Pitt Defense Versus Grambling

The spread must be the offense for the new Millennium because the Pitt football team faces it for the second straight game when Grambling State visits Saturday at noon at Heinz Field.

The University of Pittsburgh (1-0) faced a similar offensive attack against Eastern Michigan last week and fared extremely well. The Panthers expect another strong performance this week.

"There's a large amount of carryover,'' Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said, "so in preparation it's very good. ... As you face different types of spread teams, there's always things that are a little different.

"What Grambling does differently is that they like to get the ball out on the perimeter in the hands of their receivers in space and try to make the defense miss. They want to spread out a defense with those four wide receivers and run the ball with their one running back, who also had over 100 yards (last week), so he has space to work with.''

Grambling quarterback Brandon Landers completed 19 of 36 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns in a in a 31-10 win against Alcorn State last week. Rhoads said that Landers has a strong arm and is extremely accurate, but he completed less than 53 percent of his passes.

Landers does like to throw the ball downfield, however, as wideout Reginald Jackson had six catches for 198 yards and two scores with a 69-yarder for one of them. Clyde Edwards had three catches and the other two touchdown receptions, while Kovarus Hills added two catches for 33 yards.

Since their wideouts are a little bigger, one might believe that Grambling will try to go over the top against Pitt redshirt freshman cornerback Ricky Gary, but Rhoads didn't think that would be the case. And Gary noted that skills and technique will make up for any size deficiency.

"Grambling throws the ball a lot and does a lot of pick routes,'' Gary said. "They spread it out and throw the ball, but I just have to focus and get my game together again this week. You can't take anybody lightly anymore, and we're not taking Grambling lightly at all.

"They are kind of similar to Eastern Michigan, but I think they have a better offense. Their quarterback, he can run and throw the ball. They have more weapons for him. But our defense is prepared to stop him.''

Rhoads added that in order to counteract a four-wide offense like Grambling, Pitt will need to have multiple defensive backs on the field at the same time. So, expect sophomore Aaron Berry to play and possibly senior Lowell Robinson and sophomore Jovani Chappel as well in dime coverage. And don't forget about fifth year senior cornerback Kennard Cox.

"Grambling's receiver is very fast and quick, and very athletic,'' Cox said. "In their division, they have a lot of good athletes and a great quarterback. I think they're a little better team than Eastern Michigan with better athletes, even for a Division I-AA team. (But) I respect everybody I play.

"I don't care who I line up against. It can be my son's Little League team. I'm going to respect them, everybody, but we've been out there working hard. And we just can't let anybody outwork us. ... They have a couple athletes from Florida and Georgia. So, there's no sleepers in college football. You have to just keep pushing on and do what you need to do to win the game.''

When the Tigers run the ball they primarily use just one back. Frank Warren ran for 143 yards on 30 carries and added four catches. Grambling ran for 181 yards overall, as Cornelius Walker added 36 yards on five carries.

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt noted that punt returner Derrick Johnson is dangerous as well. He had one return for 20 yards against Alcorn State.

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