No Looking Past UConn

On paper, it should look like a foregone conclusion that after taking the No. 3 team in the country to triple-overtime, Pitt should be able to come to the Big East's last place team and come away with an easy win. The players don't see it that way.

Perhaps the biggest factor, or question, for tonight's game at UConn, is whether or not the Panthers will come out flat.

There's a lot of factors to suggest they might. First of all, the pattern of Pitt's schedule this season. Two losses, followed by two wins, followed by two losses, followed by two wins, then Saturday's loss. If Friday follows the pattern, the Panthers will lose.

But, as they say, that's why they play the game.

There's also the possibility that after getting up for a nationally-televised game at one of the most storied programs, and nearly pulling off the biggest upset of the season for any program, is there any gas left in the tank?

In addition to that, can you naturally expect to get as geared up for UConn as you would Notre Dame? And, can you be as rested coming off a shorter week, one that involved two road games, no less.

"I still remember the last time we played there," linebacker Joe Trebitz said. "They had that long kick return. I still have a little sting from that. This is a new team, a new year. We just want to do what we came to do this year."

The players all had good answers this week.

"We did play well (against Notre Dame)," offensive lineman Chris Jacobson said. "That's behind us now, and we have to move forward. Definitely made some mistakes. We played well, fought hard, but that's behind us now. We have to get ready for UConn."

To combat with all those obstacles--specifically coming out flat, playing a second road game for the second time in a week, the fact that Pitt has its season on the line every week. Bowl possibilities. A loss wouldn't close the book on a bowl bid, but a win is a big step towards that.

"I know they're going to want redemption because we (beat) them last year," running back Ray Graham said. "I know I definitely want to get a shot back at them because of (getting injured) last year. I think it's going to be a good game for us; a confidence game. This would be a good game for us.

"We definitely want to play one more time after the season. It would definitely be good to play one last time."

Or, perhaps a look at some recent history. All opportunities where Pitt appeared to have the edge on paper, but did not win.

Pitt's first trip to UConn in 2004 resulted in a 29-17 UConn win, on a Thursday night. Oddly enough, in Pitt's BCS year, the Panthers' two losses that season would be to UConn and Syracuse. This game was also known as 'the slide'--a play where quarterback Tyler Palko slid behind the line of scrimmage to get a better field goal spot, instead of taking a shot at the end zone.

Things weren't much better in 2006. Pitt entered the fourth quarter up 31-17. UConn quarterback David Hernandez--a one-time receiver--engineered an 11-play, 98-yard drive and an 11-play, 77-yard drive to tie the game at the end of regulation. The icing on the cake was UConn going for two after its second overtime and winning. Overtime rules, of course, don't require a team to go for two until the third overtime. Had Pitt held on, they would have been bowl eligible that season.

And who can forget 2010. Had Pitt beaten UConn, they would have clinched the Big East's BCS berth. Instead, Jordan Todman ran wild for 222 yards, and Nick Williams returned a kickoff for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter, which gave UConn the lead.

The Pitt players are aware of the bizarre things that can happen at UConn. The 2010 game, in fact, still lingers. Perhaps that alone--aside from getting past the Notre Dame game and just getting another conference win--might wear more on the minds right now.

"That one hurt a little bit, it stung a little," Trebitz said. "You have to learn from your mistakes and get better, get ready for UConn."

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