Pitt Offense Versus Michigan State

Even though Pitt beat his Cincinnati teams the past two seasons, Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt knows first-year Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio will field a tough defense.

Pittsburgh (2-0) meets MSU (2-0) Saturday at noon at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich.

"They will pressure defensively,'' Wannstedt said. "They're four down, and they're aggressive with their safeties. They have a stop-the-run mentality on defense first, and they did that with Cincinnati. I thought Cincinnati's defensive line, as a group, was as good as we faced all year.

"Those four guys were tough. And this year, they recruited to fit that philosophy. So, we're looking at their games against us the past two years when we played against this staff with Cincinnati, and that's good. It gives us a chance to watch film of our games against them.

"It doesn't help us as much to see the tape of Bowling Green, which went with five wide,'' Wannstedt added. "So, we're not going to get much out of that film. And they do the same things from Cincinnati now that they're at Michigan State, so there's a lot of carryover from those years.''

Five MSU defenders have double-digit tackles with junior cornerback Kendell Davis-Clark leading with 11 solo tackles and 19 total stops. Frosh linebacker Greg Jones has 10 solo and 13 total tackles, while senior strong safety Travis Key has nine solo stops and 12 total. Redshirt freshman strong-side linebacker Jon Misch and redshirt freshman weak-side linebacker Eric Gordon have tallied 11 and 10 total tackles, respectively.

"They're a bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic group than we've faced this season,'' Pitt quarterback Kevan Smith said. "And it should be a totally different atmosphere, a great college football atmosphere, because they hold 80,000 fans. That'll be the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of.

"But I think whenever you get on the field you pretty much zone that stuff out and do it just like it's practice. ... I just have to put my team in the best situation to win. I don't have to be the hero out there. I just need to get the ball (to) Shady, LaRod, Marcel and all those guys, and I think we'll be good.''

Senior defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic leads with three sacks and three quarterback hurries, while senior tight end-defensive end Kellen Davis has two sacks (five catches and one touchdown). MSU has 12 sacks overall, 22 total tackles behind the line, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

"It's a big challenge for us with Coach Dantonio going from Cincinnati to Michigan State,'' fifth-year senior right guard Mike McGlynn said. "Last year, Cincinnati had a tough defensive front, and I expect the same thing this year from Michigan State. I think this shows us where we are as a unit, going against a team like this, so we're looking forward to it. And the more we play together and jell, the better we'll be as a unit.''

Smith noted that Pitt's offense hasn't used its entire playbook yet, and he expected to open things up this week and continue in the remaining games.

"We had a lot of things in the game plan last week that we really didn't need to use,'' Smith said, "so ... we didn't show a lot. But we're going to have as many things or more this week, and we'll use what we need to use and go from there. Knowing the whole playbook pretty much is just like steps.

"Once you get the base of it, the sky's the limit. Once you learn the base concept, you can do everything. I'm definitely a perfectionist, so I get upset with myself when I don't make a throw that I need to make or do something that I know I can do. But that all goes along with preparing myself.''

And that preparation could help carry the day for Smith and the Pitt offense.

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