Offense Looking for a Repeat Performance

Pitt is preparing to face a better team come Saturday against Virginia, but they're also expecting to prove last week's high-scoring performance against Duke was not a fluke.

The Panther O-line mentality - "Where we go, our offense is going to go." Offensive line coach Jim Hueber told his players on the first day of training camp that the season relies on their performance. If the line does their job then the rest of the offense can succeed. No pressure...right? Redshirt sophomore center Artie Rowell and the rest of the line at that moment had the weight of the offense placed on their shoulders. A burden the O-line was eager to take on.

A quarterback who hadn't played college football in over two years, a freshman running back, a freshman wide receiver and an inexperienced line up front sounds like a recipe for disaster. Instead the O-line is fulfilling their responsibility so the offense can succeed. The Panthers are currently ranked fourth in the ACC with 474 yards a game.

The offensive line has so far managed to only give up six sacks this season. A first-year starter at the center of it all, Rowell is making it look too easy.

"One thing I have found surprising with this being my first season starting is how much clearer the game is," said Rowell. "We practice hard. Practices are pretty much harder than the games in terms of seeing different looks."

Practices may be harder than the first three starts have been for Rowell, but this offense is expecting Virginia to be a much more difficult opponent than the last two games against New Mexico and Duke.

But if Rowell and the line can maintain the same mentality of "where we go, our offense is going to go" then this Pitt offense lead by redshirt senior Tom Savage could prove last week's showing was not a one time thing. The 6-5, 230-pound quarterback with an NFL throw put up some NFL numbers against the Duke's D. Savage passed for a career-high of 424-yards and scored six touchdowns.

When Savage was asked how far he could throw the ball, he quickly shied away from answering. One of his favorite targets freshman Tyler Boyd guessed it would be about 80-yards, and when Savage heard about his wide-outs response he could barely stop laughing. Again Savage shied away from talking about his arm strength down field.

"It's so little for being a quarterback when you look at arm strength," said Savage. "Anybody can go out there and throw to a wide open receiver like Boyd. I think you just have to show accuracy and poise back there."

Savage is right. It helps any quarterback when you have two targets to throw the ball to like Boyd and redshirt senior Devin Street, who combined for 14 catches, 320 yards and five touchdowns against the Blue Devils. The receiving duo is averaging 233.7-yards, only four other teams in the country are currently averaging more with their top two receivers.

But the question still lingers, can this Pitt offense continually prove itself week after week? Especially this Saturday with a tougher ACC opponent like Virginia, whose defense in two games against BYU and VMI combined for six sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and forced five turnovers.

The Cavaliers are no pushovers. Especially with their current title for being fourth in the nation on third down efficiency. Not to mention, they hold the number two spot in the country in pass efficiency defense.

Pitt is expecting to face a better team come Saturday, but they're also expecting to prove to Pitt fans that this offense is the real deal.

One fact this offense doesn't factor in is their experience level.

"I still know I'm a freshman, but I go out on the field and play just like I'm a regular athlete," said Boyd. "I just try to go out there and be the best. I'm just a regular player. No one on the field at that time is like, "oh, he's a freshman or he's a sophomore." Everybody knows I'm a Pitt player and I'm a Panther. I just go out there and play."

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