Fixing that offense - and specifically, generating more yardage from the passing game - has been head coach Walt Harris' task this week as the Panthers (1-0) prepare to host the Cornhuskers (1-1) Saturday at Heinz Field.
Fortunately for Pitt, Nebraska may be just as offensively
challenged as the Panthers are.
New head coach Bill Callahan has brought the West Coast
offense to Lincoln, dumping the option offense that had so long
been Nebraska's bread and butter. The results have been mixed
as a group of players recruited to run the option have struggled
making the transition to a pass-oriented attack.
As a result, quarterback Joe Dailey has throw a Division I-high
seven interceptions and the Cornhuskers have 11 turnovers in
two games, five of which helped Southern Mississippi pull off a
21-17 upset over Nebraska last week in Lincoln.
Callahan promises a better effort this week.
"We are anxious," said Callahan. "It's an opportunity for us to
redeem ourselves after last week's performance. I think our guys
Pitt QB Tyler Palko, meanwhile, passed for just 49 yards in his
first collegiate start. That total was the lowest of any Pitt
quarterback since Walt Harris became head coach eight years
A big part of Palko's problem was that Pitt's receiving corps has
been decimated by injuries, leaving Greg Lee as the only
Panthers' receiver with any real experience. But Lee suffered a
leg injury earlier this week, which means freshman Kelvin Chandler, who was the third receiver, could move up to a starting
role along with former walk-on Joe DelSardo. Freshman Derek Kinder would become the third receiver if Lee is unavailable.
"When we got open, there was pressure and (Palko) couldn't get
it to the receivers," Harris said. "We've all been spoiled with Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Bryant, R.J. English, Latef Grim and Terry
Murphy. We're spoiled with all the wideouts."
Pitt has nine new starters on offense this season and figures to
struggle until it figures out what it wants to do offensively.
Running back Raymond Kirkley was the lone offensive bright
spot last week, gaining 100 yards on the nose.
But starting right guard John Simonitis (ankle) has not practiced
this week, leaving the Panthers painfully thin at an already
With that in mind, Nebraska's defense plans on going after
Palko in an attempt to rattle him.
"We're definitely going to be some ball hawks on Saturday, trying
to get some turnovers and trying to shut down their passing
game," cornerback Fabian Washington said. "If we can shut
down their running game and make them have to pass the ball,
it will be a long day for them."
But the Huskers probably will be without two starters.
Cornerback Lornell McPherson (hamstring) and defensive end
Adam Carriker (ankle) are doubtful to play in the game.
True freshman Cortney Grixby would likely start in McPherson's
place. It was Grixby who tripped attempting to cover Marvin Young
last week on Southern Miss' game-winning touchdown catch
against the Huskers.
Game notes - This is the first time Pitt and Nebraska have met
since 1958. . Pitt leads the all-time series, 15-4-3, the best
record of any non-conference opponent against the Huskers. .
Former Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson holds the same
position at Nebraska. It was Pederson who scheduled this
game several years ago before leaving Pitt.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.
Preview : Pittsburgh WR Chandler Could Move Up
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