Phil Bennett has put in an approach this week that the players seem to be responding to. Instead of dancing around the topic, Bennett made no secret of what the offensive gameplan is going to be tomorrow against Kentucky.
"We know they're going to get an eight-man box," Bennett said. "We know they're going to get a nine-man box. We're going to run them. We have to run them. They better be ready, because we're going to run it on them. We're going to see what happens."
The players have responded to that attitude, of coming out and daring the opponent to try and stop them.
"(Bennett) mentioned that, trying to establish the run, get in a rhythm," running back Dion Lewis said. "I hope that will open it up for the passing game."
That part of the game plan--the passing game, as far as how much Pitt plans to throw--is still unknown. What is known, is that when Pitt runs the ball successfully this season, they win. They saw that against Cincinnati, as Dion Lewis rushed for a career-high 261 yards in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati, which got the Panthers to this game. Lewis carried the ball 42 times that day, including seven of the first 10 offensive plays of that game. He says aside from all the other intangibles the run game sets up--whether it be to open up the passing game, or to wear down an opponent physically, he says that both he and Ray Graham need to get some carries early to build up steam--which also echo Bennett's statement about hoping Kentucky is ready for Pitt's running game.
"It's just a long layover," Lewis said, referring to 35 days between the regular-season finale at Cincinnati and tomorrow's meeting with Kentucky. "(The challenge) will be getting back in a rhythm of a real game. The toughest part is the first couple of series. After that, we should be fine."
Brian Angelichio will be filling in at offensive coordinator, calling the plays for Saturday's game. There's no apprehension on his part either about a heavy dose of running the football.
"We're going to do what we do, attack the defense, and put guys in position to make plays," Angelichio said. "It's a normal week for us; put the game plan in, and go out and execute."
Lewis added also that the idea to run the ball is because of a good Kentucky defensive line, that has a pair of monsters in the middle at tackle (Ricky Lumpkin - 6-4, 306; Shane McCord - 6-2, 292) and a pair of big defensive ends that are pretty fast (Collins Ukwu - 6-5, 249; DeQuin Evans - 6-3, 256). Lumpkin led the all defensive linemen with 5.5 tackles for losses this year.
"They're real athletic," Lewis said. "They've got big guys up front on the d-line. We just have to take advantage of their weaknesses."