while Pitt held Louisville to just 185 total yards. S Dom DeCicco continues what has become a great season with his third interception, giving him 10 for his career, while also leading the team with 11 tackles, seven of them solo. P Dan Hutchins continued his special teams dominance, averaging 49 yards a punt, including a 71-yarder.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The offense was consistent but not dominant after two monster games. Louisville's underrated defense held Pitt to just 255 yards. RB Dion Lewis was tops on the ground with 65 yards while QB Tino Sunseri was protective of the football while passing for 123. Pitt also has got to find a way to stop teams on their first drive. "The first drives against us have sort of been our kryptonite," S Dom DiCicco said. "It seems like that's the one we let up every time. Today, it was only three points, but we need to get to a point where we can't be giving a team any points on that opening drive."
--FB Henry Hynoski left the game in the second quarter with what was diagnosed as a mild concussion. He figures to be ready to return when Pitt takes the field after a bye week.
--Since putting Jordan Gibbs in at right tackle and moving Lucas Nix to right guard, Pitt's offensive line has allowed only five sacks in five games. It had allowed five sacks in the previous game, a loss to Miami.