Pittsburgh Panthers Team Report

To win at Boston College, where Pitt is 0-5 since 1989, the Panthers must play inspired run defense for a second straight week. <br><br> Last weekend, the Panthers held Syracuse's star running back, Walter Reyes, to 97 yards, well below his 129.4-yard average. This week's challenge will be to slow down senior Derrick Knight, who is seventh in the nation in rushing with 122.5 yards per game.

In last week's 34-14 home victory over Syracuse, the Panthers' much-maligned defense held the Orangemen to 195 total net yards and only 49 passing yards in the game. The Panthers dominated possession time, hanging on to the ball for 34:38.

Knight and the Boston College offense are averaging 184.8 yards rushing. Pitt is giving up 158.9, 73rd in the country. But last week, Pitt's d-line - led by tackles Vince Crochunis and Dan Stephens - was stout at the point of attack, freeing up seniors Lewis Moore (12 tackles) and Tutu Ferguson (10 tackles) to make plays. That'll be the game plan again this weekend, but BC's offensive line is strong and Knight is a lightning-quick runner.

As for the Panthers offense, the fact that starting senior tailback Brandon Miree has a stress fracture in his right heel and has missed most of the season has forced Pittsburgh to rely more heavily on its passing game. No problem there. Senior quarterback Rod Rutherford has been sensational, completing 129 of 220 passes (58.6 percent) for 2,029 yards, 24 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Of course, having All-American wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to throw the ball to helps Rutherford's productivity.

Fitzgerald will have an interesting matchup this weekend against BC's opportunistic defense, which has a Big East-leading 13 INTs. Meanwhile, the 6-3 Fitzgerald leads Division I-A in five categories: receiving (145.3 yards per game), total receiving yards (1,018), receiving touchdowns (15), total touchdowns (15, tied with three others) and scoring (12.8 ppg).

Pay too much attention to Fitzgerald and tight end Kris Wilson (23 receptions, 331 yards, 5 TDs) and wideout Princell Brockenborough (18 catches, 371 yards, 3 TDs) can hurt you too.

Both Pitt and Boston College have five victories, so the winner is guaranteed of having no worse than a .500 record. That could be good enough to get to a bowl, provided Big East teams with winning records don't take all of the league's allotted slots.

Saturday's game will be the 28th meeting between the schools, with Pitt holding a 14-13 advantage in the series, thanks to last fall's 19-16 overtime win. The home team has won each of the last four games in this series.

"BC beating Notre Dame gives our team the utmost respect for them. And our guys play best when they respect their opponents, so I expect us to play well this week, " Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris, on facing Boston College this Saturday.


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